The defending league champions are knocking on the door, but what will the LA Galaxy look like when we open the door for this not-so-blind date? Will it be the team that defeated all comers, or one that conceded a late goal to draw with Chivas? Either way, they're Beckham-less, so how have things been?
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John Leung (JL): The post-Beckham era has begun in LA-LA land, and so far it seems you all have been coping quite well. How have things been since he's been gone?
Ryan Rosenblatt (RR): The Galaxy are still very much a work in progress in the post-Beckham world. Landon Donovan isn't back yet (although he should be back soon) and they haven't signed a replacement for Beckham yet, although that was always likely to happen in July.
Even so, they are doing well enough, which isn't a surprise considering they have the same defense that has won them back-to-back MLS Cups. For all of the stars, it's the back line of Omar Gonzalez, AJ DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant and Sean Franklin that is the backbone of this team and they can keep the Galaxy humming along as some of the kids get time and the team waits to sign a Beckham replacement.
Josie Becker (JB): His locker is occupied by someone else now. Can't remember who exactly it is. Last year he partnered up a bunch with Juninho, now Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas occupy the middle together. Sarvas was a great get, but he doesn't give the Galaxy anything Beckham gave the club. Juninho is taking the free kicks and the corners, and Juninho is the long ball player from the run of play.
What Sarvas has brought is a bit of pace and toughness, so the Galaxy attack looks different now. There's more pushing up on the ground through the middle, with the attacking fullbacks relied upon for stretching the opposing defense out. It's wild.
JL: Robbie Keane is pretty key to your plans, and have impressed so far in the games so far, but as we know he's picked up a knock while on Ireland duty. How likely will we see him, and if he is to be absent, how will that affect LA's attack?
RR: The team obviously isn't as strong without Keane. He's one of the league's best strikers and he's done well to keep the Galaxy attacking humming, creating space and chances for Mike Magee. But even if he doesn't play -- and it doesn't look like he will -- the Galaxy won't be helpless up front. Teenager Jack McBean played up top without Keane last week and did a great job getting chances. If it wasn't for some heroic goalkeeping, he would have scored at least one, if not two goals. Toss in Jose Villarreal and Magee and LA should be okay, even if it obviously takes a hit without Keane.
JB: Keane is a special player, but the Galaxy have played two straight matches against teams willing to put ten men behind the ball so his services were dampened against Chivas, probably would have been against Colorado. Who has stood out in his absence is the two youngsters, Jack McBean and Jose Villarreal. McBean has showed good movement off the ball and Villarreal has a great eye for openings. They benefit greatly from Robbie Keane's guidance, didn't take the best shots against Colorado left to their own devices. So we'll see how they perform if Toronto refrains from putting a phalanx of players in front of goal. (JL: Memo to Ryan Nelsen...DISMANTLE THE BUS!)
RR: McBean is an 18-year-old homegrown striker, who is finally getting some time with the senior team after signing in April of 2011. The Galaxy brought him along slowly and he didn't really see any semi-regular time until last year when he played in some Champions League matches, but he had a great preseason and it looks like he's going to be a regular part of the team this season. He's 6'0'' and strong for a kid his age so he can handle the load, but he's shown a remarkable ability to find space in the box and turn the ball on goal. It's wayyyyy too early to project any greatness, but there are a lot of positive signs and like I said earlier, he was very good last week against Colorado.
JB: Oh, was I not supposed to talk about Jack McBean yet? (JL: Eh, it's fine...)
JL: On our side, John Bostock has proven to be a bit of a pest to defenders so far as have Hogan Ephraim, while Robert Earnshaw has been threatening.What do A.J. DeLaGarza and the LA defence have up their sleeves to defend against Bostock, Ephraim and Earnshaw?
RR: They'll do the same thing they always do. LA has been pretty consistent with their defense and defending everyone pretty similarly, but that's the hallmark of a good defense. They've been helped by Beckham leaving and Marcelo Sarvas sliding into the center, because that's a better defensive central midfield, which has made it easier for them to deal with players like John Bostock, who is quicker, can come from deeper and would often create problems for defenses. We'll see if Omar Gonzalez plays this weekend and if he doesn't, Bostock can create some real problems without Gonzalez stepping forward and cutting out attacks before they become dangerous.
JB: I imagine they'll try and get between the ball and the goal. Leonardo has done well whether paired with Omar Gonzalez or A.J. DeLaGarza, and he's pretty quick. So I imagine the plan will be to mark their man and clear anything in the box.
JL: I watched the game against Colorado, and I sort of got a sense that the Galaxy got away with one (ergo, the game seemed closer than it should have been) despite Drew Moor's red card. What's some takeaways from that game that Bruce Arena will be looking to make changes on against TFC?
RR: A lot of the issues I saw had to do with their inexperience playing together. McBean and Villarreal haven't played a lot and Colin Clark is new to the team so a lot of times I think LA had good ideas last week, but just weren't on the same page with the guys they were playing with. Even so, they created a ton of chances and if Irwin didn't play out of his mind then their dominance in the midfield would have led to two or three goals and all would have been well. The defense and Juninho/Sarvas midfield pairing allows LA to be a work in progress up front because they can dictate the match anyways. Really, it's just a matter of these guys playing together more and tightening things up in the attacking third.
JB: The Galaxy outshot Colorado 21- 5, what exactly did they get away with? The Galaxy certainly underperformed not getting a second or third goal, but Colorado were not the aggressors by any means. It was a lot like what happened against Chivas, where the Galaxy were the team trying to get three points, and their opponent went in trying to get a draw. At no point did it feel like Colorado wanted all three points on the night. I can see Bruce Arena starting Michael Stephens and going with a more conservative approach on the road in Toronto, being more selective with their shot attempts.
JL: And while we're speaking of Bruce Arena, you guys have some semi-final for some continental championship to play a few days after leaving Toronto, so what will be in his mind when it comes to the lineup against TFC?
RR: I think he's going to go with a lineups similar to the one he went with last week. Gonzalez probably will get the match off, but Arena has confidence in Leonardo, even if he's obviously not as good as Gonzalez. Besides that, the defense should be able to come back in Champions League without a problem, while the kids McBean and Villarreal will get the nod up top, then probably move to the bench in midweek action. Clark is an other guy I expect to start this weekend then head to the bench midweek.
All in all, Arena has a lot of depth and he can start a team like he did last week against Toronto then still be able to make enough changes midweek so the team isn't dead tired.
JB: Colin Clark is cup tied, so I think CCL encourages Arena to use him the full 90 no matter how ineffective he is on the pitch. Omar Gonzalez won't play, not worth risking him getting an injury after he played 180 minutes over the World Cup Qualifier weekend. Otherwise, I imagine LA will put out a conservative lineup and play for a draw.
JL: And finally, what do you think is the projected starting lineup for the Galaxy?
JL: And a scoreline prediction?
RR: I think LA doesn't necessarily impress, but does enough to come away with a 2-1 win. The unimpressive one-goal win is the LA special at this point.
JB: 1-1 draw.
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Thank you once again to Josie and Ryan for taking the time to answer my questions!