Ahead of Wednesday's game, I got in touch with Josie Becker of LAG Confidential, SB Nation's Galaxy blog, which you can of course visit for all your L.A based thoughts on the big games. It's a great name for a blog, but they kind of ruin it by calling themselves 'the Jewel of MLS blogs'. Really? That's your goal? You're going to compare yourself to a slightly popular, for a short time, singer from the 90's? Way to set the bar high. Anyway, Josie answers my questions on their defence anchoring rookie, the always awesome Chad Barrett, and just how much of a crap LA fans give about this CCL stuff. Also after the jump, I'll be answering her TFC related questions. So L.A Galaxy, how you doin'?
Waking the Red: We all know about all the talent in midfield and up front, but how are things looking in defence without Omar Gonzalez? How's the preseason gone in general for L.A?
LAG Confidential: The loss of Omar Gonzalez is certainly a huge blow to the back line, but in 3/4 cases, the back line is the exact same as last year's. The man tasked with replacing Gonzalez is first round draft pick Tommy Meyer. So far this offseason Meyer has shown progress, but of course it's going to be an ongoing issue. Playing big time soccer in front of the tens of thousands of fans that will pack in the Rogers Center is not really something can be simulated. Early on, I've noticed he's had some issues with communication. He needs to hear from Josh Saunders if he needs to drop back rather than mark someone, and that exchange hasn't been flawless, leading to plays in the box that otherwise wouldn't be an issue.
Ultimately, the preseason is meaningless, and especially so for the Galaxy this season. Humourously, after years of Beckham's commitment to the team coming under fire, he was present from day one of the preseason while Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Michael Stephens, Juninho, and the returning Edson Buddle all missed preseason training time. Then the Galaxy win the meaningless Desert Diamond Cup, despite only winning one game out of four in regulation. So it's a big pile of meaninglessness.
WTR: I'm a big fan of Chad Barrett, I didn't see that many L.A games last year, but when I did he looked like an important and productive part of the attack. With Edson Buddle back and a full season of Robbie Keane, what sort of role will he play this year? Is he strictly sub material or can he still find a place in the starting lineup?
LAGC: Chad Barrett, I'm sorry to say, is likely going to be sub fodder. The man works hard, and his freak injury kept him from playing in the MLS Cup match he deserved to play in. However, he sure chose a good team to be sub fodder for. Between the CONCACAF Champions League, MLS, and the US Open Cup the Galaxy will have plenty of matches for him to get into. Right off the bat, with Wed-Sat-Wed to begin the season, I wouldn't be surprised to see Barrett starting one of the three matches. Robbie Keane should be good to go, but Edson Buddle's fitness is an unknown.
WTR: This CCL thing has really caught the attention of success starved TFC fans, but how do L.A fans view it? Are you guys blase about this sort of thing and more concerned about the league, or after winning the double last year, are you now thirsty to conquer Concacaf? Will ticket sales even reach the 7,500 capacity limit?
LAGC: Oh boy, that's the two dollar question right there. See, there are two forces at work. On the one hand, for North American soccer, the CONCACAF Champions League has to be seen as the most prestigious trophy available. Since FMF has been ridiculously dominant, it's not. So from a Galaxy fan perspective, it's serious business. Last year, the Galaxy front office worked hard to incentivize the event; free parking, free tickets to season ticket holders. Still, as you mentioned, they're working with a cap already in place. A cap that is around where the Galaxy STH base is right now, meaning it's possible everyone at the match in LA could be there for free.
Take all that into consideration and add the fact that driving in LA between the hours of 4a.m. and 11p.m. is notoriously difficult. The Galaxy have their original fan base in the Pasadena and Valley areas, the Home Depot Center has made it easier for the Orange County base to attend games, and there's still all the Galaxy fans in the Inland Empire. And for all of them, at 6 o'clock on a Wednesday, the Home Depot Center could be on the moon and it'd be easier to get to.
So the game will sell out. Will everyone show up, probably not.
LAGC: We all know about Toronto FC moving to the game to the Rogers Center. Is the move mostly about the weather, or has it been met with a strong media blitz to really pack the place? What's the biggest difference the change of venue will mean to the play on the pitch?
WTR: It was mainly about the weather, BMO Field was very cheaply built and not winterized so frozen pipes and lack of water would be an issue. The big fear though was a small crowd in a cavernous stadium, but fortunately the club seemed to realise this too so crucially had very affordable tickets. TFC fans are starved of any kind of success so they sold a lot very quickly, so the marketing blitz hasn't had to be that huge to eventually get it to sold out status, which is good, as that would have just meant a lot of your boy Becks.
As for the play on the pitch, it probably won't make that much of a difference. Sure it's on turf, but it's the same for both teams and even with undersoil heating and a mild winter BMO field's grass wouldn't have been in great shape anyway. Now it's just time to cross your fingers and hope the wacky turf bounces work in your favour and no-one gets hurt.
LAGC: Danny Kovermans wins the Toronto FC Golden Boot last year with 8 goals. That would be third on Seattle, second on the Galaxy (Chad Barrett was second with seven). The Galaxy added Robbie Keane and Edson Buddle, Toronto added a bunch of defenders. Will Toronto have a player with 10 or more goals this year?
WTR: That 8 goals was in half a season. Barring injury, Koevermans should be good for about 15-20 goals this year. He's the anti Chad Barrett. He doesn't look athletic, or run around and make himself noticeable, but what he does do, aside from hold the ball up well and allow others like Joao Plata or Ryan Johnson to do the running around for him, is take chances when he gets them. Prolifically. His movement in the box to create a yard of space is outstanding and was quite frankly too good for your average MLS defender last year. If the team can get him the ball in that yard of space he's a lethal finisher, and he may just be the best natural goalscorer in MLS.
It's with the secondary scoring after Koevermans that there's question marks. Can Joao Plata avoid the sophomore slump now defences will be paying him more attention? can Ryan Johnson keep his goalscoring form going, unlike when he was at San Jose? Can someone step up and provide consistent scoring from midfield? We need the answer to at least two of those questions to be yes.
LAGC: Which of your draft picks are you expecting to make the biggest splash this year?
WTR: There's only 3 of them that are still with the team, and Michael Green (still unsigned at the time of writing) and Aaron Maund don't look like being more than depth players this year. That leaves 4th overall pick Luis Silva. An attacking midfielder, he's looked very good so far in preseason. Our options there used to be either Eric Avila, a more traditional number 10 type, all creative and passy, or Ryan Johnson a more athletic player with more of a goal threat to him. It's preseason so you can't read too much into it, but Silva seems to be a good combination of the two. He's creative, linking very well with Koevermans and Plata, but also offers a more direct attacking threat than Avila, ready to run at and challenge the defence, and he scored a few goals in preseason. Eric Avila is cup tied so more than likely you'll see Silva in that attacking midfield spot, making his debut in front of 40,000+
Thanks Josie, and best of luck to Chad and the boys in MLS this year.