MLS Cup Team Preview: L.A. Galaxy

Posted: November 19, 2011 in mls, professional sports, soccer
Tags: , , , , , , ,

By Evan Ream

This Sunday, the L.A. Galaxy will take on the Houston Dynamo at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. to decide who will win the 16th MLS Cup. This is my first of two team previews.

Overview

The Galaxy are coming into this game billed as possibly the greatest team in league history. With 1.97 points per game in the regular season, they averaged more points per game than every team except for the 1998 Galaxy (2.19) and the 2005 San Jose Earthquakes (2.00), neither of which went on to win the MLS Cup. While this year’s version of the Galaxy may be billed as the best TEAM in league history, they certainly aren’t the most talented. The Galaxy have three superstar players (Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and David Beckham), a solid backline and a bunch of role players who contribute here and there. For every Keane or Donovan, there is a Mike Magee or Adam Christman, players another team castoff that were reborn in L.A. This team wins by playing solid defense and scoring on counter attacks and set pieces.

Projected Starting XI

The Galaxy will line up in a 4-4-2 just as they have all season. Robbie Keane, who was dangerous all of the playoffs, scoring a goal and hitting three shots off the woodwork, will start up top, probably with Cristman. Cristman will likely get the start due to his size and hold-up ability. Chad Barrett has been starting but is ruled out of the final with a dislocated ankle. The midfield won’t change from L.A.’s win over Real Salt Lake. Beckham and Juninho will run things from the middle, both dropping back deep to collect balls from the defense. Out wide, Donovan will provide his usual counter attacking threat, and Magee will look to continue his great form, as he has scored three goals in as many games. The backline will remain unchanged. Todd Dunivant and Sean Franklin provide quality-attacking options out of the back while six-foot-five-inches tall Omar Gonzalez cleans up everything in the air. He will be joined in the center by utility man A.J. DeLaGarza. In goal, surprising playoff starter and hero Josh Saunders should continue to start. If the Galaxy want to be faster, they could start Miguel Lopez up top instead of Cristman, but I think they will really value Cristman’s size, especially for defending set pieces. Other than that, I can’t really see anyone else starting.

Robbie Keane     Adam Cristman

Mike Magee     Juninho      David Beckham      Landon Donovan

Todd Dunivant     A.J. DeLaGarza     Omar Gonzalez     Sean Franklin

Josh Saunders

Possible Subs

Trinidad and Tobago international Chris Birchall will likely be a late game defensive sub if the Galaxy are up; he has the size and skill to kill a game from a defensive midfield spot. Jovan Kirvoski is also a frequent sub, although he is just a veteran player that comes in to give someone a rest — he doesn’t add anything to the team, but he doesn’t mess anything up either. From here, the possible subs drop off. If the Galaxy need a late offensive spark, they can add Michael Stevens to their midfield and push Donovan up top, but they don’t really have any viable options after this.

Strengths

Counter Attack

The Galaxy sit in their own half and absorb a lot of pressure until they force a turnover. Then, they look to break. Fast. Whoever has the ball at that moment looks to find Juninho or Beckham in order to release Donovan, Magee or Keane on a break. The absence of Chad Barrett hurts, as he is another threat to stretch the defense whereas Cristman is not.

Team Defense

If you watch a Galaxy game, you will notice how hard everyone works to defend: This is a trademark of a Bruce Arena team. He gets all his players to buy into this hard working defensive style, and it shows nothing but results. The Galaxy almost always have favorable numbers in their side of the field due to everyone’s hard work. If they can be exposed, it will be in one-on-one matchups. The problem is that they usually have too many people around to allow a one-on-one chance happen.

Offensive Set Pieces

The Galaxy have a lot of quick players such as Donovan and Juninho that can easily draw set pieces in a dangerous area. Beckham is widely considered one of the best in the world at delivering great balls into the area from corners or free kicks. Even though they have terrible team size, Beckham still has many options on his set pieces. His first option will be Gonzalez, who is probably the best headerer of the ball in MLS. He will likely be double covered, so look for Beckham to find Magee and Keane in the box. Though they are small, they still can score with the great service that Beckham provides.

 

Weaknesses

Defensive Set Pieces

Of the Galaxy’s ten projected field player starters, just three are over six-feet tall. Gonzalez is six-foot-five-inches tall and amazing in the air; Cristman is six-foot and decent in the air; and Beckham is six-foot as well and won’t go near a header unless he absolutely HAS to. The Dynamo projected starting lineup has six players over six-feet tall projected to start. Look at this chart:

 

Player                Position      Height    Set Piece Goals Regular Season (Playoffs)

Geoff Cameron   Defender    6’3”        4 (0)

Bobby Boswell    Defender    6’2”        5 (0)

Carlo Costly        Forward      6’2”        0 (0)

Brian Ching         Forward      6’1”       0 (1)

Andre Hainault   Defender     6’1”          (2)

Adam Moffat     Midfielder     6’0”           (0)

 

That’s six of ten starters who are at least six-feet-tall and 13 combined goals on set pieces from them. Yes, Houston will be missing star midfielder Brad Davis in the final, but either Adam Moffat, or Colin Clark if he starts, will be able to provide at least decent service to take advantage of L.A.’s team size.

Adam Chistmancristman

L.A. will probably start this journeyman player to give them size in their attack, but he will probably be the least skillful player on the field. Cristman can chip in a goal here and there (13 career goals), but he is mostly their for his size, toughness and work rate. With him up top, the Dynamo will be able to commit more numbers into the attack and only focus really on Keane up top.

Getting Behind

As a counter attacking team, the Galaxy do not play well when they’re behind. If Houston keeps the game tied 0-0 for a while and then get a goal in the second half off a set piece, they could take control of the game, as the Galaxy are not very good at breaking teams down who bunker in their own half. The Galaxy will have to score early to take care of this.

 

Coming up later today: Houston Dynamo Team Preview

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Comments
  1. […] This Sunday, the L.A. Galaxy will take on the Houston Dynamo at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. to decide who will win the 16th MLS Cup. This is the second of two team previews. You can find the L.A. Galaxy preview here. […]

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