Robbie Keane isn't Donovan or Beckham, but he doesn't have to be.(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
If your first thought is "damn, that's quick" you need to remember this months schedule. Eight games in May means only one week without a midday game. The LA Galaxy started 2012 on the wrong foot, but now they are on a path of winning games purely on offense picking up seven points in their last three played. Former Timber Josh Saunders as a full season MLS starter for the first time in his career and maybe that history has me doubting his abilities so he's the subject of one of the questions - Beckham is not, nor is Donovan. Josie over at LAGConfidential answers three questions to prepare yourself for Wednesday's 7 PM Pacific home game.
SaH: How has the absence of Omar Gonzalez changed the style of play on the Galaxy backline?
LAGC: Well originally the Galaxy's decision was to replace Gonzalez with a rotation of Tommy Meyer fresh from the draft and Andrew Boyens who is on his fourth MLS team in five years. Shockingly, as you may recall, it didn't go so smooth. That loss of leadership in the middle seemed to affect everyone on the line, offside traps were blown, too much space was given in the box. So Meyer and Boyens were relegated to the reserve squad, and Arena traded Paolo Cardozo for David Junior Lopes. So the strategy has seemed to be "Chivas plays good defense, let's get some of those guys". Under Sir Omar, the back line simply didn't give teams high percentage chances. His mere presence seemed to keep the ball out of the box. Now under Sirs AJ and David it's a bit more of a scramble band with physicality mixed in. The running count on Lopes mistakes reached at least five last match, including one that lead to an FC Dallas penalty. However, that physical play seems to be keeping teams outside the box again, though a pass heavy attack would likely confuse and bemuse.
SaH: Is Josh Saunders capable of being full season starting keeper?
LAGC: Yes. He missed last match for personal reasons, and there's no guarantee he'll be available in the match against Seattle. Much of the early season goal-a-palooza can be blamed on fatigue and a lack of familiarity. When Donovan Ricketts briefly came back last year against New York in New York, he gave up two goals and fans were calling for his head. This is a goalkeeper who won Goalkeeper of the Year the year before, and was in his first game back after recovering from a fractured arm. To throw out another example, Chivas USA gave up three quick late goals in Colorado and Dan Kennedy went off on his defense. Yet the punditry will see four goals and say Kennedy had a howler. So much of what keepers are blamed for is usually a matter of miscommunication between the keeper and the back four. Is that the keeper's fault? To a degree yes, but all the screaming in the world can't force the back four to listen.
So the answer to your question is, the mere fact that it's a question after we're already established the Galaxy have back line issues befuddles. Especially after Saunders proved himself last season. There's not much he'll have to deal with over a whole season he didn't have to deal with over a half season last year.
SaH: Robbie Keane sometimes gets overshadowed by the Beckham and the Donovan. What does he bring to the potent offense?
LAGC: Keane's best assets are his speed with the ball and his handling. Note I didn't say finishing. He scores goals because he'll get himself in goal scoring position with his skillful dribbling multiple times a game. And in this last handful of matches, he's also been able to dribble well enough that it gives Landon Donovan time to get open. The frustration with Keane sets in when you realize that if he were a better finisher he'd have two goals every match. Last match, Landon Donovan allowed Robbie Keane to take a Galaxy penalty kick, to try and get Keane into the match, and Keane went well wide right and hard. So it's not that he doesn't try once he's in front of goal, it's almost that he tries too hard and flubs the chance. Still, watching him carve up a back line all by himself is something to watch.