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Match Day 8 - Galaxy @ Sounders on Mother's Day

Los Angeles Galaxy
Founded: 1995
Home Stadium: The Home Depot Center, Carson, CA
Record Since 2000: 105-102-63
All Time Scorer in MLS: Cobi Jones (70)
All Time Cups/Shields: 2 MLS Cups, 2 Supporters’ Shield, 2 US Open Cups, 1 CONCACAF Champions Cup
2008 Record: 8-13-9, 33 pts, 7th in Western Conference
2008 Leading Scorer: Landon Donovan (20)
2008 Keeper: Steve Cronin (2.05 GAA, 2 Clean Sheets)
Key Player: Landon Donovan will pass 100 MLS goals this year

It should be noted that the capsule was written prior to the season starting. For much more depth on the current season, read on

Capsule: The biggest names, and the brightest stars, and yet several years of failure. Bruce Arena looks to coach the turn around for the Galaxy, likely continuing to run a 4-4-1-1 with Donovan and Buddle up top and Mr. David Beckham at Right Midfield. LA has spent the entire offseason reinventing its porous defense bringing in Jamaican National Team Keeper Donovan Ricketts, U of Maryland star Omar Gonzalez, and formerly retired Tony Sanneh to lead the backline. With the reigning rookie of the year (Sean Franklin) also on defense the Galaxy look to end a three year streak outside of the playoffs and return to the glory that Schmid took them. Any improvement defensively should have LA competing for a playoff spot, but is that enough after the Beckham loan drama?

Further Depth:

This match has a few primary storylines that have developed in the early part of the season. First, Los Angeles has managed to reinvent its defense. Second is the constant pontificating on the internet about who should start at the other Forward for Seattle. Third, LA is coming off of a midweek match, so their lineup will be in flux, and likely tired. Fourth, the player for the Galaxy that isn't going to be here for Mother's Day, probably because he hates your Mom.

Los Angeles Galaxy Defense under Arena
LA is playing a more traditional 4-4-2 this year. No staggered Donovan, no set piece taker at RM, but a more defensive Right Mid in Chris Klein. At the left wide spot they go with another LB/LM hybrid in Eddie Lewis. While either of their Center Mids can play as a Defensive Mid or a Box-to-Box, it will be hard to guess the real lineup that appears, as opposed to their standard. Basically part of how the Galaxy have shored up their defense is by playing a near Italian style with six to eight defensive guys on the pitch at a time. There's no wonder that of LA's 9 goals, Donovan has taken part in 8 of them.

But the other story is the number of players that have been brought in this season on the true backline. Gregg Berhalter joins MLS after a career in Germany. The 35 year old has plenty of experience facing high end competition, having joined the league from TSV 1860 Munich. At Left Back LA added Todd Dunivant from Toronto FC. Bruce Arena also talked former US Men's National Team player Tony Sanneh into rejoining the league after a year off, while Sanneh hasn't played in a few matches, his legs might be more rested than Berhalter or Klein. Tony is 37.

It isn't all old guys, as LA drafted Omar Gonzalez. The youngster hails from Maryland, and will certainly start. Its just what he does. He plays. He's played every minute for LA this season, and started every Terrapin game last year. Further right, Sean Franklin is the Galaxy veteran, having played one season in MLS, but one very good one. Franklin won the rookie of the year last season.

How have these moves changed the results? The Goals Against Average for LA last year was a bloated 2.07. This year, through the additions of several veterans, a solid draft and Jamaican MNT Keeper Donovan Rickets has that number down to a 1.29 GAA. But GAA doesn't get you to the post season. Points on the table do, and their LA continues to lag behind. LAG's are 1-1-5 for 8 points in seven played for 6th in the West and 10th in the league.

No Montero - No Problem
We know the options, in fact they are summed up a bit in the poll that I have been running this week. Let's look at the advantages to each option, and with one of them the two options, but with the same player.
[poll id="20"]

I'm going to take these from least likely to most likely.

Roger Levesque - Roger can play that withdrawn forward role that we have seen Montero in most of the match. While he won't have the flair, nor the powerful shot. Roger would add a player that understands pacing better, likely working with Freddie Ljungberg better than Montero has. Roger though is a touch past his prime and may struggle a touch with the up-tempo style of the Rave Green. But this would be an ideal time for Roger to play more injury time minutes as a tribute.

Jarrod Smith - I don't know many teams that play the 4-1-3-2 with two big target forwards. Smith did have a solid performance recently, and yes he's healthy finally, but the pairing of he and Jaqua up top would reduce the effectiveness of either. Plus Seattle really doesn't have a player with a booming cross that floats for 20+ yards. While Zakuani can cross, his tend to be deft and subtle. Also Smith starting would force a roster move as there are currently 20 on the Senior roster with Jarrod on the DL/IL.

Sanna Nyassi - Adding Sanna would return him to the starting lineup. Nyassi on the right wing would put Freddie Ljungberg into the withdrawn forward role that he played in Toronto. A role where he fits quite well. Plus Sanna adds speed on that right wing and slots Brad Evans back to his more natural Box-to-Box midfielder role. This would improve the play of Evans, Ljungberg and allow Riley to only play as a Wingback and not a Right Back and Right Wing at the same time.

Sebastien Le Toux - Seba could be used in two different roles if he is selected to replace Montero in the starting lineup. Straight slotting him as a forward would maximize Le Toux' talents. His performance in the Open Cup vs majority of starters for Real Salt Lake showed what the Frenchman can do at the top. But using Seba like this would mean that the Evans situation isn't resolved. He would still be a right mid that is supposed to play in tight with Riley running wide and Brad fading away since Ljungberg would be more likely outlets from Alonso and the backline.

Or Seba could be the right mid again. Evans goes to the box-to-box role, and Ljungberg goes to the withdrawn forward. While this would not maximize Seba's talents, it would maximize the talents of Freddie, Evans, and Riley. This is a classic coaching dilemma really. Do what's best for the one player, or three? Is there a compromise? Maybe.

Could Seba as the RM play like Zakuani does on the left? Meaning more like a hybrid RM/RW, with Riley behind able to come forward at will the space behind Le Toux would be minimized. This would also help the Rave Green return to the "Enemy's Gate is Down" strategy of constant attack and pressure. This would shift the 4-1-3-2 to a 4-1-1-3-1. Yes Evans would have to play more defense, but I have no doubts that he could handle that. This wouldn't be a 4-2-3-1 as Evans isn't playing the modern holding mid role, but the more traditional box to box.

Light Speed is the Answer
Sounders FC needs to return to the sharp crisp transitions that empowered every match except the last against the Fire. While the strategy of rapid transition does not guarantee success, it is both an identity, and an excellent strategy against a team that will be tired. Galaxy will be in their third match in eight days, and as we've discovered are dependent on older players in their defense. Constant pressure will wear them quickly.

With 28,000+ in the stadium raining noise down on LA, and Sounders playing their style, their game things could get carried away in this match quickly. I'm not going to predict the win, just the path to victory. In the first 20 minutes I want to see Seattle make multiple runs of 80+ yards touching at least five Sounders, and I want to see shots on goal from that, not just shots.

David Beckham
He's not here. He didn't save Major League Soccer. He didn't raise the profile of the game here. He did inject money and media over a two year stretch. But MLS is entering a new era. An era that will be led by TFC, SSFC, MLS WhiteCaps, Houston and other teams that sell soccer to soccer fans.

Oh, and Mr Spice does hate your mom. He's made that clear.

Who do you think should start, and how should they be used? Will you be at the match with Mom, or seeing her after, or skipping entirely? What are you going to do with your thundersticks?

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