Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Scouting Report: LA Galaxy

In anticipation for the upcoming match against the LA Galaxy on Wednesday, here is a scouting report courtesy of Zac Lee Rigg. Zac is a writer and editor for Goal.com, who puts together the MLS Team of the Week and provides numerous "news" items for the website. Zac is based in Southern California and logs a lot of time at the Home Depot Center between the Galaxy, Chivas, and National Team training. Here is Zac's insider perspective on the Galaxy:

Formation: 4-4-2

Style of play: The Galaxy's recent play reminds me of a Hector Cuper or a Gerard Houllier side. Two banks of four protect the goal, and two are strikers left to their own devices up front. After conceding a league-leading 62 goals last year, head coach and GM Bruce Arena is more concerned about shoring up the defense than emulating last year's league-leading offense. In the last two weekends, he's made progress in setting out a sturdy squad that won't be broken down easily. Expect plenty of solid play, perhaps lacking in creativity.

Strengths: LA has two main strengths. Their names are Landon Donovan and Donovan Ricketts. Landon continues to be the elite striker in the league, capable of beating any team on his own when he's in the mood. He has scored or assisted every last one of LA's seven goals this season. Ricketts has been a revelation in goal this season. He makes the outrageous saves, he makes the simple saves, he organizes the defensive line, and his impressive distribution leads to quick counterattacks.

Weaknesses: This is a side that finished tied for last on points in 2008 and only a couple days ago picked up its first win in 2009. There are plenty of weaknesses. I'll highlight two. Firstly, the defense lacks pace. Omar Gonzalez and Greg Berhalter have been improvements on the defensive end, but the speed of Robbie Findley and Yura Movsisyan will surely give the sluggish pair problems. If the defensive line sits too high, expect there to be space behind that can be exploited. Secondly, the midfield lacks creativity. Both wide midfielders, Chris Klein and Eddie Lewis, are aging and slow. Among the central midfield options of Jush Tudela, Dema Kovalenko (who RSL fans should know a thing or two about), and Stefani Miglioranzi, none are going to offer much offensive drive. The disconnect between the midfield and forward lines will hamper the Galaxy's offensive endeavors this season.

Players to watch: The two Donovans. Shut down Landon Donovan in attack, and you've kept a clean sheet. Beat Ricketts in goal and you've done what's only been done twice in four games. Movsisyan has been wasteful with his chances this year, and it's possible Ricketts could frustrate him further.