Sunday June 17th, 7:00 PM ET
PORT 3-5-4 (0-3-2 V)
LA 3-8-2 (2-4-1 H)
After having a rather lackluster and uninspired start to the first-half of 2012 MLS play, the Portland Timbers and Los Angeles Galaxy will return to action on Sunday as they seek to begin their crawl back towards MLS relevance.
As it currently stands, the Timbers are tied for 7th place in the West with 13 points and the Galaxy sit dead last in the West with just 11 points.
Though neither team could have imagined themselves sitting in the current positions they are in, both can still manage to make a postseason run; one that will begin when they face off at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles.
The winner of this match (if it does not play to a draw) should be able to build momentum towards the second-half of the season that will be crucial in determining whether they will take part in the 2012 MLS playoffs.
A pivotal game for both teams, here is what to expect as the Portland Timbers square off against the Los Angeles Galaxy:
New Faces for Galaxy
There is no doubt that the Los Angeles Galaxy have one of the most talented rosters (at least on paper) in the MLS. With the likes of Landon Donovan, David Beckham, and Robbie Keane all contributing to LA’s past success, it is no wonder why the Galaxy are one of the most feared teams in all of MLS.
However, come Sunday, the Galaxy may look quite a bit different. Los Angeles will be missing at least seven regulars, with a few others unsure about the amount of playing time they may see.
Key players out include Edson Buddle, Robbie Keane, Omar Gonzalez, and Dan Keat.
While this does leave the opportunity to see younger and exciting players that have yet to prove themselves, inexperience against a team such as the Timbers is not something Los Angeles is looking forward to.
A lot of uncertainty is surrounding the Galaxy lineup on Sunday night, but one thing that we can be sure of is that there will be many unfamiliar names on the field for Los Angeles.
Portland Comes Out Firing
In relation to the absence of Galaxy starters, expect Portland to put the pressure on hard and put it on fast. The Timbers should utilize the unfamiliarity of Los Angeles in their game plan to exploit the inexperience of Galaxy’s players.
Adding to the attack first and fast mentality of Portland will be their personal motivation to bounce back after their loss to Cal FC.
Since that heart-breaking loss in extra time in the US Open Cup, Portland has not had the chance to prove that game was a fluke.
Pressing the Galaxy on offense and defense from the first whistle should help to erase the memory of such an ugly loss.
If Los Angeles is not ready for the attack-minded Timbers, expect no let-down in the Timbers offense as they try to become MLS relevant again.
Los Angeles Sticks to Defense
As mentioned earlier, Los Angeles will be missing quite a few key players, both on offense and defense. In order to compensate for the absence of many players, expect the Galaxy to play a “safe” game against Portland.
By “safe” I mean a game where Los Angeles focuses more on defensive, instead of offensive, strategies.
A defensive mindset will put the Galaxy in prime position to walk away from a dangerous game with at least a draw. Emphasizing stopping Portland’s attack as well as developing cohesion in their units should place the Galaxy in better position as they look for a comeback in the MLS standings.
Danny Mwanga Impresses
One of the biggest moves in Timbers organizational history, Danny Mwanga will be making his first appearance for Portland on Sunday.
A graduate of Oregon State University (around 45 minutes south of Portland), Mwanga was the first overall pick by the Philadelphia Union, with high expectations surrounding his future soccer career.
Unfortunately for Mwanga, the Union did not have the right pieces around him that would give him better support and play. As a Portland Timber, Mwanga will have the pieces he needs to justify his first overall selection.
Expect Mwanga to play inspired soccer on Sunday, showing flashes of how great he could be for years in the MLS.
Pivotal Second Half
After taking more than a few days off from actual game-play, the Galaxy and Timbers game should be decided in the second half.
While we can hope to see at least a goal in the first half, the second half will be the crucial part in this game.
A lack of real-game action will lead to some of the players (especially on the defensive side of the ball) feeling exhausted in the second-half, a feeling that should lead both offenses to really start to press.
Expect to see a fast-paced and high-momentum second half between Los Angeles and Portland, one that should produce numerous opportunities for both teams to score.
Despite slow starts to their 2012 MLS campaigns, the Portland Timbers and Los Angeles Galaxy will surely create an exciting atmosphere when they square-off against one another on Sunday.