Whitecaps FC / LA Galaxy Game Intro
The arrival of this game provokes some very mixed emotions in anticipation despite the ascent of the Whitecaps to the status of a playoff contender.
It is certainly a notable achievement for a team that finished second worst in the regular MLS standings just one year prior to attain a spot in the second round of matches.
However, this was also a team on the rise for the first part of the season before the unexpected shock of major personnel changes led to a disruption in the harmony and continuity of the side.
It in turn enforced a shift in playing philosophy for the team, as it has moved from one with an emerging identity founded on a stern defensive model, to a squad mired in confusion and a loss of confidence.
LA on the other hand comes into this home contest with only two losses in their last 16 games. They have two of their major stars returned from injury and the team is brimming in their own assurance.
If it wasn’t for Chris Wondolowski’s record season down in San Jose, then Robbie Keane could very well be the MLS regular campaign MVP.
He plays the linking role between the midfield and the forward line to near perfection, amassing 16 goals and 9 assists in just 28 matches. He also more than filled the void during the injury absences of David Beckham and Landon Donovan.
Their return will further strengthen the line-up.
However, these three shining lights are also ably supported by Juninho, Mike Magee and Christian Wilhelmsson to form the most devastating offensive force in the league. With that much ability in possession, it may not matter that the LA defence does not yet match the forward moving capabilities of the Galaxy unit.
Coach Martin Rennie had an excellent debut honeymoon period, but he has seemingly been starved of ideas in the past two months. He wanted more say in team personnel matters, but despite that early success his continual tinkering has not borne fruit.
Miller is a fine goal box poacher with a balanced team, but lacks the harrying defensive facet of his game that Le Toux could provide when the goals ran dry.
Robson has great skill but his on field frustration and facial tics have not worn well with his teammates who often appear ill at ease with the surly redhead.
However, despite the frustration, Vancouver’s back line still provides room for hope against the imposing LA formation. Andy O’Brien will already be familiar with his ex-international colleague Keane and he integrates comfortably with defensive partners Jay DeMerit and the imperious YP Lee.
If this group can hold off and frustrate the Galaxy, then the speed of someone like the overdue Darren Mattocks could see the ‘Caps nick a goal at the other end.
As the first Canadian team to reach the MLS playoffs, Vancouver has exceeded expectations but their current lack of identity looks to have hamstrung the side.
Ominously the streaking LA Galaxy look very capable of a 3-0 pasting of Vancouver.
Whitecaps FC prepare for tonight’s match against the LA Galaxy.