This may appear to be the most depleted Galaxy lineup in years to step into Frisco. Robbie Keane will be out. Landon Donovan has retired.
Alan Gordon and Gyasi Zardes, who do both provide defenses individual issues, will lead Los Angeles’ line yet again. In all actuality, this lineup isn’t unlike many Galaxy starting XI’s that faced Dallas in 2014.
Yet, this visit feels different without Landon. Dan Hunt won’t be able to provide anyone with a smorgasbord of items from his desk as a retirement gift. The once sharp attack of the Galaxy seems a bit blunted, and even more so without the presence of Keane.
However, to put things in perspective we should take a trip back to 2014. The Galaxy took two of three meetings against Dallas, outscoring FCD 5-4 in the series. Gordon, Ishizaki, and Zardes each had a goal each of the five scored, Robbie Keane adding the other two. It is evident that the Galaxy are more than capable, but they have yet to show consistency in attack with Keane out. In fact, the match lost in Frisco last year was a Keane-less Galaxy. His absence from the squad may be more auspicious than anything else. The only win for Dallas in that series came in the final pairing, ending in a favorable 2-1 and securing the playoffs for Dallas. It was an outstanding way to enter the postseason, overall.
This leaves Dallas with the presence of Alan Gordon and Gyasi Zardes to confront. Both are more than manageable with a Hedges-Loyd-Hernandez-Watson lineup. Physically and tactically, the pace and strength of that starting four can deal well with Zardes’ pace and Gordon’s aerial strengths. Take out Loyd and Hedges from that equation, list them as day-to-day on the injury report, and we have a totally different story.
So, it may be easy to reduce this battle of Western Conference foes down to Zardes and Gordon against the hodgepodge, makeshift combination of Dallas center backs that fill in. Could we see JeVaughn Watson moonlight at center half again? Perhaps we’ll see Moises Hernandez do the same? Walker Zimmerman seems to be a logical choice, but it’s also just as logical to see his hands being full without a leader like Loyd or Hedges commanding the back line at his side. That’s at least the dominant story here.
Additionally, Oscar Pareja is 3-6-1 as a coach in all competitions against the Galaxy. His tactical acumen will be put to maybe its greatest test thus far in 2015 with this visit from LA. It could be argued that this is the shakiest LA’s defense has looked in years. But that argument even falls flat considering the Galaxy have only shutout the opposition twice in nine matches this season and had that exact same number in the same time frame last year. At least Bruce Arena’s men will be dogged by their second away match in four days, earning a scoreless draw (their second shutout of 2015) midweek at Real Salt Lake. Given Fabian and Mauro’s rediscovered relationship and the absolute blinding form in which the former has been, there is still every chance of this match turning in to a shootout.
Still, squad selection presents a number of conundrums at this point. None of those questions include the aforementioned Fabian Castillo or Mauro Diaz. But is Texeira to be favored ahead of a returning Blas? Surely he will be. Pareja favors a man in form, and Texeira played at his highest level in a Dallas jersey against Houston. It’s a shame a year has elapsed to finally see it. Plus, Texeira scored in the last Dallas-LA meeting in 2014. Outside of the starting center half situation, this may be Pareja’s biggest call.
But if we’re all honest with ourselves the true cause behind FCD’s series-concluding win against the 2014 Galaxy was Dan Hunt’s sampler pack to Landon Donovan. If there is anyone on the Galaxy on the verge of retirement (let’s guess Gyasi Zardes), it’s due time for Dan to rummage through his desk again and find a few bits of cowhide, a revolver, Republic of Texas flag, and some central Texas wine. Apparently this sort of thing works. We know there is no transfer cash, let alone allocation money, in that desk, so it will be a sampler of Dan Hunt’s personal preferences at best (Maybe a beard comb, then?).
Yet, all things considered, this is a very open match from all perspectives. LA’s inconsistency this year, especially on the road, is just as much of a reason to favor Dallas as FCD’s gaps in the back are to favor LA. Fabian and Mauro’s match against Houston should strike fear in to a Galaxy side that has historically had a difficult time winning in North Texas.