October 31, 2012
Knockout time for Galaxy, Whitecaps
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC (11-13-10, 43 pts)@ LA GALAXY (16-12-6, 54 pts), 9:30 pm CT (NBCSN)
If the Los Angeles Galaxy hope to repeat as MLS Cup Champions, they will have to get by the only team in the MLS postseason that has never been in the playoffs before, and one that struggled down the stretch run just to get there. But they certainly aren't going to take the upstart Vancouver Whitecaps for granted in Thursday night’s Knockout Round match at the Home Depot Center. The Galaxy struggled for much of the early part of the season, hampered by injuries that decimated their back line. Even with the return of Omar Gonzalez in late July, the 2010 Supporter's Shield and MLS Cup winners never fired on full cylinders, constantly missing key players due to injuries or National Team duty. On Thursday, Gonzalez will be the last man standing on a gutted backline that will be missing AJ DeLaGarza and Brazilians Leonardo and David Junior Lopes due to injuries. The midfield engine of Landon Donovan (knee) and David Beckham (ankle) also are less than 100%. The Whitecaps won only one of their last ten games, and snuck into the postseason when FC Dallas lost to Seattle on October 21. Firepower has never been a strong suit for the Whitecaps this season – their 35 goals for rank in the bottom half of the league, and pale in comparison to the star-laden Galaxy’s 59—and coach Martin Rennie is expected to emphasize defense on Wednesday night. With their playoff future on the line, the Whitecaps will build their gameplan around centerback and captain Jay DeMerit, young goalkeeper Brad Knighton and former England Premiership defender Andy O’Brien, who has more than a passing familiarity with Galaxy striker Robbie Keane. Darren Mattocks and the thing Vancouver attacking corps will need to be alert for opportunities and efficient in capitalizing on them if the first Canadian team ever to make it to the MLS postseason is to stay more than a single game. The Galaxy won the series with the Whitecaps this year, taking games at the HDC by 3-0 and 2-0 scores and earning a 2-2 draw on the road.