Ryan Rosenblatt, of SB Nation Soccer, joined me to talk about tonight's game between the Philadelphia Union and Los Angeles Galaxy.
Scott: The two times that the Galaxy and the Union have faced one another, a Galaxy goal off of a David Beckham freekick has been the game winner. Does the lack of Beckham hurt the Galaxy's chances tomorrow night?
Ryan: There's no doubt that Beckham being out will hurt the Galaxy, although I would argue that it is less his set piece ability that hurts the team than it is his ability to hide the team's ineffective midfield. The Galaxy have issues in the center of the midfield, but Beckham's passing opens opposing teams up and makes it tougher to exploit LA in the center so without him out the Galaxy will have a tougher time holding the ball and protecting the center of the park.
Scott: The strength of the midfield really lies on the outside, doesn't it? Or should that be simplified into "Landon Donovan"?
Ryan: To a degree, yes. Some credit goes to Juninho, who has played well, but he's not good enough to man the center of the park by himself. Donovan has played well and he's showed some good life of late, but it's tough to even say the strength lies outside because he's been most effective when he's pushed so high that he might as well be a withdrawn forward.
Scott: It seems like Juan Pablo Angel has suffered from a lack of service from the problems that stem from that weak midfield.
Ryan: He's undoubtedly struggling for chances right now because of the poor service, but he's also not been sharp finishing. He had a couple chances against New York that you would expect him to put away, but he didn't so it's not all on the midfield.
Scott: Is it at all concerning that he and Chad Barrett have failed to make up for the loss of Edson Buddle?
Ryan: There is definitely concern about Angel's inability to pick up some of the slack. It was always a bit much to ask because Buddle basically played alone up top last year and never got enough credit for the beating he took and work rate he had to handle the job. Angel wasn't going to do all of that, but more was expected of him. As for Barrett, it is never smart to expect anything out of him so he's right at reasonable expectations.
Scott: That does seem to be one of the more popular memes in MLS - Barrett and his failure to find the net.
Ryan: Well he is working on six years of this so I think we can safely call it a trend now.
Scott: How has the loss of Leonardo affected the Galaxy's the back four?
Ryan: Thus far there hasn't been much of an impact. AJ DeLaGarza is a good defender and actually gives the back line some much needed pace. The problem with Leonardo's injury is that it leaves the team really thin at the back so if/when a couple guys go down with inevitable injuries, even minor ones, the team will really be at a loss.
Scott: Sounds a lot like the Union, though I presume the Galaxy have veteran defenders rather than rookie converted defenders.
Ryan: It's a pretty accomplished group at the back. Todd Dunivant is experienced and still looking rather spry at left back. DeLeGarza teams with a very good Omar Gonzalez in the center and Sean Franklin is very good on the right. On paper, that looks like a very good back line and sometimes they look like it. Other times they look like a team with two three-year central defenders in search of a true leader so they can get caught unorganized.
Scott: Donovan Ricketts doesn't help in that regard?
Ryan: Not at all. Ricketts may be the best shot stopper in the league. He can make some truly mind-numbingly awesome saves, but he's never been a great organizer at the back. It is undoubtedly his biggest fault.
Scott: That is the closest that can one can get to the opposite of Faryd Mondragon. What's your prediction for the game? Think another 1-0 game is in order?
Ryan: I do, but I would be surprised if it doesn't go the other way with the Union winning it. The Galaxy won't be able to do much in the center of the park and that plus an ineffective attack is a bad combination.
Scott: If the Union manage to take advantage of those weaknesses, I hope that they can finally breakthrough for two or more goals. This is - another - opportunity for the Union's own ineffective offense to fix itself.
Ryan: The Galaxy are usually a solid defensive team. They just have one or two inexplicably poor moments in them per match. I say they have two against Philly. Ricketts will save them on one of them, but the other results in the winner.
Scott: That'll come much to the relief of Union fans.