Playoff Preview: The View from LA


The Galaxy and Donovan are big favorites / Photo: Ali Gilmore

By Cory Ritzau

The Los Angeles Galaxy sit on a dominant 3-0 lead heading into the second leg after an impressive display of offensive soccer in Los Angeles.

The tandem of Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan showed off a class that is not often seen and in MLS and leaves the Galaxy confident not only in their ability to advance to the MLS Cup, but also leaves them as prohibitive favorites to repeat as Cup Champions in 2012.

But despite the Galaxy’s big names and designated players, the biggest reason the Galaxy are seen as favorites to advance in the eyes of ProstAmerika LA is Omar Gonzalez.

Sounders fans have taken solace in a pair of 4-0 and 2-0 victories against the defending champions earlier this year, but Gonzelez missed the first victory and played his first full 90 minutes since recovering from an ACL tear in the second contest for the Galaxy.

Having returned to the form that saw him win MLS Defender of the Year in 2011, Gonzalez has put together dominant performance against bruising striker corps of San Jose, before helping to continue the playoff silences of Fredy Montero. The speed of Eddie Johnson may add a new element into the Sounders attack, but the Galaxy defense looks poised to keep the team from moving forward.

Perhaps another reason the Galaxy stand poised to advance is in their ability to counter attack.

The Galaxy have been at their best the past two years when they have been able to absorb the other teams attack, calmly find outlets from the back, and get Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and David Beckham going forward in the counter attack. With the Sounders behind three goals, the deficit will force them to push bodies forward into the attack, leaving them exposed for quick strikes the other direction.

While many pundits have advocated for Edson Buddle to return if healthy as a target forward who is able to hold the ball up well atop the attack, I believe that the Galaxy may be better equipped to deploy Keane and Donovan in getting another goal or two rather than lie deep and hope to hold on to the lead.

Despite the many reasons for confidence, there are still a few causes for pause and concern for Galaxy fans. The first, as with all teams at the tail end of a nine month season, remains with team health. Juninho exited the first leg at half-time with a knock around the Achilles area and might be able to play.

His presence atop the back four resembles that of Osvaldo Alonso, and missing his work rate and defensive cover could be a big blow. Donovan and Buddle could also potentially miss time but they are seen as more likely to play than Juninho.

The last reason for pause, and I hesitate to lend this much credence but may be worth pointing out, is the appointment of Referee Mark Geiger. Geiger is seen to have a quick whistle and statistically will not hesitate to hand out a card or point the penalty spot. Talks amongst some of the corners of the Galaxy fans (pun intended), are worried that an early card or penalty may turn the game upside down one direction or the other.

No team in MLS has come back from a 3 goal deficit after the first leg (only exception is San Jose came back from 4 goal deficit but trailed only 2-0 after first leg) and we haven’t seen any reason why this would start now. The last 180 minutes for the Galaxy have been nothing short of fantastic and with an extra week or rest, look for the Galaxy to come out well rested and able to stave off the Sounders and advance to the 2012 MLS Cup.

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