Some leftover things from Galaxy training and more thoughts on the Galaxy-Timbers match.
David Junior Lopes joined the club earlier in the week to help try and solve the Galaxy’s defensive woes. The deal is a stop-gap measure. That much seemed apparent when it went down – after all, if any MLS team is relying on another team’s fourth-choice center back as a player who will step in and make a difference, then that team’s in trouble.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena also pulled the trigger on the deal because of Leonardo’s prognosis. Originally, the young Brazilian was supposed to have been back by this time of the season but instead it’s not happened. Leonardo only returned to training this week – he’d been out at practices but had not participated in much with his teammates.
“We’re a little behind with Leonardo coming back. Our plan was that he was going to be ready in March and he’s going to need a little more time,” Arena said. “He just started training. He’s trained this week with the team, which is the first time and that’s good. He’s close to being in the full swing of things but he’s going to need more time. He really suffered a devastating injury.”
The Galaxy aren’t pinning any real hopes on Lopes, at least, not any hopes beyond the near future. Down the road, whether it’s this season, next or beyond, the Galaxy have some high hopes on Leonardo.
“There was a lot there and his initial rehab in Brazil didn’t go as well as expected. He had to have another surgery here in November for some scar tissue. He’s been behind a little bit. In the case of Leo, he’s 22 and he’s a player that if he gets back to where he was we’ve got a good young center back in the league. We have him under contract.”
As for Lopes…
“Sometimes you’ve got to do things for the long term,” Arena said. “I think Lopes is a solution for the short term.”
How big is this match for the LA Galaxy?
Days before the Sporting KC match, I asked Bruce Arena and Todd Dunivant about whether that match was a must-win or not. They both said no, although Dunivant conceded that there was some urgency in it.
On Thursday, Arena, Landon Donovan and David Beckham all brought up the need to win, to beat Portland. This match is definitely a must-win.
“This is a game we need to win,” Donovan said. “We’re home against a team that’s now around us at the bottom of the table and this is a game we need to win, period.”
Arena was asked if it was time to hit the panic button.
“It’s like the president who’s got the black bag close, if you’ve got to send off the missiles and stuff, we’ve got it ready in case we have to do it too. It’s time for us to start winning, no question about it. Is it the panic button? No, but we’ve got to win games,” Arena said.
Certainly this match presents a strong opportunity to pick up three points. Portland have plenty of issues of their own, having blown two leads at in their last two home games. With four points thus far this season, the Timbers are suffering through their own confidence issues.
But Portland won’t be a walkover win either.
“They’ve not changed a ton in the offseason,” Donovan said when asked what he knew about Portland. “I know they brought in [Kris] Boyd who gives them a bit of a different look up front. John Spencer I think is a great coach and he’s always got them motivated and ready to go. At the end of last year they put a good licking on us up in Portland. We know they’re a team that will come in here thinking they can get something out of the game.”
If Portland are to compete in the match and have a chance to win, the Timbers will have to dominate the flanks. And with the way the Galaxy’s season has gone, that may not be too tough a challenge.
Khalif Alhassan and Franck Songo’o have the pace to get behind the Galaxy’s defense and have the skill to do something once they find themselves in space. If the speedy duo can get service in to Kris Boyd, the Timbers will have their chances.
Throw Darlington Nagbe into the mix and the Galaxy’s defense will have their hands full.
“Alhassan was a pleasant surprise to them last year and I think he’s continued to play well this year. Songo’o we don’t know a ton about yet but I think Darlington Nagbe is a really good player and when you combine those three athletic and unpredictable players with a guy who is predictable in front of goal in Boyd it makes them difficult. They’re a dangerous team. There’s a number of teams in this league who have dangerous attacks and this is one of them so we’ve got to make sure we’re ready.”