Even though it's early, last year's MLS Cup runner up is looking like the leading contender to take this year's MLS Cup.
Led by former national team coach Bruce Arena, the well-organized and workman-like Los Angeles Galaxy have allowed just one meager, lonely goal. But they aren't toothless. They have the most in-form player in the league in Edson Buddle and the greatest American player (at least Top 3) ever in Landon Donovan.
So, this should be a cake-walk for the Wizards right?
Did You Know?
The Wizards are up against, statistically speaking, the most dominant team in the MLS. Just take a look at
. After you recover from the shock of seeing the MLS stats page operational, realize that either Buddle or Donovan lead the league in every offensive category. And if you look at keeper stats, Donovan Ricketts leads the league in goals allowed. Hell, they've only allowed 1 goal this season in four games!
You Probably Knew
Buddle is the man and he is making his case for inclusion in the striker-depleted U.S. World Cup squad.
What to Expect
Arena likes veteran leadership, an organized defense andslightly smug, sorta weird, awkward half-smiles
. This team has all of that. Vets like Alan Gordon, Gregg Berhalter and Donovan lead the squad. Defenders like Omar Gonzalez and midfielder Chris Birchall marshal the defense. And, there's always stuff likethis
Video EvidenceLA's victory last week over Real Salt Lake.
Behind the Stats
• This might get ugly. On paper, this looks like a fast-paced offensive matchup. Of course, in reality, these are two of the most persistent fouling teams in the MLS.Los Angeles averages 14 fouls committed per game, while KC tallies 15.5.
This will be a pressure-packed game with players not afraid to go in hard. (The Galaxy are third in yellow cards, with 8.) Don't expect flowing attacks. Don't expect a lot of goals either.
• If a shot is just an average, plain burrito, then a shot on goal is a Chiptole burrito stuffed with tasty pork, sour cream, salsa and a heaping helping of guacamole. (Hey, who's hungry?) The Wizards have placed 21 shots on frame (tied for second in the league). We've discussed why that's important. But it's more so this game. Why?Galaxy keeper Donovan Ricketts has only been called upon to turn aside just 5 shots this season.
It's no wonder he's got three shut outs and allows an astonishing 0.25 goals per game. He hasn't had to break a sweat so far this season.
Ah, Home CAB Home
We know the up-tempo pressure works. We saw it on the huge field in Seattle last week. I think it will be to the Wizards advantage to play LA right now in the smaller confines of CommunityAmerica Ballpark. Especially with Stéphane Auvray manning the middle like a man possessed.
Remember Last Year!
Both games in 2009 ended in 1-1 draws. The game here in Kansas City was notable for this:
For all the Buddle talk going on these days, Donovan is still the motor that drives them. As long as he wears an MLS badge, he's the player to watch. This year, he's crafted himself as a bit of an assist man. He has four to lead the league. With the center backs (which very well may be the young duo of Matt Besler and Pablo Escobar if Jimmy Conrad can't go) focused on stopping Buddle, can Michael Harrington handle Donovan by himself? Will Auvray or Jack Jewsbury be asked to track back and help?That
should be a fun chess match.
I'll Say This...
Donovan is my favorite player to love/hate. When he's got a Galaxy jersey on, it's hate. When he's draped in Uncle Sam's colors, it's love. I can't think of another player that creates the same reaction. For example: I don't like Conor Casey in any colors.