We exchange three questions with Josie Becker of SB Nation Los Angeles in order to get some insider perspective on the Los Angeles Galaxy as the travel to Toyota Park to take on the Chicago Fire this Sunday. Josie's answer to my first question is below and the other five questions in the exchange are after the break.
Hot Time In Old Town asks SB Nation LA
1. David Beckham and Juninho are out for disciplinary card reasons. Landon Donovan is questionable due to injury [since questions were asked, Donovan has been ruled out]. What formation and Starting XI do you expect to see the Galaxy roll out? What is your confidence level in that expected lineup vs. the optimal lineup the Galaxy could put on the field if there were no questions of health or discipline?
I honestly expect Bruce Arena to play for the draw. Ricketts has only given up the Charlie Davies penalty since coming back, and the back four of Gonzalez, Leonardo, DeLaGarza, and Dunivant have been solid outside of that RSL thingy. But everyone knows what happens in Salt Lake stays in Salt Lake. I imagine we'll get Chris Birchall playing a CDM type role, with Cardozo, McGee, and Franklin in the middle. Bruce has had nothing but kind words about Cardozo but he hasn't gotten a start yet. Chicago seems a good a time as any. And they need someone in the middle with some aggression, losing Juninho is going to hurt in that respect. Up top I expect Angel and Miguel Lopez. The two worked well together up front against Philadelphia. Angel could probably use one of those breaks managers like the give strikers when they go cold, but not with Beckham and Donovan out. I'm confident this lineup can keep goals from scoring, I have little to no confidence this lineup can score goals. For all the flack Beckham takes, he's been the creative force offensively for the Galaxy.2. The acquisitions of Frankie Hejduk and Juan Pablo Angel in the off-season made me think of when the Los Angeles Lakers added Gary Payton and Karl Malone to a team that already featured Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. How are the two new guys fitting in with squad and Landon Donovan and David Beckham?
You know Hejduk hasn't recorded an MLS minute this year, right? I think his hair was a nice edition, you need a guy with crazy European hair to really round out a locker room. Neither Gary Payton nor Karl Malone brought crazy European hair to the Lakers. But they also came to a Laker team that were a juggernaut at the time. Now we can argue back and forth about the legitimacy of Colorado being named the best team in MLS last year, I mean if we're gonna say RSL's potential CONCACAF club title means more than DC's or LA's, then why are we so high on Colorado who won a tournament of similar length. What was I talking about? Right, the fact that LA hasn't won anything in five years outside of a Supporter's Shield which was presented at the MLS version of a state fair.
It's weird to say that Juan Pablo Angel had big shoes to fill but he did. Edson Buddle has scored more for that D2 German side this year than JPA has for LA. The kid just knows where to be to score goals. Angel seems to need a number two, which is why I think we're all high on him being paired with Miguel Lopez, but Barrett, Magee, es mal.
3. Now that the big names are out of the way, what player or players are you rooting for to break into the starting lineup or simply start making the bench on a regular basis? Is there a story out there that even Fire fans could root for?
Bryan Jordan's a local boy, born in Pasadena, did his college work at Oregon State. The Galaxy picked him up in '08 and he's been back and forth between LA and Portland since then. He made one appearance with the U-23 team, he was born just five days after I was born. I want to see him stick around. I mean he played in the USL D-League, the guy loves soccer. He's part of that generation that Landon Donovan is sort of the trophy child of but there are many more coming up the ranks who played AYSO, followed the World Cup when it was in America and don't just see soccer as another sport they played. Gotta love a kid like that.
SB Nation LA asks Hot Time In Old Town
1. Chicago had a significant amount of roster turnover this offseason. Who's your favorite new acquisition and why? Who has already soured on you?
My favorite acquisition would have to be Gaston Puerari. He is constantly working hard and is quite the fighter for someone who is only 5'7. When Marco Pappa scored a goal against Kansas City and the entire team went over to the subs for a full celebration, Purerari was trying to the team trainer involved in the celebration too. Just five years ago, Puerari was working in a slaughterhouse in Uruguay. You can tell there is a real blue collar work attitude mixed in with his soccer flair.
At this point in the year I would have to say I've soured on Jalil Anibaba. That might have more to do with my own expectations for how he would play. I thought he would come in and be a solid contributor right off the bat. Instead, he has been a big part of the defensive troubles this year. Anibaba is a rookie and it's obvious he has potential but I've soured on him for sure. His own development has probably been hampered because the Fire are waiting for last year's starting right back Steven Kinney to return. Kinney and Anibaba would be competing for the starting job. Competition is good and at the same time you would hope that Kinney would be sharing his thoughts on how he handled players last year.
2. Chaves and Puerari, Chaves and Puerari. Everyone keeps talking about them and for good reason. What is this goal scoring duo doing to create all these chances, and do you expect the Fire to improve on last year's goal total?
Last year's team played a very defensively minded 4-5-1. It was not very exciting to watch and if the Chicago Fire went down by a goal or two, you had serious doubts about the team coming back to tie. You could forget winning the game. The two best offensive players, Patrick Nyarko and Marco Pappa, were placed on the far wings. It was just not a dynamic offensive model.
Diego Chaves and Gaston Puerari are enjoying the benefits of Pappa and Nyarko being let off the leash so to speak. Pappa and Nyarko are embracing their new roles as leaders in the offense. I don't mean to take anything away from Chaves and Puerari because they are equally skilled if not maybe more skilled than anyone else on the team. The two Uruguayan forwards are constantly working hard and looking to set up plays that not only will get them closer to the goal, but their teammates too. Diego Chaves has three goals and Gaston Puerari has a goal and an assist to show for their hard work.
I think the Fire will improve last year's goal total but this should be taken with a grain of salt. Last year the Fire scored 37 goals in 30 games for an average of 1.23 goals per game. In order for the Fire to improve on that average, the team only needs to score 35 goals in the remaining 30 games. Chicago has the offensive firepower to surpass that mark but I'm afraid the defense is going to fall off its pace from last year too. As much as it was boring soccer, the Fire did keep their opponents down to 38 goals in 30 games. With Seattle and Kansas City scoring 2 a piece, FC Dallas pitching in 1 and Portland dropping 4 goals on the Fire on Thursday, Chicago soccer will likely be more exciting but it might be less successful in the standings.
3. You played Portland on Thursday which means the team had one day less of rest than the LA Galaxy. Is fatigue a concern? How much depth have you seen from this team? If the team loses against Portland, do you have confidence in their ability to shake off the losing streak that quickly?
Fatigue is a big concern. Carlos de los Cobos started the same choice lineup against Seattle and Portland. He'll be asking some starters to go 270 minutes in 8 days. There is good news though because Josip Mikulic, the team's best CB, is expected to be back from injury. Mikulic will start in the back line for Dasan Robinson or Cory Gibbs. Both players could use a break. If I know Carlos well, he'll start Gibbs anyway. Yamith Cuesta might get the start over Jalil Anibaba. Based on Anibaba's rookie bumps and having played the previous two games, this will probably be a temporary improvement. In other places, we might see Fire starters from last year like Bratislav Ristic at RM in the place of Nyarko or Baggio Husidic at DM in place of Mike Videira.
If I had to guess a starting XI, I'd say Sean Johnson; Yamith Cuesta, Josip Mikulic, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Seagres; Bratislav Ristic, Logan Pause, Baggio Husidic, Marco Pappa; Gaston Puerari, Orr Barouch. That lineup is still of decent quality while only starting 5 players who went the full 90 minutes in Portland. I would be more concerned about depth and fatigue if we were playing a full Los Angeles Galaxy team on full rest but this Fire squad should be able to pull off a win in front of the home crowd.