KeyBank Match-up: Timbers' Defense vs. Galaxy's Attacking Arsenal
The Timbers head to LA on Saturday (7:30 pm PT, KPDX, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940 AM) coming off a three-game losing streak to take on a team with a two-game losing streak of their own. Throw in the Galaxy's elimination from the CONCACAF Champions League at the hands of Toronto FC and it’s safe to say that LA is at an early season crossroads. With the likes of David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and Edson Buddle on their roster, expectations have been stratospheric for the defending MLS champs.
But expectations are also high in Portland and the three-game run of play has been difficult. Neither John Spencer nor his LA counterpart Bruce Arena are ready to push the panic button this early in the season and both have been preaching calm. That said they come into this match with an increasing sense of urgency and need.
WATCH: Spencer, Jewsbury, Mosquera prepared
Sometimes, the easiest place to start is with a clean sheet. Pull that off, and your squad is guaranteed of at least a point.
Timbers veteran ‘keeper Troy Perkins had a career high nine shutouts last season but has yet to achieve the feat in 2012. His defensive line in front of him has been in ongoing flux in this still young campaign due to injuries, international transfer certificates issues, and more. However, it is that defensive line, and the loaded Galaxy firepower they'll be facing on Saturday that brings us to Robbie Earle’s KeyBank Match-up.
Galaxy's Attacking Arsenal
Never one to use excuses, Spencer has conceded that the absence of players, particularly on the backline, has made the start of the season difficult.
First, heralded offseason centerback signing Hanyer Mosquera was delayed due to ITC paperwork and then suffered a fractured orbital bone and concussion against New England. Follow that with fellow centerback Futty Danso was hurt in training and is still ruled out; defender David Horst nears return from offseason surgery but is still unavailable, and last week against Chivas USA, wingback Rodney Wallace suffered an ankle sprain.
But not all is lost. Rookie Andrew Jean-Baptiste has played admirably in the center defensive position and Spencer said today that Mosquera would be available to play tomorrow against LA.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy welcome back a key player from injury themselves in David Beckham. Out last week due to back spasms, he leads an arsenal of players that are itching to breakout.
“It’s time now to show as a team and individuals the character we’ve got and that we’ve shown the last few years,” he told LAGalaxy.com following yesterday's training.
When the Galaxy do show their skill, they’re a difficult side to face. Great linking play, pinpoint passing, and terrific pace are all hallmarks of a Galaxy team in form.
For the Timbers though, keeping it simple and generating a clean sheet remains a top priority. If they focus on their game and keep the defensive structure intact—regardless of who makes the starting XI in the back— it will be a great first step. Veteran centerback Eric Brunner will be pushing to anchor the backline along with goalkeeper Perkins providing direction.
And it's not as though the Timbers don't lack both in talent and confidence themselves. "We know what we’ve got in this squad," said Spencer. "We know the quality we’ve got here.”
For Mosquera, LA’s coterie of attacking weapons doesn’t faze him. “I heard that the Galaxy has some very quick forwards and players with big names,” he said following training Friday. “But ultimately, it’s football, there’s no names. It’s just the play on the field and we hope that, like we do today, we leave everything on the field and our team wins.”
Come Saturday, that effort and defense will be put to the test against an equally fired up Galaxy side.