Representing the Western Conference after downing Seattle Sounders, the LA Galaxy are set to encounter New England in the MLS Cup tomorrow afternoon.
Bruce Arena, having a league-record of nine MLS Cup appearances, is very accustomed to the bright lights of Major League Soccer’s championship, and if everything works out as hoped, Landon Donovan will leave his soccer career behind him with another trophy, one to most certainly remember following his exclusion from the United States 2014 World Cup roster.
But while many stories chronicling this game have trained their focus on the American soccer icon, their most impressive Galaxy player from a sheer performance standpoint has been league MVP Robbie Keane. The Ireland international recently acquired this honor because of his dualistic season as a playmaker and scorer, amounting a stunning regular season combination of 19 goals and 14 assists.
Nonetheless, during this postseason, the Galaxy have showed they aren’t built on one player, as closely contested matches have thrown the importance upon Los Angeles’ back line to preserve one-goal advantages against Seattle and in leg one of the Western Conference semifinals vs. Real Salt Lake.
Have the Galaxy faced a team as good as the Revolution at this point in time? In July, LA trounced the Revs, 5-0, at the StubHub Center, but New England is now a completely different squad, tactically and personnel-wise.
The Galaxy, though, will likely have the chance to take the Revs down, based on the execution of one or more of these occasions.
1. Keane must show up
Robbie Keane is MLS MVP for a reason. He’s been essential to LA’s winning stability all season long, and in such a vital game as this one, Arena will most definitely look to Keane for a decisive finish, whether the Galaxy’s attack is stagnant or not. One cannot expect the Revolution’s defense to collapse very easily, especially on the road, as Jay Heap’s side sunk the exceptional attacking combo of Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry at Red Bull Arena in the Eastern Conference finals. A weakness of the Revs, though, revolves around their ability to stop powerful forwards from penetrating the box, so don’t be surprised to see Keane targeted by midfielders in order to work his magic around the penalty area.
2. Curb Jermaine Jones’ dictating of pace
Jermaine Jones was allocated to the New England Revolution at the end of the summer, and under his leadership, which Heaps calls a infectious “swagger”, he has helped the Revs dictate the outcome of matches through varying uses of physicality. Jones knows when to defend aggressively or moderately, and when to take a foul halting an opposition’s momentum dead in its tracks. It’s this feel for the pitch that causes the Revs’ competitors problems, and compels footballers to become very frustrated with the former FC Schalke man. If the Galaxy manage to work around Jones in the flow of play, they’ll have a greater likelihood of snatching the win on home turf.
3. Defend Nguyen, but not too much
At first glance, it seems logical to suffocate Nguyen at all times because the crafty midfielder excels as a passer and scorer. Even though he can utilize his abilities from almost anywhere on the pitch, quickly closing gaps between center backs is the cardinal rule for defending the 28-year-old. Condensing the midfield and back line may keep Nguyen from attacking the middle of the field, but you can’t lose sight of the wings with this strategy. Against the Red Bulls, the Revs nicely utilized an aerial assault with balls whipped in from the sidelines. In this game, the burden would fall on Omar Gonzalez and his fellow D-men to deal with these wide crosses properly.