MLS weekend preview: LA Galaxy and Red Bulls adapt to life without stars

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at LA Galaxy

Bruce Arena’s team take the field against Columbus on Saturday without a win in six – and without two of their stars.

LA Galaxy squad looks thin for visit of Columbus

The Galaxy failed to win a game in the month of August, and now they’ll finish the season without Gyasi Zardes and Nigel de Jong. Zardes broke his foot and won’t play again this term, while De Jong is back in Europe, having signed with Galatasaray.

“I don’t think you need me to tell you that he’s a great player,” team-mate Mike Magee said of the Dutch enforcer. “We just gotta move on. Hopefully it’s the best situation for him and his family. I hope he’s making 20 million a year in Turkey. I’ll miss him for sure. He’s a winner. Galatasaray, they’re getting a hell of a player.”

It’s been a mixed few months for De Jong. He’s shown his quality when he’s been available, but he’s missed eight games through suspension, and the Galaxy have picked up almost twice as many points without him as with him in the team. LA coach Bruce Arena said this week that “Nigel is pursuing an opportunity, with our blessing” and maybe it’s best all round that LA turn the page on the De Jong experiment and look to the future. They certainly won’t miss the burns from opposing teams, like this one from Timbers owner Merritt Paulson:

Steven Gerrard and Jelle Van Damme are also missing with injury, and Robbie Keane is away after scoring his 68th international goal in his farewell appearance for Ireland. But Arena isn’t feeling sorry for himself. He said: “That’s all part of it. It’s been an awkward year with all of that stuff. We haven’t really been able to wrestle to a point where we had the whole team on the field.” TH

Can the Red Bulls keep their momentum without their star midfielder?

As we enter September and the regular season begins to wind down, the 12 playoff spots begin to clear up. For these two teams, however, the journey has been a tale of different trajectories. On one hand you have the resilient New York Red Bulls: since their 2-0 defeat to NYC FC at Yankee Stadium on 3 July, they are undefeated and are third in the East. On the other you have Vancouver: sitting second from bottom in the West, four points from a playoff spot and without a win in the last seven league matches. In fact, from a possible 21 points, Carl Robinson’s unit only claimed three.

The Red Bulls are vulnerable though: they’ll have to do without star midfielder Sacha Kljestan, as Jürgen Klinsmann has (finally) called him up to the USA team. Kljestan leads the league with 15 assists so it will be interesting to see where the Red Bulls’ productivity comes from.


Marsch has been his biggest cheerleader. “It’s totally about Sacha, we’re extremely happy for him. It’s a great opportunity. I hope he gets a chance to play in both games and show what he’s all about,” he said after training on Wednesday. “As a group, we have plenty of ways to solve that hole that we’re missing because of him.” LME

FC Dallas look to stay on top in the West

With seven regular-season games to go, FC Dallas look a good bet to repeat their success of last year and clinch the Western Conference title. Following last week’s 3-1 victory at rivals Houston – a win achieved thanks to two goals from Colombian winger Michael Barrios – and Colorado’s defeat by RSL, Oscar Pareja’s side are now five points clear at the top.

This weekend’s game against Portland should go some way to establishing their title credentials. It’s the first of seven tough season-ending games – they play Colorado, RSL, New York City, Seattle and LA (twice) in their final six matches – but Pareja is only thinking about the Timbers. “I think we need to just keep facing each game the way we have done it one game at a time,” he said. “We’re only thinking about Portland.” Dallas have five players missing on international duty: they’ll have to be at their best to continue their 18-match unbeaten streak.

Portland are the masters of the end-of-season surge, and after their 4-2 victory over Seattle last week, they’re not giving up their MLS title lightly. Former Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor has added experience – and another English accent – to the Timbers’ backline, and coach Caleb Porter is confident in his side’s ability to finish strongly – although he insisted it was all down to the players.

“Everybody asks me why we are so good at the end of the year,” Porter said. “It is nothing to do with me; I have good players and a good team. With good players and a good team, when the pressure is high and the margin for error is slim, if you need more, you get more. I think that we are just scratching the surface of the team that we can be.” TH

Union look climb and win East, Chicago just want it all to end

You have to feel for Chicago and their fans - some of the most loyal in the league. Last season, after only winning eight matches and losing 20, the Fire ended up last in the East. The year before, they came second from bottom. This season, sitting in last place with 23 points, After getting demolished by DC United 6-2 last week, Veljko Paunovic - the eternal optimist - will have to do everything in his power to avoid another disaster as they face a hungry Union. It gets worse: their star player, David Accam is away on international duty after being called up by Ghana.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, know that a victory this weekend and a couple of other results going their way can propel them higher up the table. They’ll have to do it without a few of their star players as Alejandro Bedoya (USA) and Andre Blake (Jamaica) are away on international duty. Replacing Blake will be John McCarthy, as the other back-up, Matt Jones, is just returning from a knee injury. “He is a guy I trust a great deal,” Curtin said of McCarthy, a product of La Salle University. “He is a winner and won us big games last year and I expect him to do the same in Chicago.”

On paper, there really should just be one winner. Philadelphia know that this is a great chance to make a bold statement in the east. But Toyota Park has been kind to Chicago in recent matches. The Fire have won the last two meetings at home, their first victories at home vs Philly since 2012. LME

How far can Mastreoni take Colorado?

In a great piece by Bryan Kay, Pablo Mastreoni - Colorado’s colorful Argentinian head coach - said he considers himself a democratic leader, a man who enjoys collaboration and craves for player input. The key to success, it seems, is that communication amongst the entire unit (coaches and players) should rule above all else. Springing from this philosophy, his squad also seem to emulate his own personality, athletes who want to voice their opinions and offer constructive leadership. “Players like Kevin Doyle. Sam Cronin. Bobby Burling. Tim Howard. But pivotal, he says, was Jermaine Jones,” says Kay. “After the US international midfielder’s arrival, Mastroeni noticed an uptick in commitment, accountability, dialogue. As this season has unfolded, the culture he’s been trying to engender has started to take tangible shape in terms of points gained.”

Colorado are third in the West, five points adrift of the leaders, FC Dallas but they have two games in hand. If they are able to take advantage of those six points Mastreoni’s men will sit top of the table. After two subpar seasons, Stan Kroenke could have easily gotten rid of his head coach, the Argentinian has proven to his owner that patience is indeed a virtue that can offer bigger riches.

New England, who sit in eighth place in the East, need wins and need them now. They trail DC United for the last playoff spot and their winless run in the league is now at six games. LME

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Luis Miguel Echegaray and Tim Hill, for theguardian.com on Friday 2nd September 2016 10.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

 

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch