The San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy face off in the MLS regular season for the 70th time this Friday in Carson with the Galaxy looking for revenge after being embarrassed by the Quakes at Stanford Stadium a couple of weeks ago. LA will have two critical pieces of their attack back on the team in Jonathan dos Santos and Uriel Antuna who are back after winning the Gold Cup with the Mexican National team. Matias Almeyda will also have a bigger roster to work with as Nick Lima, and Harold Cummings are also back from their Gold Cup runs adding depth to a defense that has only allowed six goals in their last six matches after giving up 14 goals in their first four matches of the season.
A win in Los Angeles would be huge for the Quakes. It would not only be their first win in Dignity Health Sports Park in almost two years, but it would keep the Quakes in an ever-tightening race for the last couple of playoff spots in the West. Except for Anibal Godoy who is still recovering from an abdominal injury, the Quakes have their full complement of players available to try to come up with a way to beat Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s plan. If they can find a way to at least come out of the game with a point, it would go a big way in showing the rest of the league that this is a different Quakes team than those they have faced in the past. This is a version that can beat you any day either at home or on the road but first, they must win on Friday but how can they do it? Let’s take a look.
Break the Swedish to Mexican Connection
17-year-old attacking midfielder Efrain Alvarez has not played many minutes this season, but he has already turned a lot of heads including one of the most legendary players of this era. In talking about the type of player Alvarez, is Zlatan Ibrahimovic said, “He’s a player that thinks football, and they’re better players, because the guys that play football, they are trained to play football. The guys that think football, they are made to play football. That’s a big difference.” The duo hooked up in the 75th minute of the Galaxy’s win against Toronto with Ibrahimovic heading home a beautiful cross from Alvarez.
Ibra has 13 goals for the Galaxy with no other player having more than three, so finding a way to stop him will be essential if the Quakes want a chance at some points on Friday. Defending is only one part of the equation though with getting the ball in the net the Quakes can’t expect to leave So Cal with any points. So how can Almeyda set up his offense on Friday to counter the potent LA attack? Let’s see.
Welcome Back Lima
After a moderately successful run with the US Men’s National Team, Nick Lima is back to add some depth to the Quakes lineup, and his timing could not be better. I say this because Marcos Lopez got more playing time in Lima’s absence and he looked like the weakest part of the lineup in that time. That is not a knock on Lopez who had some valuable contributions on defense but in Almeyda’s system of “everyone runs, and everyone plays” the left and right backs are expected to be able to defend and run up the wings to contribute on offense a role that Lima excels in. Lopez often seemed to struggle to find an open teammate upfield and resorted to passing the ball back a lot of the time.
At the top of the lineup, Almeyda has the option of Danny Hoesen, Chris Wondolowski, or Vako and they are all in the dangerous form at the moment. Hoesen is still trying to get his fitness back after missing a couple of weeks with an injury and is arguably the Quakes most creative forward who is capable of speeding past defenders. Vako is finally playing like the DP that he is and is showing the league that he is one of the toughest forwards to get off the ball. Wondo has cooled down from the red-hot month he had in May but is still a dangerous player when he is on the pitch. If you hold the record for most goals all-time, you are always a threat to score.
So there’s my preview of tomorrow’s match, what do you think? If you were Matias Almeyda what lineup would you match up against your biggest rival who is looking for revenge after you punched them in the mouth the last time you played?