Galaxy fiddle with formation with Donovan, Juninho absent

Miguel Lopez (center)

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CARSON, Calif. – Galaxy coaches and players have taken pride in their depth all season long.

With experienced veterans and talented youngsters sprinkled throughout the roster, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena seemingly has a difficult but welcomed task of filling out the lineup sheet before every game.

But there’s a double-edged sword to the Galaxy’s depth following the team’s 2-2 draw against Toronto FC, which stars Landon Donovan, Juninho and Donovan Ricketts all missed.

“They’ve been two players who have been playing week in and week out when they’re fit and when they’re here,” midfielder Chris Birchall said. “It’s hard for players to come in really because they know even if they play well they’re going to be out when they come back.”

With Donovan gone, the Galaxy lose an electric game-changing player who has been dangerous on the attack this season (a league-high eight goals). Barring a total collapse by the US national team on Tuesday, the Galaxy won’t have Donovan back for Saturday’s match in Colorado.

Juninho, meanwhile, skipped the game against Toronto as he was marrying in Sao Paulo the same day.

Without the duo, the Galaxy’s midfield alignment has changed.

“We’ve got a squad where different players can play different formations and we’re still probably trying to find out what’s our best formation,” Birchall said.

Tactically, the players tried to adjust by testing out a new formation. Miguel Lopez, who had played only at forward prior to the match, played as an attacking midfielder against Toronto, tucked in just beneath the forwards as the Galaxy went with a diamond formation for the first half.

The formation had its plusses and minuses.

On the positive side, two midfielders combined for the game’s first goal as Lopez found Birchall on a quick counter just two minutes in. Lopez also hit the post and Stephens whistled a shot past the left post in the 22nd minute.

But the players also gave themselves some things to work on.

“We were getting in each other’s way in times and obviously it’s the first time we played it so that was going to happen,” Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said. “Sometimes that happens. It happened a little too much for our liking in the first half.”