Galaxy expecting a rough welcome on Vancouver trip

CARSON, Calif. — Saturday’s match between the LA Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps could not be more polarizing.

The visiting Galaxy hold the league’s best record, a sparkling 11-2-9 mark with a league-high 42 points to go along with it. Vancouver, on the other hand, have struggled since a season-opening 4-2 win over Toronto, and will enter the match (7:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer, TSN) with a 2-10-9 mark.

Since May, the Galaxy have as many losses as the Whitecaps have wins: one.

It will make for a simple task for the Galaxy then, right?

“Vancouver is a little bit of a tricky team, because when you look at the standings, it looks like a game that would be easier than others,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said on Thursday. “But the reality is, they’re playing better lately. I watched the Man. City game that they played and they looked like they’ve made some strides since the beginning of the year.”

The Whitecaps have just one win since March 19 but overall the team has been playing stronger. Since the club sacked manager Teitur Thordarson, Vancouver have accumulated six points. Three of their four losses in that stretch have been by one goal.

And while their home record is a meager 2-2-5, both of the club’s wins have come at Empire Field and the team — much like the Portland Timbers, the Galaxy's next opponent on Aug. 3 — counts on strong support regardless of the mark.

“From what I can see from a distance, it’s been a fantastic following in Vancouver and Portland,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “It’s great that we get to play these two teams over the next week and it will be a challenging environment. We have the artificial fields to deal with. We have terrific home support by those two teams, so it will be a real good challenge for us.”

Vancouver will throw two Designated Players at the Galaxy in Eric Hassli and Mustapha Jarju. Hassli has scored eight goals in 14 games while Jarju, a former Gambian national team captain, is still getting his feet wet to MLS, having played 57 minutes in his debut a week ago in a 2-2 draw with San Jose.

Hassli helped set the tone for what has been a fervent fan support with a brace in the club’s opener against Toronto and has gone on to score some spectacular goals. With another strong effort in Vancouver, the supporters could play a role in the match, especially with a record crowd topping 26,000 expected at Empire Fied on Saturday.

“They’re going to be amped up for this game,” Donovan said. “There’s going to be a big crowd. The turf could pose some problems. It’s a game that we want to be really careful with and have the right mentality for.”

Still, the Galaxy enter the match with some strengths of their own. While neither Chris Birchall nor David Beckham will be available (each is out on suspension), the club will carry with it a load of confidence, the kind a 13-match unbeaten streak brings.

“We’re full of confidence,” Galaxy forward Juan Pablo Ángel said. “In the last game we played [at home], we showed a lot of improvement and we managed to get the three points. We’re looking to just get the three points on the road, too. We’re at the point where we need to secure that playoff spot and hopefully we can get closer the next couple of games.”