LA Galaxy backline health still a talking point for SuperClasico vs. Chivas USA
CARSON, Calif. – Omar Gonzalez is fresh from the US-Mexico showdown, Todd Dunivant is healthy, and Leonardo, after a hiccup in Tijuana, seems certain to join them. That's three-quarters of the LA Galaxy's first-choice backline that's expected to be on the field for this weekend's SuperClasico.
Beyond that, most jobs at the back remain up for grabs, and as the Galaxy (0-1-1) get healthier – A.J. DeLaGarza's ankle injury isn't serious, and Kofi Opare and Tommy Meyer are just getting back from preseason knocks – Bruce Arena and his staff are going to have plenty of options.
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They'll need them. Gonzalez will be heading off for World Cup duty in a month or so, he's not expected back until July, and some combination of Leonardo, Opare, Meyer, DeLaGarza and rookie Kyle Venter will man the middle while he's gone. James Riley is out until September after last week's meniscus repair, leaving Dunivant, DeLaGarza and Dan Gargan as the only experienced outside backs.
Options are limited for Sunday afternoon's StubHub Center encounter against Chivas USA (1-1-2).
“A.J. is still dealing with his problem, now James Riley is out for six months,” mused Gonzalez, who had a good half/bad half performance in the US's 2-2 tie with Mexico on Wednesday night in Arizona. “Fewer options, but I think we have the guys back there that can do a great job and, hopefully, get the shutout.”
Head coach Bruce Arena says DeLaGarza “may take a couple more weeks to come back” after Alvaro Saborio raked his left ankle two weeks ago in a 1-1 tie at Real Salt Lake. Meyer is ready after playing 90 minutes last weekend for LA Galaxy II in the USL Pro, but the plan for Opare – Gonzalez's partner down the stretch last season – is “to do the same” when II takes on Oklahoma City on Monday night.
Gargan, a veteran who made his club debut off the bench when Riley went down at RSL, will surely get the call on the right.
“I expect what we saw from Dan against Salt Lake,” Dunivant said. “He's an experienced player, he knows what to do, and he fits in well. This is why he's here.”
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Leonardo, who has suffered this week with sinusitis, figures to return to the lineup after he headed to the bench at RSL – with DeLaGarza to his old post in the middle from right back – after a poor showing in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal loss to Club Tijuana. He was fine when he came on for DeLaGarza, and Arena expects to see better from the Brazilian.
“He's been a little bit up and down. He's played real well in segments of games, in games, and not so well in others,” Arena said. “So he's got to get a little bit more consistent, and I think that'll come with playing on a more consistent basis.
“Over the last couple of years, he's been in and out of the lineup or in and out of training because of injuries, so I think one real good sign is he's been with us from day one in preseason, been healthy, and that's a positive. I think he's going to get better.”