As LA Galaxy prepare for familiar opponent, they expect different look from Vancouver Whitecaps
CARSON, Calif. – If the LA Galaxy are looking for positives to playing the same teams again and again, they can rest assured it’s in their familiarity with the opposition.
They visit the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night at BC Place (7 pm ET; MLS Live in US, TSN in Canada), just one week after beating them in Southern California, and it's the third time they've faced back-to-back encounters in the first seven weeks of the season.
What follows is another bye week, LA's third already, so when May arrives, they'll have played just six league games against three opponents.
“I haven't gotten a clue what's going on, to be honest with you,” said captain Robbie Keane, whose goal 71 seconds into the second half was the difference in the first meeting. “It's certainly a strange schedule, you know? I don't know the reason behind it. It's one of those things.”
Nobody with the Galaxy (2-1-1) is particularly happy about it, but at least they know what they're up against, just like in their second meetings with Real Salt Lake and in the CONCACAF Champions League with Club Tijuana.
“Not a big fan of it. I'm really not,” associate head coach Dave Sarachan said. “But I think you can turn it the other way and say, look, you understand the team you're playing, there's not a whole lot of preparation that changes.”
LA were impressed last weekend with the Whitecaps (2-2-2), who pressured the ball high and hard with a packed midfield and aggressive center backs and tried to spring their speedy attackers into space behind the Galaxy backline.
The Galaxy expect more of the same, but BC Place's artificial turf changes the terms. LA trained Tuesday on StubHub Center's plastic training field, head coach Bruce Arena said, “just [to] give them a little muscle memory on these surfaces and have a feel for it.”
Landon Donovan isn't so sure LA will see a similar approach from Vancouver.
“We've seen a lot of different versions of them this year,” he said. “We've seen a few games at home where they come out and just sit in their own half and defend the first half, and then they'll change it up at halftime. They seem as if they adjust from week to week based on what Carl [Robinson, Whitecaps head coach] sees. We've got to be prepared for anything.
“I think we know their players, and if they do decide to come out and press, particularly on turf, we have to be smart with it. It's a whole different ballgame, and you've got to limit your mistakes when you're on a field like that.”
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Vancouver, to match LA's enormously effective new diamond midfield, switched to the 4-2-3-1 formation Robinson employed in his first two games, but the Galaxy wouldn't be surprised to see the Whitecaps return to a 4-4-2 with Kenny Miller again next to Darren Mattocks up top. Matias Laba returns from suspension behind them.
“We know what they're about, but it will be a different game up there, I think,” Keane said. “It'll be a tough game. ...
"But certainly when you play against a team you get a result [against] the week before, the pressure is probably more on them than on us.”