Galaxy's depth to be tested this week
Even the strongest substance, if stretched thin enough, is prone to bending and breaking. This Saturday, when the Los Angeles Galaxy take on the MetroStars at The Home Depot Center, it will be a good test to see just how thick the Green-and-Gold's skin really is.
Heading into last week's games against Columbus and Chivas USA, the Galaxy already had a depleted squad thanks to national team commitments and injuries. This week, there is a litany of players added to the list of "not available" for the Galaxy. In all, eight players, including five regular starters and two players who see a lot action off the bench, will be missing.
For the first time in a couple of weeks, head coach Steve Sampson admitted that depth will be an issue this week.
"We're missing Pando (Ramirez), Tyrone (Marshall), Cobi (Jones), (Michael) Umana, (Chris) Albright, and Joseph Ngwenya who's out with injury," Sampson said. "The depth of this team will be tested this weekend."
Not included in that list are Landon Donovan (U.S. national team), and Alan Gordon, who's been out with a hip injury since the beginning of the season.
In their absence, two players will be the likely suspects to make their first-ever MLS starts on Saturday. Herculez Gomez will probably get the nod in the midfield. If things go as previewed in training this week, rookie Ben Benditson will fill in on the right side of defense in Albright's absence.
Benditson was the Galaxy's first choice in this year's supplemental draft, and has made one brief appearance with the first team, a late substitute in last Wednesday's game against Columbus. Third-year player Todd Dunivant -- who will be the most senior MLS veteran in the defense this Saturday -- commented on the rookie this week in practice.
"He's (Benditson) going to be a little more confident now. He stepped in and did fantastic for us," said Dunivant. "It's great that he got that experience against Columbus."
Of the remaining players who will be stepping in for the five regular starters missing, among two there are a total of just four starts -- between striker Naldo da Conceicao and center back Pablo Chinchilla. The other -- midfielder Ned Grabavoy -- made 11 starts last season, but has yet to figure in the starting lineup this season.
That doesn't add up to a lot of first team experience, which makes Sampson all the more grateful for this season's reserve league.
"I'm very encouraged with the way the guys have been playing with the reserve team," Sampson said. "At any point in time I've always felt that these guys could step in play for the first team."
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.