CARSON, Calif. – On Aug. 30, the LA Galaxy traveled to Vancouver and destroyed the host Whitecaps in a 4-0 rollover victory against one of the league’s bottom-feeders.
So it stands to reason that the Galaxy won’t exactly struggle with the Whitecaps when the Canadian club makes its trip to The Home Depot Center to face the Galaxy, right?
Perhaps. But the Galaxy aren't into probabilities; they're into victories.
“Vancouver are better obviously than their position shows. You saw last week against New York,” Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said. “We know it’s going to be a tougher game than people think, so we have to be on it.”
The Whitecaps carry a 4-13-10 record into Saturday’s encounter (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) and are owners of the league’s fewest point-total with 22. However, since their loss to LA, the Whitecaps are 2-2-1 and nearly pulled off an upset a week ago at Red Bull Arena, but conceded late to New York in a 1-1 tie.
And even in the match against the Galaxy, the Whitecaps showed plenty of grit and determination and made an impression on the Western Conference front-runners.
“They actually played well in that game,” Galaxy skipper Landon Donovan said. “We dodged a few bullets early, we dodged a bullet right before my goal with Shea Salinas hitting the post. We’re real aware of what their capabilities are. In this league, with the way the league is structured, no team is to be taken lightly and we certainly won’t tomorrow.”
Unlike the Galaxy, who are fighting for the Supporters’ Shield, the Whitecaps are floundering at the bottom of the table. Part of what forces the Galaxy to respect a club like Vancouver is precisely that disparity: Since Vancouver have a very slim chance at the postseason, they have nothing to lose by going on the all-out attack.
“At this point in the season, this is a team that’s kind of relaxed. They can come out and play and take some chances because realistically they’re not going to be in the playoffs,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said of the Whitecaps. “They’re playing for another four to five weeks and they’re playing for their jobs.”
Vancouver have some dangerous players capable of pulling off some spectacular plays. Designated Player Eric Hassli leads the club in scoring with 10 goals from 20 games and scored one of the most stunning goals in MLS history when he powered a volley from the right corner of the penalty area past Sounders ‘keeper Kasey Keller in a 2-2 draw at Seattle in June.
Along with Hassli, the Whitecaps feature two other players who will certainly receive some attention from Galaxy defenders.
“They have a very good trio of players in the attack in Hassli, [Davide] Chimuiento and Camilo,” Arena said. “I think those three are as good any three in the league.”
How much respect do Galaxy coaches have for Vancouver? The Galaxy will play a critical CONCACAF Champions League match in Costa Rica on Wednesday against Alajuelense, yet Arena said his team would not take that match into consideration when filling out his lineup sheet for Saturday’s game.
“Can’t worry about Costa Rica right now. We’re involved in two competitions and were just going to focus on it one game at a time,” Arena said. “We can’t be that brilliant and try to look that much ahead and try to have everything right because it never happens that way. We’re going to try and win this game [on Saturday] and after that get ready for the game in Costa Rica.”