If the LA Galaxy do indeed wrap up their second consecutive Supporters’ Shield on enemy soil, they’ll do it without Landon Donovan.
The Galaxy star did not travel with the club ahead of their matchup against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday (8 pm ET, ESPN2), the result of strained right quadriceps muscle that will also keep him out of next week's international games with the US national team.
But the Galaxy are certainly no strangers to playing without Donovan, who suffered the injury during the team's 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday. Donovan has missed eight games this season either with injuries or due to international obligations, and the Galaxy are 2-0-6 without him in the mix.
The last time he missed a game was June 25 against the San Jose Earthquakes, and Michael Stephens stepped in to help LA earn a 1-1 draw. His likely replacements this time around are either Mike Magee or youngster Miguel Lopez.
“You always want your best players playing, and obviously we have to watch with Landon because he’s has a lot of games in the last couple of months,” midfielder David Beckham said. “We’ve got players who can step in and step up, because we’ve done that all season. The games we’ve had, the challenges we’ve had, when we’ve needed players to step in, they have done it. We haven’t got a problem with that.”
A win over the Red Bulls will give the Galaxy their second straight Supporters’ Shield under head coach Bruce Arena, who slyly downplayed the Donovan absence on Monday.
“The guy that’s going to replace Landon is not going to play like Landon, that’s the only thing we know,” Arena said.
History in the making
The Galaxy enter the final stretch of their season in some rare company statistically, but they’re putting little weight to the numbers game.
With 64 points through 31 games, the Galaxy are currently tied with the 2005 San Jose Earthquakes for the most points in a single season in the post-shootout era. Their 18 wins are also tied with their own mark from last year and that 2005 San Jose team for the most in a single season, and they’re within striking distance of setting a new record for fewest losses.
The Galaxy have lost just three games this season with three matches left. The 2005 Earthquakes team lost four of 32 games.
They’ve also trailed in just eight games this season, one off the record of nine set by Chivas USA in 2007 and Real Salt Lake in 2010.
Arena, however, said Monday his team has paid little attention to the potentially historic numbers in front of his team.
“I haven’t had a discussion on it,” Arena said. “The only statistics I’ve really looked at was when I came in [in 2008], we had scored 62 goals and allowed 63 [editor's note: it was actually 55 to 62]. We decided that the 63 number had to change, and that’s what we’ve been working on. We’ve reduced the number every year.”
The Galaxy’s 23 goals allowed are the lowest in the league this season, but they won’t set a record there. Real Salt Lake set the mark last year with 20.
Barrett brings it
Perhaps as critical to the team’s success this season as anything has been the team’s ability to divvy up the scoring load. The most recent star has been forward Chad Barrett, who has scored a goal in each of the team’s last two league games to bring his season total to six, three off his career-high set in 2008 with Chicago and Toronto.
With Irish international Robbie Keane out due to international duty, Barrett is likely to start up top with Adam Cristman against New York.
“A lot of teams only have 11 or 12 players they can really rely on, and we have almost a full roster we can rely on,” Barrett said. “Everybody who has stepped in buys into what Bruce is selling, and that’s the best part about it. Everyone just wants to do their part.”