CARSON, Calif. — It's a depth test. That's the reality for the LA Galaxy, who will go into the weekend against the Colorado Rapids not only without Landon Donovan, but sans captain Robbie Keane, who's on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.
Manager Bruce Arena has several options for Saturday night's match at the Home Depot Center, but only two of them make any real sense: Move Mike Magee back up top from midfield, or give 18-year-old Jack McBean his second Major League Soccer start (10:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live), pairing him with incumbent Jose Villarreal.
Arena, who has a simpler task in replacing defender Omar Gonzalez, who is with the US for its qualifiers Friday and Tuesday, isn't giving anything away.
“We're clearly making two changes,” he said. “However many more remains to be seen.”
Magee, whose hat trick drove LA's 4-0 romp over Chicago in week one, is more similar to Keane but would require moves in midfield, with Colin Clark — pulled at halftime in last week's draw with Chivas USA — back on the left and either Michael Stephens or Hector Jimenez on the right. Gonzalez's absence means A.J. DeLaGarza will be in the middle, so Sean Franklin is the right back unless Tommy Meyer, who has had no game time since a preseason hamstring injury, comes on in the second half.
“It's a little bit of a domino effect,” associate head coach Dave Sarachan told MLSsoccer.com. “We have good depth this year and flexibility. By [game time], we'll have the right combination.”
It could be McBean and Villarreal, which would be the first teen tandem the Galaxy have employed up front. McBean, more of a target striker than the elusive Keane, has scored goals off the bench in LA's last two games, capping the 4-1 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal triumph over Herediano with a superb strike and providing a short-lived lead against Chivas with a reaction header.
“Jack's been finishing his chances,” Magee said. “He's definitely a guy who needs some minutes, and we believe if he gets a chance, he'll score a goal.”
It could also allow Villarreal the opportunity to play between the lines, instead of leading the frontline. Regarless, neither of them is Robbie Keane.
“It's going to be tough [without Keane],” Villarreal said. “We're going to miss his leadership and his goalscoring ability. ... [Magee and McBean are] both good players. Mike is very similar to Robbie when he's up top — he's very good around the box. And Jack, I've played with him the Academy. It will definitely be coming back to those days when we were in the Academy.”
Arena has confidence in his young forwards. Villarreal, 19, has started both games at forward since returning from the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, with a brilliant goal against Herediano. McBean's scoring rate is superb: six goals in 317 first-team competitive minutes since joining the Galaxy in 2011, or 1.7 every 90 minutes.
“They've improved. I think Jack even more so,” Arena said. “I think Jack had a good training camp with us. ... It's good to see the young players getting better. I think obviously what goes along with using these players is there's going to be inconsistencies. That's all part of it. That's part of the growth pattern of young players.”