Since Steve Sampson took over as head coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy, former Austrian international Andreas Herzog has seen his role increasingly dimished, most lately relegated to the substitutes bench.
But last Saturday against the Dallas Burn, Herzog's entrance in the second half provided a real spark for the Galaxy, and his expertise -- especially in dead ball situations -- could be a vital component if Los Angeles is to come away from Kansas City with the top seed in the Western Conference.
The Galaxy head into the final week of the regular season trailing the Wizards by three points in the standings. L.A. must go into Arrowhead Stadium and walk away with a two-goal win in order to claim the top spot in the West in this weekend's match between the conference's top two teams.
Goals have not come easy in recent weeks for the Galaxy, which makes the task all the more difficult. Against the Burn at The Home Depot Center, the Galaxy broke through offensively with a pair of goals by Jovan Kirovski, but Herzog's role in both strikes was tremendous.
On the first goal, Herzog sent a perfectly driven ball to the near post that was flicked onto the back post for Kirovski. The second goal came on a free kick from just outside the penalty area. With both Herzog and Kirovski over the ball, everyone in the stands figured Herzog's surgical left foot to strike the ball. Instead, it was Kirovski who sent a right-footed shot to the near post that surprised the Dallas defense for his second goal.
"Andy is a good player. He hits great dead balls and it worked out well for us tonight," said Kirovski.
Sampson noticed as well. "The big difference in the game was Herzog coming in, lifting the team, adding a spark."
Herzog hadn't played in the two games prior to coming on the 61st minute against Dallas. The biggest for the Galaxy this weekend is when -- not if -- Sampson plans to use the talented midfielder.
Sampson hinted that Herzog could start this weekend's game, slotted in behind Kirovski in a playmaker role. He also reiterated the immediate boost that he supplies off the bench as well. The real question is whether Sampson will be looking for a few early goals or will play the same lineup that outplayed the Wizards two weeks ago at The Home Depot Center, and use Herzog as a second half sub if the Galaxy still need a goal or two.
"We like to bring Andy in when the game is a little more wide open and there's less need for him defensively. He's not a 90-minute player for us," Sampson said.
Grey Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.