Really for the first time this season, the Los Angeles Galaxy's reserves will be tested this week, beginning Wednesday when the Columbus Crew come to The Home Depot Center in a rematch of that season opener.
The Galaxy are coming off of an impressive 2-1 victory against instate rival San Jose. The game-winning goal didn't come until after the Green-and-Gold were reduced to 10 men following a red card to Ugo Ihemelu.
That ejection, in addition to the loss of Landon Donovan to national team duty, means Galaxy fans will see wholesale changes in the lineup for both Wednesday night's game against the Crew and Round 2 of the Super Clásico against Chivas USA.
And to further complicate matters for Galaxy boss Steve Sampson, Guillermo Ramirez will be leaving the club midweek to join the Guatemalan national team, and as such will miss the Clásico on Saturday.
Saturday's game against Chivas USA will mark the third game in just eight days for the Galaxy, so even if all players were available to Sampson, changes in the lineup most likely would have been inevitable.
But the losses will also provide an opportunity for some of the younger guys on the Galaxy squad to step in and show their mettle. And for Sampson, that's just fine by him.
"It's a great opportunity for some guys to step in," he said. "It actually could be a very good thing for us."
This hectic week won't be the only time this season that the Galaxy won't be at full strength. During the summer months, the Galaxy will be without their international players for long stretches due to World Cup qualifying. Wednesday's rematch against the Crew should provide a good litmus test for Sampson and the rest of his staff to see how the team performs without some of its star power.
Galaxy Captain Pete Vagenas believes that the younger guys are more than ready to contribute to this team.
"Obviously when players have national team duties, you have to fill holes," said Vagenas. "We have all the confidence in the world that we have a deep enough team, that when players step in we don't miss a beat."
There will be plenty of holes to fill over the course of this week. With the physical style of play in MLS, it's not likely that many players will see 270 minutes of action in one week's time. The onus will be on the younger players to keep the Galaxy on a winning track, and Sampson believes they can do just that.
"One thing I like about this group, and our reserve team is showing it, is there's some very talented players sitting on the bench," he said.
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.