Whether through injuries, suspensions or national team duties, the Los Angeles Galaxy have been at less than full strength almost continuously down the stretch. But throughout all the uncertainty there has been one real constant for Steve Sampson: Wherever there has been a hole in the Galaxy lineup, Sasha Victorine has stepped up and filled in.
Three weeks ago against the Kansas City Wizards at the Home Depot Center, Victorine was lined up in the midfield. The next week he was in the center of the Galaxy defense when Los Angeles shut out the Burn at home. Then in the season finale, the UCLA product was playing as a forward in place of the injured Carlos Ruiz.
That versatility has been a blessing for Galaxy coach Steve Sampson. "He's a tremendously versatile player. He understands tactically how to play in each position, which you can't do with many players," said Sampson, who has dubbed Victorine "Mr. Utility."
But now with the playoffs approaching, that journeyman approach might thankfully be coming to end, as the transition from one position to the next from week to week hasn't been easy on Victorine.
"It's hard. One week you trying to get forward as much as possible. The next week you're at center back, not allowed to get forward," he said. "For myself, I'd like to get down to one position and focus on that."
For the first time in weeks, Sampson has his full complement of players to choose from heading into Friday's playoff opener in Denver. There are no holes for the Galaxy this week, and now Victorine might finally be able to find a regular home in the starting lineup.
Sampson seems to agree, and is looking for the same thing for his highly adaptable player. "Sasha can fit in well on the left side of midfield. The question is if to start Sasha or Alejandro Moreno," he said.
Victorine's pace and work ethic on the flank, as well as his ability in the air on set pieces, could prove to be the ingredient that Sampson is looking to add to his attack in this first round playoff series against Colorado. But regardless of his role on the team, Victorine knows that the team comes first.
"This is crunch time, and whatever I can do to help the team is what's most important right now," 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.