L.A. Galaxy vs. Colorado Rapids: 3 Players to Watch
The Galaxy are just four points behind Western Conference leader Real Salt Lake in the standings. However, they must overcome their road woes. Losing six of their last seven away games in all competitions, Bruce Arena's squad has a minus-7 goal difference on the road.
Colorado currently sits in sixth place in the West, and a win could put them back into playoff position. With a 5-3-3 home record, the Rapids need to make good use of their home-field advantage and get a few points off of L.A. and Real Salt Lake next week.
In what should be a low-scoring affair, here are three players to pay special attention to in this crucial matchup between Western Conference foes.
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With Omar Gonzalez away on Gold Cup duty, Galaxy manager Bruce Arena will likely give 23-year-old Tommy Meyer the start at center back.
The second-year Indiana product played a major role in the Galaxy's success last season. With regular starter A.J. DeLaGarza out for most of the playoffs due to injury, Meyer stepped up and was part of the stingy defense that would eventually help L.A. win the championship.
The 6'2" defender may very well be the Galaxy's starting center back of the future if Omar Gonzalez decides to move on to bigger and better things after the season ends.
Meyer will have the chance to prove himself against Colorado. Even though the Rapids aren't known for being a high-powered offense, the Galaxy defense will have plenty to deal with as they'll likely head into the match with a "bunker ball" mentality.
Keeping the Rapids off the scoreboard at Dick's Sporting Goods Park will be no easy task. In 11 home games this season, they've only been shut out twice, against the Seattle Sounders and D.C. United.
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Deshorn Brown leads the Rapids in several offensive categories. With five goals, 67 shots and 19 shots on goal, the Jamaican striker is quickly garnering attention across the league. Add on five assists (second for the Rapids) to that tally, and Brown is most definitely one of Colorado's most valuable players.
With Omar Gonzalez out and Tommy Meyer in as his replacement, the 22-year-old has the perfect opportunity to exploit L.A.'s defense. Furthermore, with many of the Galaxy's key players gone, the visiting team may employ a more defensive game plan, which will be a good test for the rookie.
With his incredible speed, Brown often connects with fellow rookie Dillon Powers. The duo accounts for eight of Colorado's 26 goals. Both players are MLS Rookie of the Year candidates.
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No Robbie Keane. No Landon Donovan. No Robbie Rogers. What does that mean?
It means Gyasi Zardes will once again have to provide most of the Galaxy's offense. He was successful in doing so last week, but he has to put out good performances on a consistent basis in order to retain his starting role.
With Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan returning soon, Zardes may lose his spot as a starter. Or perhaps the other young forwards, Jose Villarreal and Jack McBean, will be given a chance by Bruce Arena.
Zardes will have the opportunity to lead the attack in what could be a game that vaults the Galaxy up to second place in the West. Most likely paired up top with Jose Villarreal, the 21-year-old must put together another complete performance with his strike partner as he did against Vancouver last week.
In addition, this match pits two of the league's top young forwards against each other. Will Gyasi Zardes outshine Deshorn Brown? Or will Brown successfully exploit the Galaxy and their Gonzalez-less defense?