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Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Columbus Crew: Could the G's Run at Top End This Week?

Jo-Ryan SalazarSenior Analyst IJuly 17, 2011

CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 11:  David Beckham #23 of the Los Angeles Galaxy flicks a pass over Shaun Francis #29 of the Columbus Crew during their MLS match at The Home Depot Center on September 11, 2010 in Carson, California. The Galaxy defeated Crew 3-1.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

With the Seattle Sounders recording a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Rapids, the pressure is on Bruce Arena's Los Angeles Galaxy to respond when they face the Columbus Crew in league play on Wednesday, July 20 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.

This will be the first of two matches without the services of Chris Birchall, who was suspended for a rough challenge in a match against the Chicago Fire. Los Angeles are 10-2-9 (39 points), and while they do have a game in hand over the second-place Sounders, they are only ahead by one point.

Potentially, this could be the week where Los Angeles relinquishes the top spot in the overall Major League Soccer standings. Never mind that the Galaxy are coming off a terrible week, with a 3-1 defeat to the Sounders in the U.S. Open Cup and an embarrassing—yet—predictable 4-1 mule—kicking against Real Madrid in the Herbalife World Football Challenge.

In short, while the Galaxy's league—unbeaten streak stands at 12 games, they also have a two—game losing streak for the entire calendar year.

“At the end of the day, we always knew it was going to be a tall order trying to get a result against Real Madrid,” David Beckham told MLSSoccer.com's Luis Bueno on Saturday. “But we got a lot of young players out there, a lot of players who have not played against a Real Madrid team before.

“You know what, they can take a lot from it. They played against some of the best players in the world and one of the best teams in the world and a great historical stadium with a lot of people here.”

But while it has been a learning experience for the Galaxy against Real Madrid, could those lessons be applied on Wednesday against a presumably weaker opponent in the Columbus Crew?

Robert Warzycha's club is 7-5-7 (28 points), good enough for third place in the MLS Eastern Conference, and they have two games in hand over the Galaxy. They have been unbeaten in four out of their last five matches, with three of those being victories.

Last year, at the Home Depot Center on September 11, the Galaxy (with current Ingolstadt striker Edson Buddle) cruised past the Crew 3-1. On Wednesday, LA can expect an improved and determined Columbus outfit.

America's Hardest Working Team is led by Andres Mendoza, who has seven goals to his credit. Emilio Renteria has also contributed in the goals department, with four so far this year. Dilly Duka and Justin Meram are the Crew's main providers, each with two assists.

The Crew's back line is anchored by SuperDraft selection Rich Balchan, Julius James, captain Chad Marshall and Sebastian Miranda. This back line is capable of intercepting Beckham's deliveries in the air and will have to rely on their quickness to disrupt the Galaxy's sequences.

The mid field's X—factors are Emmanuel Ekpo and Eddie Gaven. If they can find Renteria and Mendoza on the counter, Columbus will have a shot at turning the tables.

Goalkeeper William Hesmer has a 7-5-7 record to go with a 70.6 percent save percentage and a 1.06 goals against average on 48 saves.

Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders did not acquit himself well against Seattle and will need an improved performance against the Crew. Saunders has a 4-1-3 record, a 71 percent save percentage and a 1.22 GAA.

Offensively, Landon Donovan and Beckham continue to lead Los Angeles in the goals and assist departments. Donovan has nine goals, while Beckham has eight assists this season.

Beckham has an assortment of other options besides Donovan. Chad Barrett has four goals to his name, while Juan Pablo Angel and Juninho have tallied three goals this year.

Gregg Berhalter, Todd Dunivant, A.J. DeLaGarza and Sean Franklin have had to deal with Omar Gonzalez's absence as a result of a hip pointer sustained in the Galaxy's 2-1 victory at home to the Fire. Without Birchall's presence, the onus will be on the Galaxy's back line to stop Mendoza and Renteria from stretching them too thin.

Watch for the play making ability of Juninho and Miguel Lopez on Wednesday. Birchall's absence means that Lopez, the Argentinean, gets a chance to help string a set of passes in the team's buildups. Juninho, the Brazilian from Sao Paulo, has proven that he can score from long distance, and will need to take a chance if the situation gets too tense for Arena's liking.

Prediction:
I like a defensive battle here on Wednesday, but there will be goals. At Victoria Street last year, Mendoza was the Chicken Thief. He probably will be at it again, but it will still be a familiar result for Galaxy fans. Let's try this.

Los Angeles Galaxy 2, Columbus Crew 1
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by Fox Sports Prime Ticket.

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