The Los Angeles Galaxy will begin their question for a second straight MLS Cup title tonight at Home Depot Center when they take on the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Western Conference Knockout Round match.
The Whitecaps enter as a considerable underdog, having gone winless in three matches vs. the Galaxy this season. They also struggled down the stretch of the regular season, posting a 3-9-5 mark after July 4th, and a 1-6-3 in the final ten matches.
The Galaxy posted a 10-2-4 record since after July 4th, led by a rejuvenated Robbie Keane, who has been outstanding since returning from the European championships. He recorded 12 goals and six assists in the team’s final 16 matches. With David Beckham and Landon Donovan expected back healthy, the Galaxy will have a close to full-strength side.
The Whitecaps will be counting on Kenny Miller and Camilo to cause problems for a Galaxy defense that will be missing regular starting centerback A.J. De La Garza, who is still recovering from knee surgery. Vancouver will need Barry Robson and Gershon Koffie to help the Whitecaps hold down the battle in central midfield against a formidable tandem in Juninho and David Beckham. If Juninho and Beckham are allowed to dominate, the Whitecaps defense will wind up facing too much pressure to deal with.
For the Galaxy, Keane and Donovan should cause problems for the Whitecaps with their movement and ability to hit the perfect passes. Jay DeMerit and Andy O’Brien is formidable, but the will have issues dealing with the mobility of the Galaxy forwards.
Here is a breakdown of the Western Conference Knockout Round Match:
LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
(Tonight, 10:30pm, NBC Sports)
SEASON SERIES — Galaxy won season series, 2-0-1, including a pair of shutout victories. The one draw came in the lone meeting between the teams this year at Home Depot Center.
KEY PLAYERS — GALAXY: F Robbie Keane (16 goals, 9 assists), M/F Landon Donovan (9 goals, 14 assists), D Omar Gonzalez, M David Beckham (7 goals, 9 assists). WHITECAPS: F Darren Mattocks (7 goals, 1 assists), Camilo (5 goals, 7 assists), M Barry Robson (3 goals, 2 ssists), D Jay DeMerit (1 goal, 1 assist).
OUTLOOK — The Galaxy boast a wealth of firepower, and finished the season one of the better runs of the second half of the 2012 campaign. The Whitecaps struggled to the regular season finish line, winning just one of their last ten matches, but the defense solidified toward the end of the season, allowing just one goal in the final four matches. If Vancouver can keep it close, players like Robson and Camilo could produce a winner, but the Whitecaps must win the battle in midfield, or at least keep it close, to have any chance.
PREDICTION — Robbie Keane is on fire these days and he will prove too tough to handle. Defensively, Omar Gonzalez should be able to neutralize Kenny Miller, leaving the Galaxy fullbacks to help out on wherever Camilo may look to roam. Look for Donovan and Keane to combine on at least two goals as the Galaxy pull away and cruise to victory. Galaxy 3, Whitecaps 0.