FC Dallas is back on the road to battle the Fighting Donovan's in sunny Southern California. This week, we spoke to Josie at LAG Confidential to find out just a bit more about the Galaxy's mindset.
BDS-1. Is Bruce Arena's fine and preceding comments ultimately a good or bad distraction for the players? Does it even register with them? We see coaches abroad like Jose Mourinho who purposefully use media pull as gamesmanship or to aid the locker room. While I don't think that was Bruce's intention, does it take attention off of a team firing on all cylinders that trying to maintain that momentum?
LAG: I think Bruce Arena has two modes when dealing with the press: either speaking bluntly from the heart, or speaking so vaguely as to essentially make the quote meaningless. He's definitely a players manager. Arena will throw a performance under the bus, but never denigrate a player's talent. I think if his comments and fine send a message it's on the level of his continued criticism of officials.
He lets his players know through his comments that he is their advocate to the league. He's willing to take on headquarters over poor officiating, byzantine player acquisition rules, and much more which lets his players feel supported. The Kljestan comments to me read as "I'm trying to help these guys win games, and we're being held back by the league". That's a guy a team is willing to rally around.
BDS-2. I'm asking both teams: how do you think the final 2 week showdown with Seattle will end? Who takes the Supporter's Shield and why?
LAG: The first meeting was a 3-0 romp in Seattle, but that was after the Sounders lost Chad Marshall. The bigger takeaway from that meeting was the complete and utter shutdown of the Obafemi Martins/Clint Dempsey pair which not many MLS teams can claim this season. Martins was held without a shot on goal and Dempsey managed just two.
Still, the most likely result is a split series, which means the Supporters' Shield will come down to points going into that series. Seattle cerainly has more gimmie match-ups along the way than LA does. Given Seattle's current three point lead, I don't see LA catching up before the series starts. I'd have to say the odds favor Seattle right now.
BDS-3. We know that Kljestan was a target. With that falling through (for now, at least) what does the future of the LA Galaxy look like without Landon Donovan?
LAG: LA will have a DP spot to fill this winter, which is more difficult to do in the offseason window (since most of the leagues MLS wants to draw from run contracts Aug-May). David Beckham came over mid-season, as did Robbie Keane. It wouldn't shock me to see Bruce Arena spend the offseason looking for budget veterans on the free market, while working on a big mid-season splash to come over in the summer.
*** Switching Gears ***
LAG-1. The word out of Dallas camp is "LA is hot but so are we". Which version of Dallas should we expect to see in LA: the one which won four straight in August or the one which has lost two of their last three?
BDS: I believe you will see the winning version of FCD. Blas Perez is back from international duty, and Oscar Pareja was quick to adjust after his experiment failed against RSL at home. Vancouver is an easy team to beat up on, but that little win gives this team a little bit of a boost. However, do I think it is enough? This year? Maybe not. FC Dallas is 20-30-11 all time against the Galaxy, and 75% of those wins came to FCD at home. Dallas struggles in Carson, and this year is no exception with LA going on an absolute rampage during Donovan's final season. I'll be happy with a draw against LA on the road, I won't cry over a loss, and I may order a couple extra rounds if I see a Dallas win.
LAG-2. If Dallas ends up playing the winner of the Western Conference, who do you think they match up against better: Seattle or LA?
BDS: Dallas didn't beat either team so far this year, losing twice to Seattle and once to LA. I'm glad that FC Dallas has kept it close losing all three of those by only 1 goal each time, no shutouts, so I have hope that the hoops can manage an upset. Both teams are dangerous and motivated. Seattle is statistically favored to win the SS which means they'll be gunning for the league's first treble during the playoffs. The Galaxy is equally motivated to send Donovan into retirement as a Champion and boost the trophy cabinet to surpass DC's early success. Tactically, FCD stands better against Seattle. LA has the edge with veteran leadership; the Southern Californians have been to the Final too many times before. Additionally, I think that Arena can still whip Sigi head to head. Honestly though, it may all come down to health. The competition is so close that the wrong injury to the right player could be the tiny dip at just the most unfortunate time.
LAG-3. Both LA and Dallas appeared to be in on Sacha Kljestan, with the length of the contract the issue. Would you have liked Kljestan in Dallas on a six month deal?
BDS: The first thing that comes to mind is Julian de Guzman. He showed that a short term contract can work and benefit both the player and the team. His performance with FC Dallas for part of the 2012 season gave supporters a couple of bright memories in an otherwise painful year. Someone like Sacha who is familiar with MLS could be a benefit, but no, I don't think FC Dallas needed him this year. On paper, Sacha could have filled in for Mauro Diaz while finishing his rehab from injury. That would have prevented the need to switch to a 442, however, which drove FC Dallas to an almost flawless August. If you had asked me back during the summer, I might have answered differently, but looking back now, I am happy that those minutes went to the homegrown players and rookies. Those young players coming up will drive FCD's future success further than any 6 month contract could.
That's it for now. We do you think wins this time? Can FCD mimic 2010 and shut LA down on the road? Do you think the hoops can salvage a point? Tell us what you think in the comments.