Strong's Notes: Gestalt of the Galaxy
After suffering a third straight loss, the Timbers’ quest to get 2012 properly on track now takes them to the bright lights of Hollywood, as they take on a similarly frustrated LA Galaxy (7:30 pm PT, KPDX, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940 AM). The defending MLS champions spent the preseason being feted as shoo-ins for a repeat, only to have a surprisingly difficult 1-3 start to the season. With both sides simmering from recent defeats, someone will leave the Home Depot Center with a big sigh of relief, while for the other, it’s only going to get worse.
The Gestalt of the Galaxy
You know those pieces of art that are really hundreds or thousands of small pictures, but viewed at a distance create another image that’s (usually) representative of them as a whole? That’s what this long, run-on sentence about the Galaxy will be:
LA are off to their second worst start in team history, have lost two straight games for just the fourth time under coach Bruce Arena—they’ve never lost three straight in his tenure—and haven’t reached their third loss of the season this early since 1997; after going undefeated at home in 2011—17 league games, 25 overall—they’ve lost two MLS games at home in 2012, and three in all competitions; their seven goals conceded at home so far this year are one less than last year’s total for the season, and their eight goals let up overall in four games, is already a quarter of their total from last year; and, to top it all off, last week’s 1-0 loss to Kansas City was the second time in team history they’ve had zero shots on goal in a game.
There have been many culprits pointed out in the media for this start: the ACL injury for 2011 MLS Defender of the Year Omar Gonzalez; busy offseasons and a lack of rest for Landon Donovan and David Beckham; and a still-developing chemistry between forwards Robbie Keane and Edson Buddle. However, I’m a firm believer that those who are predicting this team’s demise are a bit ahead of the game.
Galaxy of Stars
Maybe I’m oversimplifying things, maybe I’m giving too much credence to starpower and glamour, but there’s just no way a roster that’s this stacked will stay down for long. In Beckham, the Galaxy have maybe the best free-kick taker in soccer history; in Keane, they have a goalscorer who’s proved his skill at the highest level; and in Landon Donovan, they have, at the very least, one of the best soccer players this country has ever produced.
Plus, if anyone’s going to keep calm in the face of early season chaos, it’s coach Bruce Arena. Regardless of how you interpret his comments to the media, which can be gruff at times, he’s one of the best American coaches of all time, a winner of four MLS Cups, and the only coach to lead the United States at two World Cups. The Galaxy will find their way eventually, and will be right there in contention when it matters most; the Timbers are just hoping it takes them another week to get on track.
Timbers South, or Galaxy North?
The Timbers’ matchup with the Galaxy provides the most local connections of any team in MLS. Goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who took over the No. 1 shirt midway through last year, is not only the Timbers’ USL era leader in every significant goalkeeping category, but also a Grants Pass native. Reserve right back Bryan Jordan went from Oregon State to the Timbers in 2007, and returned for a brief loan spell in 2009. Forward Chad Barrett, the team’s second-leading scorer last season, was Oregon’s 2002 High School Player of the Year at Southridge—including a pasting of the Lake Oswego Lakers, whose backup goalkeeper that night is writing this article.
All that is to say nothing of names like Scot Thompson, Alan Gordon, Leonard Griffin, and other USL Timbers to have spent time with the Galaxy; it’s to say nothing of Robbie Keane’s games in Europe against not just Kris Boyd, but John Spencer; and it’s to say nothing of the special meaning any game against Southern Californian opposition takes for teams from Oregon. There’s no getting around it, it’s a special fixture on Saturday night, and here’s hoping the Timbers show the kind of special performance we, and they, know they’re capable of.