It's back! Just in time for the superclasico, we're bringing you three questions to get you ready for Sunday's Chivas USA match against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Please welcome Josie Becker of the SB Nation Galaxy blog LAG Confidential as she responds to my questions about the Galaxy. I know we hear about the Galaxy all the time in this region, but you might be surprised - I learned some good info from Josie. As usual, you'll find my questions to her and her responses, followed by the reverse. Enjoy!
The Goat Parade asks LAG Confidential:
1. Obviously the Galaxy have enjoyed a terrific regular season, and their lineup seems to have found the right balance of stars and role players. Who do you think has been the team MVP this season, and why? Also, who do you think has been the unsung hero for the Galaxy in 2011, somebody who doesn't get his share of the headlines but deserves more attention?
Landon Donovan hands down. It seems like the obvious choice, the one you could make without ever watching a Galaxy game. It seems like a choice you could have made every year from 2005 on without really considering if he's still the best player on the pitch. I was actually leaning toward David Beckham at first, because while he's been absent in the run of play, he's been responsible with his kicks on set pieces for over half the Galaxy goals this year. My mind was changed listening to Bruce Arena answer the question, "how has your team been able to weather this stretch of two games a week for almost two months?" He was almost emotional when he gave Donovan all the credit, saying he's the leader in that locker room, he's the one who picked the team up on his back. Donovan went from the Galaxy's assist leader last year, to the goal leader this year. His ability to be whatever the team needs at any moment is amazing to me.The unsung hero is easy, Todd Dunivant. Omar Gonzalez gets all the credit, and as center back he should. Weird that there's a glamour position on the unsung part of the team. But Dunivant is another one of those guys, has given the team the most minutes over the course of the year, real knowledgable not just about soccer but about MLS. Dunivant is a real solid defender who has yet to make me throw anything this year. Honestly, that could be said about the entire Galaxy back line. Easily in the top two in all of MLS. It's Dunivant that doesn't get the recognition though.
2. Chivas and the Galaxy have exchanged one player during the regular season: Juan Pablo Angel. He obviously struggled for the Galaxy, and he seems to have found a niche since he's joined Chivas. Why do you think he struggled so much with the Galaxy? And if finances were not a concern, would he still be a welcome part of the team, or was it best for all parties to cut ties quickly?
I think relocation is a tough, tough thing. Colombia to Birmingham to New York to Los Angeles, that's a tough adjustment to make. I think it's easier when you're younger, but after scoring as much for New York last year as he did, I don't think he was expecting another move. That plus the big contract, and the expectations of Galaxy fans. I think moving to Chivas, all that pressure was taken off and the game was changed a bit. Plus he had that chip on his shoulder as a competitor, now he had something to prove.
If you pay big bucks for a striker, and they don't score goals, it's a waste of money. End of. It's kind of a circuitous question, because if he wasn't paid that money, he wouldn't have had to start right out, and he might have been a pleasant surprise addition. I think he failed to meet expectations. When you've got the chance to sign Robbie Keane, and a guy who is failing to meet expectations, you make the move. Would I love to live in a world where you could bring a guy like Angel off the bench? I hear Manchester City has had some problems with that strategy.
3. Since the Galaxy have clinched not only a playoff spot but also the Supporters Shield this season, what kind of lineup do you expect to see Sunday? Will they seek to keep the starters sharp or give them some rest before the playoffs?
The Galaxy need to rest. David Beckham's been battling back spasms, Robbie Keane was apparently playing through a serious leg injury and that ended up sidelining him, and Landon Donovan sat out of US National Team camp with a knock that had just been building. After the derby, the Galaxy have to fly to Honduras for a must-win game, and from there to Houston. I expect to see similar lineups brought out for both Sunday and the Houston game, it'll be the guys Bruce doesn't need 90 mins from in Honduras.
I still expect Beckham to start, cause he's insane, but hopefully he won't go past 60 mins. Same with Landon, he hasn't played in a while so give him a half to run around. If anyone making a million dollars is out there in minute 61, I will be asking Bruce what drugs he's been taking, and if they're fun.
LAG Confidential asks The Goat Parade:
1. Chivas' season is mathematically over. The Galaxy's regular season is now mathematically irrelevant. So Chivas can't really play spoiler, it's really just a match being played for pride. So while it won't contain any schadenfreude, would a win over the Galaxy change your view of this season?
I think no matter what happens Sunday, the postmortem on this season is mixed for Chivas. They undoubtedly improved this season and there seems to be a good relationship between the players and coach Robin Fraser, but for a team that seemed to be in playoff contention for much of the season, sputtering towards the end and missing out on the postseason was a big disappointment. I don't believe a victory over the Galaxy would make the season a success or failure in one fell swoop, but I think it would obviously be useful for breaking their losing streak in the rivalry. Chivas fans love the rivalry and really want to earn bragging rights. For a club that has had far less success in their short history, it would be nice to even the score and make the superclasico more competitive, something that would make Galaxy fans as excited. But in order to do that, Chivas need to get the monkey off their backs and start beating the Galaxy. I think Chivas played pretty well in the last match, but they couldn't find scoring chances to save their lives in that one. With the improvements on the offensive end over the course of the season, maybe they can break through Sunday.
2. Some of the early Heath Pearce rumors had Justin Braun going to Dallas in a one to one player swap. How differently do you think Chivas' season would have gone if that had been the way it went?
That's a really interesting question. Chivas have won every game that Justin Braun scored in this season, so he seems to be a key to their success. However, the little-known secret except to those that watch the club regularly is that Braun has only scored in four games all season. He has eight goals, with two hat tricks, against the New York Red Bulls and the Houston Dynamo. Those games got him a lot of headlines, and showed the potential he could reach if he puts it all together. But he still has a long way to go before he can be considered a consistent performer. He works hard, but his touch varies widely from game to game and he cannot be counted on to score consistently yet.
I think his ideal role is as a support striker, and he has played well in that role since Juan Pablo Angel joined Chivas, especially in Chivas' recent 3-0 win over Toronto. In that match, Braun got a goal, but he played with his back to goal and distributed the ball very well in that match. Let's hope he can hone his skills and become more consistent for next season.
3. A few months ago, there was that survey being passed around on possible places where Chivas could move. Do you have a preference? Do you think Chivas renting instead of owning is hamstringing this club, or is it the right place for Chivas to be in their development?
Chivas fans come from all over Southern California, so I suppose that any location the club selects for their stadium will be applauded by some and critiqued by others. My personal preference would be for a stadium in or around the eastern part of Los Angeles. I think a significant portion of Chivas fans live in that area, plus I think moving to that area would be useful in attempting to gain fans. I think the eastside and cities east of the city have some of the demographics that could prove useful for Chivas: soccer fans and Latino residents. I want to stress that I do not regard Chivas as "the Mexican team" in MLS, and that there are fans of the club of all backgrounds, but I think it would be savvy to try and draw upon Latinos who are soccer fans. Obviously, there's no guarantee that many of those folks would become fans of Chivas, for a variety of reasons, but it makes a certain amount of sense on a marketing front.
The current rumor is that Chivas is negotiating with the city of Santa Ana. I'm not especially keen on this spot, but I don't know how serious the potential negotiations are, and I'm not getting too wrapped up in it at this point. I think building a stadium and moving away from the Home Depot Center would be very useful to the club. Most notably, I think it would quash the constant speculation by non-Chivas fans around the league that Chivas needs to move out of LA or fold altogether. By no means is Chivas one of the teams with the highest attendance in the league, but it is not one of the teams with the lowest attendance either. So having a stadium of their own would establish Chivas as a permanent member club of MLS, perhaps despite the wishes of many Galaxy fans. The bigger question should be: how much are Chivas' owners winning to invest in a stadium and in building and maintaining the team? Based on some of the signs this season, this is a significant concern, but if they are serious about building a stadium, that would signal some kind of intent, I think.