TFC in tough against Galaxy

STEVE SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

The Los Angeles Galaxy is without the league’s leading scorer. The team doesn’t have the services of the reigning MLS MVP.

And, as long as the United States keeps rolling at the World Cup, the team will happily work around the absences of striker Edson Buddle and midfielder Landon Donovan.

Donovan scored the last-gasp game winner in the Americans’‚ final group-stage match that guaranteed the team not only a place in the final 16, but allowed it to win the group, as well.

So, 2009 rookie of the year Omar Gonzalez and the rest of the Galaxy will have to make due without the pair for Saturday’s game at BMO Field against Toronto FC. And, they hope, for a few weeks more.

“They are doing a lot bigger things than being with us,” said Gonzalez who, at 21, has already established himself as one of the top central defenders in MLS. “The more that they do over there, the better our league will get.”

Donovan, who leads the league with nine assists, and Buddle, who tops the league with nine goals, left the Galaxy after the team’s May 15, 0-0 draw with TFC, eight games into the season, to join the U.S. national camp.

Without the dynamic duo, the Galaxy won three games in a row, extending their undefeated streak to start a season to 12 — tying a league record.

That run was finally stopped right before the World Cup break with a 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake in a rematch of the 2009 MLS Cup final.

Even though Donovan is the most recognizable homegrown face in the history of MLS, the Galaxy can easily survive his absence because its success begins with its team defence.

The team has given up just four goals in 13 games.

“I think it started from last year,” Gonzalez said. “We didn‚t make any major changes from last year. The chemistry is so strong. (Goalie) Donovan Ricketts is so strong, he’s a great communicator, he’s great at controlling the back line. We are definitely a very defensive-minded team. Everyone wants to defend. And, from that, we are able to create chances.”

That back line, with 2009 draftees Gonzalez and A.J. Delagarza mixing with veterans Gregg Berhalter — who played at the 2002 World Cup with the U.S. national team — and former TFC left back Todd Dunivant, is a solid mix of young and old.

Up front, a couple of young players have stepped up in the absence of Buddle and Donovan. Teenager Tristan Bowen, a product of the Galaxy’s academy, has scored twice, while winger Michael Stephens, just 21, is already establishing himself as one of the best crossers of the ball in MLS.

Ironic that the team that splashed million on David Beckham is realizing success based on the play of so many young, homegrown players.

But, when the Galaxy met TFC earlier this season, the Reds‚ defenders got stuck in and gave Los Angeles all it could handle on its own field.

“I think Toronto is more comfortable on the ball this season,” Gonzalez said

“Toronto is also very good defensively, and they have (Chad) Barrett and (Dwayne) De Rosario). We have to watch those guys.”

As for playing during the G20, the Galaxy did change hotels, moving uptown from a downtown location that was in the security perimeter. But, TFC, MLS and the Galaxy have held talks — and they feel the game should go off without a hitch.

“What am I going to do about it?” Arena said on the team’s website. “The league should have been a little more understanding during the scheduling. It came in late, and it is what it is. I’m not going to worry about it ... I think it’s more of a headache for the home team than it is for us.”

steven.sandor@sunmedia.ca


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