Saturday, April 19, 2008

Dynamo/Galaxy preview, a Q&A with Offside Laurie

With Dynamo taking on the hampered and hurt LA Galaxy tonight, it's time for another blogger Q&A, this time with The Offside-Galaxy's Laurie. (For the pregame press notes, click here.)

Dynamo goes into the game tonight missing Pat Onstad (injury, though he might be available during the game) and Eddie Robinson (suspension and knee injury recovery). That means the Orange XI will probably look something like this:

Mullan-Clark-De Rosario-Davis

As for Galaxy, Laurie reports LAG is missing or at least potentially missing several key players. Here's her list:

GK Charles Alamo OUT - R knee surgery
DF Ante Jazic OUT - R ankle surgery
FW Carlos Ruiz OUT - R knee
MF Ely Allen OUT - R hamstring
GK Steve Cronin QUESTIONABLE - L groin
MF Alvaro Pires QUESTIONABLE - L knee

So the Gal XI (didn't the USS Enterprise once visit that planet?) is really anybody's guess. Once you get past Donovan and Goldenballs, I'm not sure who we'll see.

So my prediction of a 3-1 Orange win still holds. Laurie, on the other hand, thinks differently (which, considering my track record so far, is probably a wise thing!). Here's our e-conversation:

MARTEK: 1. Like Dynamo, the Galaxy's results so far this season have to have been somewhat less than you would have wanted. What do you think has contributed mainly to the poor start?

LAURIE: We currently have only nine players on the roster who were around a year ago. The team has been rebuilt from the ground up to meet Beckham's strengths. This means the players are still working toward familiarity with each other. Additionally, the salary cap affects the team in a huge way. We have three DPs. (Beckham, Donovan and Ruiz.) They eat up nearly half of the cap between them. The gamble is that they can carry the team while the remaining oldtimers like (Xavier and Klein and Vanney) and the newcomers (like Randolph and Ely Allen and Sean Franklin) will be strong enough to at least hold up their end. It could work, and it could be a huge bust.

If we can avoid too many injuries, I'm guessing the later games of the season, when the team is more used to each other, will look better than the first games

MARTEK: 2. I know it's early, but what would you say is the biggest difference so far in the Galaxy under Gullit and the team under Yallop? Or do you see much difference? Are the players happier under Gullit or not so much?

LAURIE: It is so hard to tell from the outside! I think Gullit is a stronger personality. Also, because he's a superstar and highly paid, I think AEG will be more likely to listen to him than they were to Yallop. I think Yallop too often got bulldozed. I also think Gullit is a lot better at imposing high standards and discipline. A team that hasn't played together much really needs this!

On the other hand, it's hard to know who's calling the shots. I keep thinking Galaxy roster moves will start to make more sense under Gullit, and then we see a move like yesterday's signing of Joey Franchino. That's a page out of last year's book. Was that completely Alexi Lalas, or did Gullit have a hand in the decision? And what does this say about who's running the team and how they're running it? I have no idea.

As far as players being happier, again it's hard to tell. I know there was a lot of conflict last year among newcomers and oldtimers over playing time at the end of the season. And now most of those oldtimers are gone. Does this mean that the team as a whole is happier? I have no clue. But there haven't been any huge rumors of discontent that I've heard yet.

MARTEK: 3. How acutely does Galaxy feel the loss of Carlos Ruiz? Do you think someone will/can step up to fill that void, and if so who, as Landon Donovan can't do it every game (or can he)?

LAURIE: Ruiz hasn't played enough yet for us to know how his presence/absence will affect the team. We're still not sure which Ruiz we got -- the goal scoring machine from his LA years, or the attitude case from last year at Dallas. His behavior up to this point at least suggests he's happy to be here and comes with a good attitude, which is great. It remains to be seen whether or not this will translate into goals.

That said, though, aside from Landon we sure don't have a lot of consistent scorers when Ruiz is not playing.

MARTEK: 4. Rate Galaxy's defensive effort right now on a scale of 10. Has Steve Cronin done anything to justify his leap from the USL to a No. 1 in MLS? Is there hope that the back line will be able to come together to keep foes honest? And if so, who do you look to to lead this charge?

LAURIE: Oh, Lord. Defense. Our Achilles heel. Overall I'd give us a 3. Maybe a four if you factor in the fullbacks' ability to go forward. Chris Klein at rightback is amazing. He has it all and is the true leader of the backline. Mike Randolph at leftback is a little raw but gets the job done fairly frequently. It's at central defense where the big problems lie. We have two players over thirty — Vanney and Xavier, and they have both lost a step with age. They tend to be great at positioning and leadership, but they stand and watch as speedy forwards blast by them. On the other hand we have rookies like Sean Franklin and Julian Valentin, who have the speed but not the experience. It could work if we can find the right balance. As last week showed, we haven't found it yet. And I have no idea where Franchino will fit into this.

I don't want to write Cronin off, but in the games so far he hasn't shown an ability to step up and make the tough decisions with confidence. I have no idea whether this will come as the season progresses, or if Josh Wicks will become the #1 before that happens.

MARTEK: 5. (How do you like the fact that I've gotten to No. 5 without once mentioning that midfielder from England everyone speaks so highly of?) Prediction for the game?

LAURIE: Bravo for you. I think the longer Beckham plays, the more most of us just think of him as an integral cog in the wheel rather than as THE David Beckham. With luck that will come for the rest of the league as well.

As far as a prediction, I am grateful that you're kind of sucking too. Let's be optimistic and go 1-1.

No comments: