Five things to watch: Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

November 1st, 2012

By Kyle McCarthy

The Knockout Round comes to a close Thursday night when the Vancouver Whitecaps visit the Los Angeles Galaxy. Here are a few points to watch ahead of the affair at the Home Depot Center:

1. How will Martin Rennie deal with his lineup dilemma?: Rennie would probably prefer to find a place for seasoned, if somewhat out-of-form, Scotland internationals Kenny Miller and Barry Robson for this one-off fixture. Their experience would probably benefit the side given the enormity of the task at hand. The major problem: the team, as a whole, may stand a better shot with more speed on the field.

2. Dictating the tempo: Vancouver emerged with a 0-0 draw at Real Salt Lake on Saturday by adopting a conservative approach. A similar gambit represents one of two viable options for Rennie because his side is organized enough in its probable 4-2-3-1 setup to stand a decent chance of holding out. The other involves deploying the likes of Darren Mattocks, Dane Richards and Camilo Sanvezzo to increase the speed available and push the cadence of the game past the point where the Galaxy feels comfortable. If the game settles into a steady rhythm, then the balance tips heavily in the Galaxy’s favor.

3. Testing the rookie: A little adventure may benefit the Whitecaps with rookie center back Tommy Meyer poised to start alongside Omar Gonzalez. Meyer looked uncertain at times against the Seattle Sounders. This match is the biggest of his professional career to date. He will have to settle in quickly to prevent the type of instability that gives the Whitecaps hope.

4. Guile or strength up front for the Galaxy?: Robbie Keane will take one place up front in Bruce Arena’s preferred 4-4-2. The other spot is less certain. Edson Buddle took it against the Sounders on Sunday night, but Landon Donovan (or even Mike Magee, if Arena so chooses) could slide up front to create a vacancy in midfield and provide additional mobility to take advantage of Andy O’Brien’s lack of pace.

5. Creating space to play: Los Angeles presents a host of problems for the Whitecaps because it can attack in a variety of ways. If Vancouver sits deeply, then David Beckham can ping his diagonal balls from the middle third, the selected wide players can stretch the field horizontally and Donovan and Keane can play in front of the line if they can avoid Gershon Koffie and Alain Rochat.

Yet, If Vancouver pushes a touch higher, then Keane, in particular, can run through the line with a diagonal run and count on service from midfield. The home side possesses enough weapons to create chances against a solid Whitecaps rearguard. It just needs to figure out how to do it.