CARSON, Calif. – Injuries and international absences have forced LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena to mix and match his lineup for much of the season, but he may have stumbled onto something with the MLS Cup playoffs now underway.
Steven Gerrard remains out with a nagging hamstring injury and Robbie Keane, recovering from hip flexor tightness, played a little less than a half in Sunday’s knockout-round, 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Sunday in front of 18,124 at StubHub Center. But the starting eleven looked fine nonetheless as the five-time MLS Cup champions advanced to the two-leg Western Conference semifinals against Colorado beginning Sunday at StubHub Center. The opener will be held at a time to be determined.
“Will we stay together? I don’t know,” said 35-year-old Alan Gordon, who had two assists, scored his fourth goal of the season and almost had a fifth. “We have some very talented guys coming back in Stevie and Robbie Keane, once they get fit.
“They’re definitely our go-to guys, in my opinion. We need those guys if we’re going to make a run at a championship.”
But on Sunday, Gordon was an irresistible force at his target forward position and Ema Boateng wreaking havoc on the left wing. The native of Accra, Ghana had two goals and literally ran circles around unfortunate Real Salt Lake defender Demar Phillips all night.
Midfielder Sebastian Lletget said the team’s cohesiveness was clear almost from the start.
“Our chemistry showed right away,” he said.
“Tonight was a team win,” said Gordon, who was replaced in the 51st minute by Keane after suffering an apparent leg injury. Gordon, however, pronounced himself good to go for Sunday. “When we’re all together pressing like that, battling and running and defending together, we’re a tough team to beat.”
Midfielder Baggio Husidic, who went the full 90 minutes, said he could tell early on the Galaxy had their act together.
“We were just clicking,” he said. “Everything we were doing was right and the movement off the ball was really good. The movement was clinical.
“It’s easy when LA comes to play, and we came to play today.”
Husidic said he didn’t know if this particular group of starters would stick together – “Keano, one of our best guys, not in there is pretty scary,” he said – but he certainly wouldn’t mind it.
“That’s the coach’s problem,” he said with a grin. “It’s a nice problem to have.”
Arena was impressed with the overall effort of his starters.
“I think that’s a team we’ve been playing with over the last two or three weeks, getting them ready for the playoffs,” he said. “They’ve been training together, they know each other and their responsibilities and they played in a very cohesive manner.
“This is the best collective effort we’ve had in a while. I was pleased.”
Dominant LA Galaxy click in win over Real Salt Lake: "Our chemistry showed right away" – LA Galaxy