Skip to content

MLS playoff preview: Vancouver Whitecaps at L.A. Galaxy

Oct 31, 2012, 8:15 PM EST

Beckham of the L.A. Galaxy celebrates his goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps with Donovan during their MLS soccer match in Vancouver

The Galaxy are in Major League Soccer’s playoff doghouse – Thursday’s 90-minute mid-week eliminator contest before the “real” post-season series begin – based on that limping dog of a spring.

The star-strewn Galaxy was shockingly awful to start its 2012 MLS Cup title defense, a pitiful excuse for a reigning champ that slogged out of May with a frown and a 3-8-2 record (and having been eliminated from U.S. Open Cup play by the … Carolina Red Hawks?). But Bruce Arena and the boys got their stuff together, and now …

This does not look a thing like some fourth-place outfit – and no one will be surprised if the Western Conference’s most high-profile assembly of known names “upsets” its way right into a second consecutive MLS Cup.

Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET Thursday, Home Depot Center, NBC Sports Network

(L.A. Galaxy club-created video preview is here)

(Vancouver Whitecaps club-created preview is here)

On the L.A. Galaxy:

  • In one of those cases of the universe spinning on reverse axis, big center back Omar Gonzalez did wonders in establishing his immeasurable value to the Galaxy by missing more than half the season. That came after he had established high value in last year’s MLS Defender of the Year season, although not as high as it would rise. Everybody understood the off-season knee injury would dent the Galaxy defense in 2012 pending his healthy return – but nobody quite figured on 100 percent Galaxy “D” collapse!
  • In 19 games without Gonzalez, the Galaxy conceded 34 goals, or almost two a game. In 14 games with their steady and heady center back the defense allowed just 13 goals, or fewer than one per match.
  • Galaxy captain and U.S. all-time leading scorer Landon Donovan got back on the field for the Galaxy’s season finale after missing almost a month due to a knee injury. He had a team-high 14 assists.

(MORE: Landon Donovan goes all 90 for Los Angeles)

(MORE: Where Donovan landed on the all-time goals, assist chase)

  • David Beckham – Perhaps you’ve heard of him? – remains the league’s top passer over long distance and still has the best free kick strikes in the game. That makes any set piece in the Galaxy’s final third a moment to scoot up on the seat and pay special attention. If Beckham isn’t feeling the shot, he’ll aim for the 6-5 Gonzalez.
  • Mike Magee should make most people’s All-Underrated Best XI. He’ll appear out of the Galaxy midfield, his smart runs helping to create chances, especially when parlayed with Robbie Keane’s sophisticated, active movement in and around the opposition penalty area. Keane, the longtime Irish international, was team MVP with 16 goals and 9 assists.
  • The Galaxy’s weak link? Rookie center back Tommy Meyer, filling in for the injured A.J. De La Garza, will be playing in his biggest match to date.

On the Vancouver Whitecaps:

  • The Whitecaps slid into the playoffs, essentially, because Dallas was too far behind and then failed to pick up points in two late matches over Chivas USA. So, fifth place to the ‘Caps!
  • Martin Rennie’s men beat Real Salt Lake back on Aug. 11 – and pretty much stunk up the place from there. They won once over the last 10 regular season matches, and that came courtesy of the West’s worst side, poor ol’ Chivas USA.  The Whitecaps were shut out in seven of those contests.
  • The club’s pair of pricey Scottish internationals, Barry Robson and Kenny Miller, have largely failed to deliver. Robson, the team’s attacking midfielder, does continue to look threatening, at least, and seems to have something to offer if only in drive through the center of the park and emotion. Miller? Not so much. There’s even a question of whether he will start. (Robson and Miller both spent most of the season finale on the bench.) Rookie dynamo Darren Mattocks and speedy Dane Richards, who is usually stationed out wide, gives Rennie that option.
  • Vancouver’s road form will not do much to inspire confidence. The Whitecaps have just one victory away from BC Place since April, than against Colorado, which finished 7th in the West. The ‘Caps are 1-9-3 away since that early, short burst of road success.
  • Scoring goals has mostly been the issue. In the back, former U.S. international Jay DeMerit has been terrific. So has right back Young-Pyo Lee. Whitecaps fans (they call him “Y.P. Lee”) voted him 2012 Player of the Year.

Bottom line:

The Galaxy is heavy favorite, with good reason. The current champs, holder of a huge edge in big-game experience and comfy at home, would win this contest seven times out of eight.

Of course, there’s always the one. Otherwise, why even bother to play the darn thing?

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Roma stalling on Salah could allow others to pounce

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:23 AM EST

    Salah Getty Images

    Mohamed Salah just needed signatures to make him a Roma player, but now the Italian club could be headed in a different direction.

  2. Rodgers says Balotelli needs to vastly improve before playing for Liverpool

    Jan 25, 2015, 7:52 AM EST

    Balotelli Getty Images

    Which is Balotelli and which is the practice dummy? It sounds like it’s harder for Brendan Rodgers to tell every day.

  3. Radamel Falcao’s agent: I wish Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge, not Louis van Gaal

    Jan 24, 2015, 11:00 PM EST

    Radamel Falcao & Louis van Gaal, Manchester United Radamel Falcao & Louis van Gaal, Manchester United

    The bitterness is flowing freely from Falcao’s agent as he plots the Colombian striker’s next move to a “world’s best-seven team.”

  4. Italy head coach Antonio Conte supports Sebastian Giovinco’s move to MLS

    Jan 24, 2015, 8:45 PM EST

    Antonio Conte & Sebastian Giovinco, Juventus Antonio Conte & Sebastian Giovinco, Juventus

    If MLS is good enough for Italian national teamers, why isn’t it good enough for U.S. national teamers?

  5. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Barcelona, Madrid clubs win; AC Milan continue to free fall

    Jan 24, 2015, 7:45 PM EST

    Lionel Messi and Neymar, FC Barcelona Getty Images

    Barcelona were stunning as they put a half-dozen past Elche, while Real stumbled to victory. Elsewhere, AC Milan are very bad.

  6. USMNT U-20s defeat El Salvador, 2-0, qualify for 2015 U-20 World Cup

    Jan 24, 2015, 7:04 PM EST

    FIFA U20 World Cup Trophy Tour Auckland Getty Images

    The Baby Yanks are headed back to the Big Dance this summer.

  7. Sunday’s FA Cup preview: Arsenal, West Ham hope to avoid fate similar to other PL sides

    Jan 24, 2015, 5:45 PM EST

    FA Cup trophy FA Cup trophy

    A number of PL giants fell on Saturday, leaving Arsenal, West Ham and Aston Villa shaking in their boots.

  8. Jurgen Klinsmann names 23-man roster for USMNT friendlies vs. Chile, Panama

    Jan 24, 2015, 4:54 PM EST

    Jurgen Klinsmann & DeAndre Yedlin, USMNT Getty Images

    The squad is set for the first games of 2015, following a late addition and a number of cuts.

  9. Africa Cup of Nations roundup: Ivory Coast, Cameroon in 1-1 draws as Group D up for grabs

    Jan 24, 2015, 4:20 PM EST

    Bakary Sako, Mali Bakary Sako, Mali

    After four games played, absolutely nothing separates any of the four teams in Group D. Nothing.

  10. Mourinho on loss: “Me and the players must feel ashamed”

    Jan 24, 2015, 3:23 PM EST

    Chelsea v Bradford City - FA Cup Fourth Round Getty Images

    “Frustration is not the right word, embarrassed would be more appropriate.”

  11. Transfer rumor roundup: Cisse to China, Paulista to Arsenal official?

    Jan 24, 2015, 2:51 PM EST

    Newcastle United v Everton - Premier League Getty Images

    Catch up on all the latest rumors and gossip, right here.

  12. Ronaldo sees red as Bale saves Real

    Jan 24, 2015, 2:08 PM EST

    ron.red Getty Images

    Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off for Real Madrid, but Gareth Bale saved three points with a late-game penalty.

  13. FA Cup roundup: Top-three Premier League teams all eliminated at home

    Jan 24, 2015, 1:16 PM EST

    che.bra Getty Images

    Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton were all upset in one of the craziest rounds in FA Cup history.

  14. Manchester City 0-2 Middlesbrough: Premier League champions shocked at home

    Jan 24, 2015, 12:29 PM EST

    boro Getty Images

    Another Premier League giant is out of the FA Cup as Middlesbrough got the result of a lifetime.

  15. Third-tier Bradford City come from behind to stun Chelsea 4-2

    Jan 24, 2015, 12:05 PM EST

    Chelsea v Bradford City - FA Cup Fourth Round Getty Images

    Madness at Stamford Bridge as The Bantams came from two goals down to knock Chelsea out of the FA Cup.

  16. LIVE – Manchester City down 1-0 to Championship side Middlesbrough

    Jan 24, 2015, 11:38 AM EST

    bamford Getty Images

    Middlesbrough are poised to knock the defending Premier League champions out of the FA Cup.

  17. LIVE – Goals galore at St. Mary’s as Palace lead 3-2 at half

    Jan 24, 2015, 11:04 AM EST

    Southampton v Crystal Palace - FA Cup Fourth Round Getty Images

    Southampton and Crystal Palace combined to score five first-half goals in a wild FA Cup match.

  18. WATCH: Gylfi Sigurdsson finds top corner from distance

    Jan 24, 2015, 9:49 AM EST

    gylf Getty Images

    Unfortunately, the strike wasn’t enough to save Swansea City from defeat.

  19. Mancini asked about Yaya Toure despite the Man City man’s status at the Etihad

    Jan 24, 2015, 9:23 AM EST

    Newcastle United v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Knowing that Mancini knows Yaya well, we’ll present the comments in case something comes up.

  20. Altidore ready for “incredible challenge” at Toronto FC; Klinsmann admits “There’s a lot at stake”

    Jan 24, 2015, 8:30 AM EST

    Italy US Soccer AP

    Jurgen Klinsmann knows that Altidore’s move to MLS is a risk and an opportunity.

Featured video

Top five Premier League goals: Week 22