LAG Dispatch: Galaxy Bench Players Making Big Impacts

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The LA Galaxy have been stretched at times this year. Omar Gonzalez has been injured and with the USMNT at the World Cup. They’ve been the most injured team at fullback this season: James Riley and Todd Dunivant out for awhile with injuries resulting in surgery. AJ DelaGarza has done a yeoman’s job filling in, but has also had knocks. Bruce Arena learned at the end of last year that he needed a Plan B when Keane-Donovan got stale at times. Samuel appeared to be an excellent loan pick up to provide a #9 option. Rob Friend seemed to be a decent bench option as well. Neither striker has really worked out. Samuel’s loan deal was terminated earlier this month.

The injury bug and some off season addition misfires have left some holes in the lineup. Those holes have been filled by a bench player, misfit substitution, and roster after thought.

Those worker bees have gotten the job done.

Galaxy Bench Players Making Big Impacts

Dan Gargan has been phenomenal at right back, and has fit in the system perfectly where Sean Franklin a year ago. He’s been solid working the right defensively and has gotten forward into the attack. He has three assists and has stretched defenses and forced them to account for him. His crosses have been decent and he rarely is caught out of position. The 31 year old has even gone 90 minutes in 11 of 13 starts. Not bad for an old geezer. Gargan has had his bad moments at times, be it mental mistakes or unnecessary yellow cards. He has cleaned those issues up as of late and been solid in tracking back to prevent and put out fires.

Robbie Rogers was injured for much of 2013 and didn’t look good when he was playing. The left midfielder got hurt in the first week of training camp and started playing with LA Galaxy II when he got healthy. Rogers subbed on for Gargan in Chicago last month. Rogers started the next game at left back against Chivas USA. Bruce Arena clearly saw a viable alternative to playing DelaGarza out of position. AJD went back to CB and has done his thing regardless of who he has been pared with in the middle. While Rogers has rarely played as a defender, he has DelaGarza to his right, who is one of the fastest center backs in MLS and has been the Galaxy’s smartest defenders in the last several years.

Rogers has also been paired with a smart and veteran left midfielder every time. When Sarvas and Husidic are in front of him, Rogers has been able go forward more. When Ishizaki or Donovan is in front of him, they give-and-take depending on the situation. I have also been extremely impressed with the 27-year-old’s defending, especially one-on-one. That is a facet of his game we did not see when he played in Columbus. I am glad to see Rogers playing and contributing. I hope Galaxy fans recognize it and give him the credit he deserves. Bruce Arena has done well to integrate him back into the lineup and help Rogers succeed despite playing out of position.

As Gyasi Zardes scored a goal against RSL on Saturday in the Galaxy 1-0 win, I thought that he did a good job making nothing out of something. Then I thought “I’m not surprised by this. He’s played that well for awhile. He looks good, dare I say . . . as usual? Just like Robbie Rogers?” Zardes played a solid 90 minutes. With Samuel returning to Brazil, Zardes has forced himself into the de facto third striker spot behind Donovan and Keane. With Donovan at the top of the diamond, Zardes plays up top with Keane. With Donovan spread out wide, same situation.

While Zardes has played out wide, I think he’s now exclusively a striker on this team. And he’s been great up top. He’s got great potential, youthful pace, and he can play that #9 role when needed. Even when he’s been a chicken with his head cut off, he’s always been dangerous in the air. Zardes has three goals in four league games. Including Open Cup and Galaxy II, he has five goals in six games. He said at the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, Zardes said “my skill is going to blow your mind.” Not quit there yet Gyasi. A bit better chemistry with Keane and better hold up play, and you’ll be blowing my mind.

Despite being just outside the playoff picture, the Galaxy are unbeaten in seven. The defense hasn’t been pretty at times. Keane and Donovan have whiffed on some golden opportunities. They look poised to make a second half run. These three have been a bright spot and a major part of the recent success. Glue players like these help make second half playoff runs possible.

 

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