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Whitecaps Game Day: Men @ Los Angeles, 7:30 PM PDT

Never again, Whitecaps.
Never again, Whitecaps.
(5W-2D-8L, 7th West)
(7W-5D-3L, 3rd West)
Leading Scorer: Landon Donovan (4)
Leading Scorer: Sebastien Le Toux (4)
Opponents' Blog: LAG Confidential
7:30 PM PDT, Home Depot Center, Carson, CA
Live on TSN

I will be brief.

Very quietly, the Los Angeles Galaxy are sneaking back into contention. The start for the defending champions was a shitshow: the team came into the season underprepared, out of shape, and overconfident for the immense level of skill visible up and down their lineup. They faded in the last thirty minutes of every game, and as their morale went down even the first sixty didn't look very good.

Things are changing, though. SB Nation's Galaxy blog (which I insist on calling The Carson Daily no matter how much I'm told not to) is starting to use words like "hope" again. Bruce Arena is finally making long-overdue tactical adjustments rather than just counting on his team to beat the hell out of everybody. There's still a lot of work to do but they have back-to-back league wins home against Portland and, much more impressively, away to Real Salt Lake. They still can't close out games: a loss at home to San Jose where they went down to ten men and blew a 2-0 lead in fifteen minutes, and a 2-1 loss in Houston where a Mike Magee own goal caused the Galaxy to completely lose their grip. They are not championship favourites. But they are growing increasingly credible.

The Galaxy have a -4 goal differential which is by no means piss-poor. Their standing is hurt by a weird ability to turn draws into losses, but they remain a dangerous team. Salt Lake, who are better than the Whitecaps any day, underestimated them and paid for it.

After Vancouver's disappointing (dare I say, Galaxy-esque?) mid-week draw, they'll hopefully be more focused. Every building team needs a shock to the small of the back once in a while. But if Vancouver wavers Los Angeles is just the team to give Vancouver a shocking punch to the chops.

This game is on Martin Rennie. What adjustments will he make tactically? How has he gotten the team prepared for what isn't a big game in the standings but is an enormous one in many other ways? Will they be mentally tough and ready to avenge their home humiliation, or will it be business as usual, or (worst of all) will they be rattled, tentative, down on confidence?

This won't be the sort of glorious star-vs.-star matchup TSN was hoping for. Heaven knows Los Angeles likes to trade punches but I can guarantee the Whitecaps will be looking to slow the game down. Both sides are likely to be tired after mid-week games and travel. David Beckham and Landon Donovan, the two big superstars, are well off-form so far this year and we all know what the charismatic Eric Hassli's been up to in Vancouver. I predict not a lot of excitement, but three Whitecaps points could make for their most morally uplifting result of the season.