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Looking Round the Galaxy

It might not be the match-up the doctor would order to put an end to a seven-game winless streak, but it'll have to do. Tomorrow the ailing Vancouver Whitecaps host perennial cup contenders LA Galaxy in a 4 p.m. matinee. And while a win for the Caps wouldn't be a cure-all, it sure would go a long way to proving that the patient still has a pulse.

Can the Caps finally down the Galaxy now that Beckham's moved onward?
Can the Caps finally down the Galaxy now that Beckham's moved onward?
Stephen Dunn

The Galaxy, reigning Major League Soccer Cup champions, and holders of four league cup titles as well as the 2000 CONCACAF championship, are one of the MLS' most illustrious teams. That shine became all the brighter in 2007 when they managed to lure David Beckham away from Real Madrid.

Beckham's now gone, so are the Galaxy still one of the strongest franchises in the MLS universe? A record of 4-2-2, and a very healthy 1.75 points-per-match average would seem to indicate that they are indeed.

Let's take a closer look at the Galaxy so far this season.

The Galaxy opened their 2013 season on home soil with a mismatch, as they extinguished the Chicago Fire 4-0. Midfielder Mike Magee potted a hat-trick, and the Galaxy were off and running on four-match W-D-W-D combination. They've since beaten Sporting Kansas City and Salt Lake - bookended by a pair of 1-0 losses to both teams out of Texas. LA's most recent match was their 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Dynamo at the Home Depot Center.

LA plays a 4-4-2, which had largely featured Jack McBean up top along with forward flavour of the week from among Landon Donovan, (F/M) Mike Magee, Jose Villarreal and Robbie Keane. But McBean is now out six to eight weeks following surgery last week on his clavicle. Adding to their injury woes, LB Todd Dunivant, F Robbie Keane, F Landon Donovan, and starting keeper Carlo Cudicini are all listed as questionable.

Magee is, without a doubt, the cog that drives the Galaxy. Coach Bruce Arena will use the MLS 10-year veteran as an attacking mid on either the left or right side - he can shoot equally well with both feet - and if need be, up front as a forward. He's like one of those rascally carnival moles that you hit on the head with a mallet - you never know where he'll pop up next. Magee is tied for most goals in MLS with six, has three game-winners, sits fourth overall in terms of shots on goal, and has 13 of the 28 shots on goal the Galaxy have tallied so far.

Irish international Robbie Keane, 32, contributed 16 goals on 94 shots last year for the Galaxy. By comparison, the entire Whitecaps team combined for 35 goals in 2012. Keane's found the net more than 250 times for club and country in the 13 years he's played professional football.

Landon Donovan is the best soccer product ever to come out of the US, and has been the face of American soccer in Europe and for the USMNT in international play, including World Cup appearances in 2002, 2006, and again 2010. Late last year, Donovan embarked on a soccer sabbatical, only returning to the game a month into the current season. He's started three of the last four for the Galaxy, and though no longer a sure thing to hit three or four shots on goal per match, he's still a serious threat any time he's on the ball.

On the back line, LB Todd Dunivant is long on MLS experience, with almost 22,000 minutes played in the league. He's not flashy, but Mr. dependable, and an iron man - having played 27, 32, and 29 matches respectively the last three seasons for the Galaxy. He is questionable for Saturday's match, and if he is absent, the Caps can consider themselves very lucky indeed.

Twenty-four-year-old centerback Omar Gonzalez, at 6' 5" and 205 lbs, is the perfect complement to Dunivant. Talk about accolades: 2009 Rookie of the Year; 2010 Galaxy Defender of the year, MLS All-Star selection, and finalist for MLS Defender of the Year; 2011 MLS Defender of the Year and MLS Best XI. He missed half of last season due to knee injury, so he should be looking to regain his form of old.

Vancouver might catch a break if Cudicini can't start in goal. His backup, Brian Rowe, made his pro debut for the Galaxy two weeks ago in Utah - picking up a clean sheet in the Galaxy's 2-0 win over RSL.

Here's a look at the top offensive threats for Caps and the Galaxy:

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It's time the Vancouver Whitecaps caught another break. If it means a footwear malfunction, I'll take it. If it's the result of injuries on the opposing roster, that's fine. And if it's because the Caps stand up and take their first ever victory over the Galaxy by outworking them, I'll be ecstatic.