Momentum, as any football fan will tell you, has less to do with mass and velocity than it does with simply expecting success.
I'm not talking about "swagger", or heaven forbid "over-confidence", but rather the quiet absence of distractions - when focus is magnified, the game seems to slow down, and execution ceases to be so much an objective to strive for as it is a natural by-product. It's the state in which thinking and doing are one and the same.
And it's this synchronicity that the Vancouver Whitecaps seem to have found - and the Galaxy to have lost - over recent weeks.
Over their past ten matches, which coincidentally dates back to Vancouver's 3-1 win over the Galaxy (their first ever against LA), the Caps are 7-1-2, and unbeaten in their last six. The Galaxy, by comparison, are 4-5-1 in the same span, punctuated by a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of New England in June. Form is clearly on the side of Vancouver heading into the weekend.
Scheduling, too, has dealt a winning hand to the Caps. Vancouver's coming off a two-game homestand, while LA's still licking wounds suffered from a 2-1 loss in Portland, a match in which the visitors conceded the winner in the 94th minute. Meanwhile, Gold Cup duty will be working against LA: The Galaxy will be missing star midfielder Landon Donovan, who's away with the USMNT. MLS All-Star center back Omar Gonzalez has just been called up to the team as well - but won't join the US squad until after the match with Vancouver. Just another sign that LA has new-found respect for the Whitecaps.
Then there's the luck factor - we've got it, LA doesn't. Fortunately, Russell Teibert has recovered from the illness that limited him to only one CMNT appearance at the Gold Cup. We can expect him to see him back on the pitch on Saturday. Conversely, LA striker Robbie Keane remains doubtful due to a hip injury suffered in the loss to Portland. To date, he's notched 7 goals and 8 assists in 12 matches. If Keane is unable to go on Saturday, it spells trouble for the Galaxy: They're 2-5-1 and have been outscored 15-7 when he hasn't played this season. Gyasi Zardes, a rotation squad forward is tipped to fill in for Keane if it comes to that.
WHO TO WATCH
Hmm... with Donovan at the Gold Cup, Mike Magee shipped to Chicago, and Keane doubtful, the Galaxy have been practically neutered. The three have combined for 16 of the 30 goals the Galaxy have scored this year. Midfielders Marcelo Sarvas (4G, 4A) and Hector Jimenez (3G, 2A) look to be the next-best in the threat department. Sarvas, in his second season in MLS, plays in the center of the Galaxy's 4-4-2 scheme, while Jimenez slots in wide on the right. Nigel Reo-Coker and Jordan Harvey are shaping up to have key roles on Saturday evening. Sarvas has a league-leading seven yellow cards to his name, so it could be an intriguingly physical tilt.
Keeper Carlo Cudicini boasts a relatively decent 1.17 GAA (Knighton: 1.33 GAA), but his save percentage of 60% would seem to indicate that his low GAA is more a function of a solid defence that gives up few shots than anything else. Noneless, Cudicini is capable at times of the sublime.
BY THE NUMBERS
9-5-5, 32 pts GF: 32 GA: 26
9-8-3, 30 pts GF: 30 GA: 24
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