BURNABY, B.C. – Despite the Galaxy’s dreadful start to the 2012 campaign, the Vancouver Whitecaps won’t be taking anything for granted when they visit Los Angeles on Saturday.
The defending MLS Cup champion Galaxy were in last place in the Western Conference as recently as last week.
But after going winless in May, L.A. is 2-0 in June to climb to seventh in the standings and within nine points of the Whitecaps (7-3-5).
“No matter what the Galaxy’s recent run of form is, I don’t think anyone would ever approach a game at the Home Depot Centre lightly,” Whitecaps midfielder John Thorrington said this week. “They’ve been the most consistent team in the league the last few years and it’s a lot of the same players.
“I think it would be unwise of any team approaching it any different.”
The key to taking on the Galaxy (5-8-2) is limiting time and space for designated players David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan.
A challenge that is always easier said than done.
“I don’t think you ever underestimate what L.A. has,” Whitecaps defender Jay DeMerit said. “You can’t give their weapons time on the ball or good chances to finish because (with) the quality they have, they’ll hurt you. You’ve got to get in their faces and not let them do what they’re capable of.”
The three stars on the L.A. roster have combined for nine of the Galaxy’s 19 goals for this season.
Vancouver, which sits third in the West, surrendered a late lead in Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls. After going ahead in the 75th minute, Vancouver was unable to win its third straight game when New York tied it in the 86th.
“Sometimes when you break it all down, football is a very simple game,” DeMerit said. “When you get your chances you’ve got to score and when you have a chance to hold on to a lead you manage it to the end of the game.”
Despite losing the lead late, the Whitecaps took a lot of positives out of the match.
“At the end of the day, we’ve been on a good run,” Vancouver head coach Martin Rennie said. “We’re unbeaten for a time, we’re third in the Western Conference. We’re feeling positive.”
Four of the five games in the recent unbeaten streak (2-0-3) were at home, but now the Whitecaps go on the road for their next five matches. But unlike the 2011 team that failed to win a single game away from their own pitch, the 2012 edition is comfortable on the road.
“2-2-2 is a pretty good record,” Rennie said of Vancouver’s mark away from B.C. Place Stadium. “We make sure we’re hard to play against and compact. But the onus isn’t on us so much to make the game as it is at home, so it changes slightly, but the basic principles will remain the same.”
“We’ve shown decent road form this year,” Thorrington added. “We’re taking this game very seriously and giving them the respect they deserve as being the team they’ve been the past few years.”
Thorrington in particular is looking forward to the trip to California to take on the Galaxy.
He was raised in Palos Verdes Peninsula, less than 50 kilometres from L.A.
Thorrington did not play in the two games versus L.A. last season but scored winning goals over the Galaxy in both 2007 and 2008 while with the Chicago Fire.
“It’ll be great because I have friends and family here,” he said. “It’s a rare treat for me to be able to play in front of friends and family unless they come and visit. That is exciting for me.”
Notes: The Whitecaps waived Michael Boxall on Friday. The 24 year old from New Zealand was the first pick of the 2011 Supplemental Draft. The defender started 18 games for the Whitecaps last season but Vancouver needed to clear space to allow for Scottish midfielder Barry Robson to join the club after the North American transfer date at the end of the month.