The struggling Los Angeles Galaxy sure could use a spark, and a new acquisition coupled with the return of their captain just may provide it.
Pablo Mastroeni makes his debut with the club and Robbie Keane will play for the first time in three MLS games Wednesday night as host Los Angeles looks to end the Portland Timbers’ 13-game league unbeaten streak.
The Galaxy (6-6-2) have dropped five of their last seven matches, including the last two with Keane on international duty. Landon Donovan scored his third goal in the team’s most recent match, a 3-1 defeat to Real Salt Lake on June 8.
Looking to add more talent, the two-time defending MLS Cup champions on Monday made a deal with Colorado for Mastroeni, a veteran midfielder and nine-time MLS All-Star with Colorado.
“There’s no secret that we lacked a little bit of bite and at times some leadership, particularly in the defensive part of the field at the end of games,” Donovan told the team’s official website. “(Mastroeni) certainly brings that. He brings obviously a ton of experience.”
Keane believes the vocal nature of Mastroeni, who played for the U.S. national team in the 2002 and 2006 World Cup under Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, will be a big boost for the club.
“I think it’s good for this team because there are a lot of quiet lads here, so it’s good to have someone that speaks a lot,” Keane said. “Already in the couple of days since he’s been here, the communication of him telling people to go left or right … certainly does help.”
Mastroeni said won’t try to do too much, though.
“(I’m) not trying to overdo it and be someone that I’m not,” Mastroeni said. “(The Galaxy) always have a high standard and it’s exciting to have to come in and raise your level.”
Portland coach Caleb Porter is aware of Los Angeles’ talent, as his club has lost three straight and four of the five all-time meetings.
“They have one of the most talented teams in the league, without question,” Porter said. “We’re going to go into the game with confidence, but we certainly have a lot of respect for L.A.”
The Timbers (6-1-8) have the fewest losses in MLS, but also have the most draws and sit in third place in the Western Conference, two points behind FC Dallas after beating the first-place club 1-0 on Saturday.
Darlington Nagbe scored in the 52nd minute and Donovan Rickets made a season-high seven saves to earn his second shutout in three games.
Ricketts spent his first three MLS seasons with the Galaxy, playing 15 games for the team that won the 2011 MLS Cup. He faced his former team once before while with Montreal in a 1-all draw May 12, 2012.
“For me, it’s just another MLS game,” Ricketts said. “We look at it as (an opportunity to gain) three points and push more ahead of teams that are below us.”
Portland has an MLS-high 25 goals, while Los Angeles has given up eight over its last two matches.