CARSON, Calif. – With Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan gone in search of crucial World Cup qualifying points, the LA Galaxy are without the guys responsible for every goal they've scored in the past month-and-a-half.
Teen forwards Jose Villarreal and Jack McBean are expected to take their place up front Saturday night against Colorado at the StubHub Center (10:30 pm ET; MLS Live) and that means LA must shift to a different attacking philosophy. They're fine with that.
“With Jack and Jose, we have youthful energy, and they're each different,” associate head coach Dave Sarachan told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “Jack gives us something that Robbie and Landon don't give us, and that's a physical target presence, a guy who can hold off a center back and keep the ball and play, keep things alive.”
Donovan and Keane have scored 12 of the last 13 competitive goals for the Galaxy (13-9-4), and the other one was an Omar Gonzalez header from a Donovan corner kick. They're the Galaxy's chief creators, and the last time neither was involved in a goal was July 20, when Donovan was at the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Keane was injured.
The skillful Villarreal, 19, has five goals in 35 competitive matches the past two seasons, and target man McBean, 18, has four in 19 such games over three years. But they've started together just four times in 2013 – a March win over the Rapids, the Real Madrid friendly, and in two Reserve League games, including last weekend's 0-0 draw with San Jose – and will need help in creating a cohesive attack.
“Jose and Jack have to read each other,” Sarachan said. “It's been an ongoing thing here and there at training, but it's not the kind of partnership where they know each other like Robbie and Landon [do], as far as having the instincts of knowing when the next play's coming and when guys can run off each other. But it's improving.”
Villarreal and McBean understand the dynamic they bring.
“It's just like it was with Kobe and Shaq – little man and big guy,” Villarreal said, referencing the Los Angeles Lakers' star duo of the early 2000s. “It's just a good matchup, me and him together.”
Their presence also changes things in midfield. Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas play deeper when Keane and Donovan are on the field – Keane likes to track back into midfield and play-make from deep – and they'll have greater attacking responsibilities this week.
“It might be a good change, to be able to throw balls up to Jack, knowing he's got a chance to really hold balls, and now it brings those guys into the game,” Sarachan said. “Whereas with Robbie and Landon, sometimes it doesn't allow Juni or Sarvas to really advance forward.
"[McBean playing a target role] opens up more space for them to come in and be a little more dangerous.”
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