Two of the best players in MLS won't be on the field when the Los Angeles Galaxy visit the Houston Dynamo, but both clubs are viewing their respective absences as a positive.
Landon Donovan and Houston's Brad Davis will be battling for spots on the U.S. World Cup roster as the Galaxy look to end a three-game road winless streak Saturday night.
L.A. coach Bruce Arena stated that Donovan was the best player on the field as it settled for a 1-all draw with Portland on Sunday. Donovan, though, believes the Galaxy (2-2-3) have enough depth to adapt as Omar Gonzalez joins him at U.S. camp.
"There are a lot of guys that have competed well and want minutes and this is their chance. We need to keep playing well and we need to get some results," Donovan told the team's official website. "Fortunately, we have a lot of guys with experience who have been waiting for their turn and it's time to prove that they belong on the field."
Robbie Keane, who scored his team-best fifth goal, agrees.
"We have players that have to step up to the plate and take the opportunities that will come their way," Keane said. "We're certainly going to miss those two, but it's important that everyone pulls together. Everyone has to be ready. It's important that they all take advantage of the situation and make the most of it."
Houston (4-5-2) has similar feelings about the absence of Davis, who has registered a goal or an assist in each of the last six matches. Boniek Garcia eventually will join World Cup camp for Honduras, but he'll be available for this contest.
"When a guy leaves, someone else steps in. Just because Brad's gone doesn't mean we're going to abandon our dangerousness on set-pieces," coach Dominic Kinnear told the team's official website. "Obviously Brad won't be there, but we have other guys who can put the ball in those good spots as well."
Mark Sherrod scored both goals in Sunday's 5-2 loss to Real Salt Lake, and he'll be looked upon to build off that performance.
"Dom tells us at the beginning of the year, 'Injuries, suspensions, national team call-ups - those things happen, so as a group you have to be ready when your name is called,'" defender Corey Ashe said. "You look at Mark Sherrod, he came in, first start, two goals. That was huge for us."
The loss to RSL snapped a two-game winning streak for the Dynamo, who beat the Galaxy 1-0 on Andrew Driver's goal May 5 for their third straight regular-season win over Los Angeles.
Houston's two defeats in the last five overall meetings came in the MLS Cup in 2011 and 2012. It will look to extend the Galaxy's road winless streak after Los Angeles allowed a goal in stoppage time Sunday roughly three minutes after Keane put it ahead.
A questionable non-call on a potential scoring chance by Juninho shortly before Portland earned the draw upset Arena, though he still believed his club played some of its best football of the season.
"I'd say so," Arena said. "It's going to help us to be able to play some games consecutively now and get a little bit of a rhythm."