Things didn't quite go as planned last week as a rare Tyler Deric error ended up costing the Houston Dynamo a point at home against expansion side Orlando City SC. This week they'll be facing off against the reigning MLS Cup winners the LA Galaxy.
In our match preview for the game, we outlined some of the key players and matchups along with the kinds of rotational routes that Dynamo head coach Owen Coyle could make use of in Los Angeles. We talked with Mike Gray of LAG Confidential to learn a bit about the competition.
Dynamo Theory: The LA Galaxy have won 3 of the last 4 MLS Cups which must set the bar pretty high as far as expectations go. With two quality Eastern Conference teams moving to the West in Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo, are the expectations the same as always (win the Cup)?
LAG Confidential: Indeed. It may sound arrogant, but every season the Galaxy prepare with the mindset of winning the MLS Cup. Obviously losing Landon is a big deal and Marcelo Sarvas will definitely be missed, but with the defense and front line completely intact, LA are still one of the top teams in the league.
You also have players like Gyasi Zardes and Robbie Rogers who continue to grow in their positions and are only going to get better.
DT: While I know a player like Landon Donovan can never be replaced, what kind of measures have the Galaxy taken to remain competitive without LD?
LAGC: LA traded Sarvas to the Colorado Rapids to move up the allocation rankings in what turned out to be a failed attempt to land Sacha Kljestan, as the New York Red Bulls swooped in at the last minute.
Fans were rightly upset to see Sarvas depart, but he was likely to leave anyways so the trade was a win-win for both clubs. In the meantime, things aren't so bad. The roster is still strong, Steven Gerrard arrives in the summer and the Galaxy are now 2nd in the allocation order, so they can afford to be patient and wait for the right signing.
DT: Who are a few of the lesser known players that Dynamo fans should know about?
LAGC: With Landon gone, no one was sure who would claim the left midfield spot. Jose Villarreal had something to prove after a disappointing 2014 season, but with a goal and an assist in his first two games, he might not stay unknown for long.
Mika Vayryren is another intriguing option. Signed after a successful pre-season trial, Vayryren shined during a 28 minute cameo vs. the Timbers last week, showing tidy distribution and intelligent link-up play. A former Leeds player with experience at PSV and Hereenveen, the 33 year old could possibly start in the central midfield along Juninho on Saturday.
Lineup prediction: G Jaime Penedo, D Robbie Rogers, D Omar Gonzalez, D Leonardo, D AJ DeLaGarza, M Jose Villarreal, M Juninho, M Mike Vayrynen, M Stefan Ishizaki, F Gyasi Zardes, F Robbie Keane (C)
For my answers to Mike's questions head over to LAG Confidential and as always be respectful.