Whitecaps FC-Galaxy Preview
The Los Angeles Galaxy's attempt to defend their MLS Cup title looks brighter with Landon Donovan and David Beckham healthy again.
Those prospects seem even better against the spiraling Vancouver Whitecaps.
Donovan and Beckham look to help the Galaxy continue their dominance of the Whitecaps in Thursday's Western Conference wild-card game in Southern California.
Los Angeles (16-12-6) was clearly the best team in the league last year, winning the Supporters' Shield before claiming its first MLS Cup title since 2005 after outscoring opponents 7-2 in four playoff games.
One of Donovan's three playoff goals came in the 1-0 win over Houston in the final, while Beckham had three assists in the postseason.
Now, they're healthy and looking to make another run in the West after playing in Sunday's 1-0 win over Seattle, concluding the regular season.
Donovan played the entire match in his return from a knee injury, while Beckham went 62 minutes after sitting out two overall games with a hurt ankle.
"I think the thought process behind (coach Bruce Arena) putting out a real lineup as opposed to resting a bunch of guys was we wanted to get some rhythm and some continuity heading into the playoffs," Donovan told the team's official website.
The Galaxy haven't had many of those issues against the Whitecaps (11-13-10), going 4-0-1 with a 14-2 scoring edge. They've outscored them 8-0 while winning all three home meetings, including a 2-0 victory behind goals from Beckham and Juninho on Sept. 1.
Beckham has two goals and three assists in four games against the Whitecaps, while Donovan has three of each.
Forward Robbie Keane has also taken part in Los Angeles' success versus the conference rival, collecting two goals and two assists in four games. He enters the playoffs with seven goals and three assists in the last 10 league games.
The Galaxy have won six of the last seven MLS matches at home, and the Whitecaps are 0-7-2 on the road since beating Colorado on July 4.
Still, Beckham isn't overlooking Vancouver.
"There's going to be many obstacles, especially it being a playoff game and a one-off game, it's going to be difficult," he said.
The Whitecaps are 1-6-3 in their last 10 games, getting shut out in seven of them including each of the last two. In Saturday's scoreless draw at Real Salt Lake, coach Martin Rennie benched designated players Kenny Miller and Barry Robson.
"We showed a starting lineup that worked well and then we had players that were able to come on and change the game," Rennie told the team's official website. "At the end I think we looked more dangerous, and I think Barry and Kenny played an important part in that.
"So, we've got a couple of decisions to make going into the game in LA."
Miller and Robson have combined for five goals and three assists on the season.
The winner of this game will host West champion San Jose on Sunday in the opener of the two-legged conference semifinals.