Something has to give
L.A. has trouble at home, Dynamo can’t win on the road, and Zardes just can’t score.
The Galaxy and Houston Dynamo will be trying to get out of respective slumps.
North Carolina was still celebrating its NCAA basketball title and Clayton Kershaw had pitched a season total of seven innings the last time the Galaxy won a game at home.
Easter was still nine days away.
The Houston Dynamo are in an even deeper slump. The last time they won on the road, presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton was still preparing for her first debate with Donald Trump.
One of those streaks figures to end Saturday when the Galaxy host the Dynamo (8 p.m., UniMas) in their first game at the StubHub Center since May 6.
“It’s going to be great being home and playing in front of our home crowd,” forward Gyasi Zardes said. “But we’ve definitely changed as a team since we’ve been on the road.”
During their six-week absence, the Galaxy (5-5-3) reeled off three consecutive road wins, part of a six-game MLS unbeaten streak. But to continue that momentum at home, where the Galaxy is a league-worst 1-3-2, the team will probably need a big game from Zardes, who is in a long slump of his own.
Zardes last scored in August, three days before a broken bone in his foot ended his season prematurely. His start this season was delayed a month by arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, leaving him sidelined a total of seven months, the longest break of his professional career.
That coincides with a 10game scoreless streak, also the longest of his MLS career. And Galaxy coach Curt Onalfo says the two are related.
“For someone like him who’s basically coming back from injury, trying to find his form, didn’t have preseason, it makes it more difficult,” Onalfo said. “For me it’s just timing.”
The absence of Robbie Keane and the chemistry he had with Zardes could be another factor. When Zardes scored a career-high 16 goals in 2014, 13 of them came in games in which Keane played. Keane also played in two of the five games in which Zardes scored last summer.
Since Keane left, however, Zardes has made nine appearances and played 731 minutes, yet he’s only had nine shots — just four of them on goal. That works out to a shot on goal every 183 minutes, also a career worst.
Compare that with Romain Alessandrini and Gio dos Santos, the team’s leading scorers, who between them are averaging a shot on goal every 73 minutes.
“You’ve got to factor in how many touches I’m getting per game, how many shots I’m getting per game,” Zardes said. “If I get more shots, there’s more opportunities to score goals.”
He could get his wish Saturday. With Dos Santos gone on international duty with Mexico and team captain Jelle Van Damme suspended for yellow card accumulation, the Galaxy will need Zardes to shed his cloak of invisibility and become more active in the attack against Houston, which entered the weekend third in the Western Conference despite going 0-6-1 on the road.
“Anytime you lose a quality player, for whatever reason, other guys have to step up. Whether it’s him or another person,” Onalfo said. “Certainly, we want him to get on the scoresheet and help us produce goals.”
The Dynamo lineup will include a pair of familiar faces, with former Galaxy defenders A.J. DeLaGarza and Leonardo returning to Carson for the first time since the team let them go last winter.