Some­thing has to give

L.A. has trou­ble at home, Dy­namo can’t win on the road, and Zardes just can’t score.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Kevin Bax­ter kevin.bax­ter@la­times.com Twit­ter: @kbax­ter11

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.

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