Photo courtesy of LA Galaxy
By ADAM SERRANO
TORONTO — Andrew Boyens and Tommy Meyer have been locked in a battle throughout the Los Angeles Galaxy's preseason to answer the big question: Which centerback will replace Omar Gonzalez in the lineup to start the season?
The question will be answered for certain on Wednesday when the Galaxy face off against Toronto FC (8 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel/Telefutura) in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal. Both have brought their own assets to the equation. Meyer is a strong, tall defender, who was highly rated coming out of Indiana University, while Boyens is a five-year MLS veteran and an experienced international for New Zealand.
After months of battling for the spot alongside A.J. DeLaGarza, Meyer confirmed on Tuesday that it will likely be Boyens that gets the nod alongside DeLaGarza.
"No, it'll probably be Boy — I'm not really sure who it is, but I don't think I'll be starting tomorrow," Meyer said after the Galaxy's practice at Rogers Centre Tuesday. "It's a big game and the first away game, and I don't have that much experience, so it's definitely something that [coach Bruce Arena] probably thinks about. I'll be ready whenever he needs me."
It is Boyens' experience that figures to give him the edge him ahead of Meyer. Boyens is a veteran of a World Cup and has faced crowds of 93,000 with New Zealand, while Meyer never dealt with more than 15,000 during his youth career. A crowd of more than 40,000 is expected at Rogers Centre, more than twice the usual crowd for TFC home games at BMO Field.
Assuming he starts, Boyens will be tasked with a difficult challenge on Wednesday, having to face off against a multi-pronged Toronto offense led by Danny Koevermans, Joao Plata and Ryan Johnson. But in order to stop the TFC attack, the New Zealand international must first establish a relationship with DeLaGarza, with whom he's only played with a handful of times this preseason.
"A.J. is great. We talk a lot and I think communication is going to be key tomorrow," said Boyens. "I'm very ready. I've had a few years in this league, and I like to think that they prepare me very well for what is a very good team."
GALAXY, TFC TO BATTLE NEW TURF ON WEDNESDAY
As has been common place throughout the Galaxy's CONCACAF Champions League journey, the club will do battle with another hostile crowd, but one uniquely different than previous trips.
Chosen as a venue to protect teams and spectators from the Toronto winter as well as to maximize attendance, the match will take place under the dome at Rogers Centre.
Aside from the large crowd, both the Galaxy and TFC will be tasked with playing on the hard field turf surface of the cavernous stadium. In preparation for Wednesday's match, both teams will have trained twice on the field.
"It's the same for everyone. It's decent for these surfaces," Arena said. "It's certainly better than the fields that we've seen in Seattle or even New England, so there is no excuses about the field. The whole crowd will be challenging and the environment in the dome with the noise, who knows what it'll be like?"
That noise will certainly be a factor as the Galaxy must not only face TFC on the field, but also the throngs of red-clad supporters, who hope to will their side to an upset. However, for one high-profile member of the Galaxy, the noise only serves as motivation.
"It'll be great. These are stadiums that you want to play in. You want to play against 40-, 50,000 fans, whether there going to be for you or against you, it doesn't matter," David Beckham said. "Sometimes it's better when they're against you, because it's enjoyable when you have a little bit of success, and hopefully we'll have that tomorrow. These are the occasions that as players, we need to enjoy, and you'll only enjoy it if you're successful. "
THREE NEW LA SIGNINGS TRAVEL; THREE OUT DUE TO INJURY
After a vigrious preseason, the Galaxy have finally set their roster for the upcoming season. Midfielder Rafael Garcia (CSU Northridge), midfielder Kenny Walker (Louisville) and defender Byran Gaul (Bradley) were given contracts with the MLS Cup Champions, and their signings are expected to be made official either Tuesday or Wednesday.
"I'm at a loss for words. I'm really excited to be on the team, and to make it official is just a great feeling," said Garcia after the Galaxy's training session in Toronto. "I tried my hardest [during preseason]. I worked very hard. I like to think my hard work paid off. I looked at the rest of the midfielders, saw what they were doing, and I learned a lot. I think that was to my benefit, and thank God it all worked out for me."
Meanwhile, outside back Bryan Jordan (hamstring), midfielder Kyle Nakazawa (tonsilitis) and forward Adam Cristman (concussion) did not travel with the club due to their injuries and ailments.