In MLS there are few games that FS1 and ESPN fight over. Few teams move the needle, but there are a few of them. Matches between Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy are on that short list. ESPN is carrying Sunday’s 1 PM match. Sadly for ESPN the two teams are not as strong as they were expected to be when the schedule was being crafted. Now, the points still matter, and new stars can be crowned. Slightly weakened teams can lead to a higher pace game, or a slog. In this case with injuries diminishing both team’s defenses it should be the pacey match.
Let’s check in with LAG Confidential’s Mike for this week’s Three Questions. There is no reverse this week.
SaH: Can Curt Onalfo guide LA through this rebuilding process? How does his leadership change the team's structure/identity?
LAGC: Chris Klein and company think so, it's why they promoted him. However that quiet confidence has not translated to the fanbase, who have voiced their displeasure on social media.
It's important to recognize Onalfo has had little to work with so far. The spine of the team has departed: Bruce and the coaching staff, the internationals like Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard, the veterans and character guys in AJ DeLaGarza, Alan Gordon, Mike Magee are all gone. The loss of a budding Sebastian Lletget was huge. Romain Alessandrini has hit his stride, but Joáo Pedro has struggled to acclimate and Jermaine Jones is frustrated. The first few lineups LA fielded this season resembled Los Dos squads.
All of which has left the Galaxy with a fresh new roster, but one lacking cohesive leadership or an offensive identity. We advised our readers the first six weeks of the season would play out like a continuation of the pre-season, and its certainly felt that way. LA have utilized fast, direct soccer with an emphasis on wing play, but the Galaxy have lacked a real attacking impetus.
What I slightly worry about is Onalfo's ability to steer the ship. Bruce was the steady hand who quietly demanded respect. (Arena also benefitted from a symmetrical locker room that knew how to regulate itself)
As a young manager without the same resume, Onalfo isn't in a position to command that kind of respect. I don't see Onalfo disciplining, say, Jermaine Jones in training, do you? On the contrary, it was Jones who was spotted on national TV screaming to the sidelines at Curt vs. Orlando City last week. That's a problem.
(It's also a fixable one: Even the great Thierry Henry grew to respect Mike Petke after the former New York Red Bull head coach benched the French legend, to name one example)
Patience in Onalfo is fine, but it must be coupled with progress. LA's upcoming three-game home stand will tell us a lot more about this team.
SaH: Why is Gio struggling so far this year?
LAGC: Going back to his Barcelona days, the knock on dos Santos has been as such: The Mexican talent is enough of a specialist that you have to build the team around him, but he's not dominant enough to consistently carry an attack.
Dos Santos can thrive in MLS, we saw it last year when Gio very quietly put up 14 goals and 12 assists. But dos Santos isn't an individual superstar: Gio needs the help of his teammates to maximize his potential on the field.
With LA yet to put in a productive offensive shift this year, it's no wonder Gio is struggling.
SaH: If Jon Kempin starts, how confident in victory are you?
LAGC: Look for Brian Rowe to start in goal this Sunday.
Projected lineup: Brian Rowe, Nathan Smith, Daniel Steres, Jelle Van Damme (C), Ashley Cole, Romain Alessandrini, Jermaine Jones, Joáo Pedro, Emmanuel Boateng, Giovani dos Santos, Gyasi Zardes