Sounder at Heart: The Galaxy managed to get their first win of the season against cross-town rivals LAFC this weekend. What was the secret to LAG’s win?
LAG Confidential: I don’t think there was one factor that went into the win. The Galaxy looked prepared, and several players said in the aftermath they took their time preparing for the game, and it showed. Is that replicable? We’ll see!
Beyond that, LA’s energy was fantastic, they out-hustled LAFC, their defense stayed compact throughout and they stopped sending in a thousand looping crosses to no one in the box. Granted, their first goal did come off a high cross, but that was off a set piece routine in which LAFC had one player marking five Galaxy players, so the odds were good on that one.
It sounds like a total cliche, but beyond the good execution, the Galaxy just showed up for that game like they wanted it more. After an MLS is Back Tournament in which many thought the team quit on the field, that’s a good sign moving forward.
SAH: The Galaxy are obviously known for their big name DPs, but it seems like they’re getting a lot of value out of some young players. Ethan Zubak scored on Saturday and Julian Araujo made MLS Team of the Week. Are the Galaxy finally taking advantage of their stellar academy or is it still too soon to tell?
LAGC: It’s definitely too early to say for certain — once upon a time Jose Villarreal was supposed to be a star and Gyasi Zardes really only found his way once he left the Galaxy. Having said that, I think it’s promising that Guillermo Barros Schelotto is giving some real minutes to academy products and Galaxy II veterans. Cameron Dunbar had a good MLS debut in Orlando, Zubak has played more than most expected and has shown an improvement in his game with Chicharito out injured, and everyone is excited about Efrain Alvarez’s potential. But I think Araujo currently has the most immediate upside. He appears to have gone through a growth spurt this year, he’s a smart player and Schelotto regularly plays him as a defensive right winger (he’s usually a right back) against LAFC, to good effect. Araujo set up both goals Saturday, and for a team where good service appears to be paramount for the attack to work, it really seems like he should get more playing time. We’ll see if he stays in the lineup against the Sounders.
SAH: The 2-0 victory over LAFC was LA Galaxy’s first clean sheet since August of last year. Even accounting for the lockdown and such, the Galaxy have shipped a lot of goals this season. What’s going on with the backline in LA?
LAGC: I think a few factors are in play. First, there’s probably not really enough talent on the defense. Schelotto insisted on playing Giancarlo Gonzalez until a huge El Trafico loss in Orlando, and Gonzalez has been a weakness ever since he signed with LA last year, honestly. Daniel Steres is a player that coaches keep wanting to replace, but they never find a better option and credit to him for continuing to keep his head down even as a new defender is brought in every window. Nick DePuy is a converted forward who was signed as a depth piece but has actually been really good this season, but is he a permanent solution? The starting fullbacks Rolf Feltscher and Emiliano Insua are both huge for their position but have major holes in their game. And David Bingham is inconsistent — I wouldn’t call myself a fan but I give him the benefit of the doubt more than most, and even I’ve seen plays where I wonder what the goalkeeper is doing.
Needless to say, the Galaxy team defense remains a work in progress. I think the flipside of the Galaxy having their best performance of the season against LAFC is that LAFC had their worst. So was the defense *that* good or were they pretty lucky? We’ll find out soon enough.