The Seattle Sounders actually have a match against an opponent they haven’t played yet this season! The Sounders will travel to Carson, CA on Sunday to take on the LA Galaxy. We chatted with our friend Alicia over at LAG Confidential ahead of the match.
Sounder at Heart: Things were going well for the Galaxy after they got out of the Orlando bubble. LA went on a 5 game unbeaten run, including two wins over LAFC. Since then they’ve posted two straight losses. Just a blip in form or are there underlying issues?
LAG Confidential: It’s hard to gauge trends during such a choppy season and I think practically every Western Conference team is going through peaks and valleys game to game, however I fear the Galaxy are starting to get tired collectively. Guillermo Barros Schelotto tends to play the same 9-10 players every game, and over the last three games — where they’ve lost two and drawn the other — they look tired overall. This is concerning because there are still somewhere around 10 games to go.
I think the defense has actually been fine, even during this three-game slump, and the real concern is in attack. During the five-game hot run before that, both Sebastian Lletget and Cristian Pavon were outstanding, and now the minutes seem to be catching up to them. If they can get a breather, and if Chicharito and perhaps new signing Yony Gonzalez can jump in and start contributing as well, then I think LA can weather this stretch. If not, that five-game run may have been a mirage, ultimately. We’ll see.
SAH: Back in August when these two teams were supposed to play, I asked you about whether or not the Galaxy have figured out how to integrate their stellar academy into the first team. It seems like there’s been some solid production from HGPs. Who is standing out to you? Is it too early to print “Julian Araujo Ballon d’Or 2027 Winner” t-shirts?
LAGC: Araujo and Ethan Zubak have gotten tons of run in this local return to play phase, although Araujo — who’s been the best player overall aside from Pavon and Lletget — got a red card two games back and may or may not be in the doghouse. I think the fanbase would like to see Araujo back in the XI against Seattle, but Schelotto generally prefers experience and I guess the linebacker-like physique of Rolf Feltscher at right back, so I think his lineup decision Sunday could be telling for Araujo’s status in the coming weeks.
The other youngster getting some time lately is Efrain Alvarez, who is being hyped as the best prospect in a long time and has shown glimpses in fits and starts. Let’s say Alvarez doesn’t look like a soccer player — neither did Cuauhtemoc Blanco and he was pretty successful — and he had some baby fat that he shed during the shutdown, which was a big sign of progress for the player. I think his service is excellent, and he already knows how to set up teammates from out wide at MLS level, but he’s still working on his composure in the middle and his shooting touch. He’s also still building his 90-minute endurance. I think this stretch has shown that Alvarez has the ability to really blossom, but that he’s not the magical No. 10 who’s going to unlock the attack right now.
SAH: You know I’m going to ask about Chicharito. What’s the deal there?
LAGC: To me, it’s pretty simple: He’s started four games total and needs to find fitness and rhythm with his teammates. I definitely think he’s suffered from the comparison to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a player who could flick a leg seven feet in the air and tap a wayward cross in like nobody else in the game. Chicharito is a rhythm player, and between the stop-start nature of the season and a calf injury that kept him out a couple months, he hasn’t gotten in one yet.
The fan base is definitely torn on him. Chicharito is a popular player among some groups, obviously, and like me they think he needs time. There’s a very vocal contingent who labeled him a bust months ago, though. I gotta say, that seems truly crazy to me, and I am frankly puzzled why so many are so against him — maybe some because he plays for Mexico, maybe because he’s played for Chivas, Manchester United and Real Madrid, all of which have as many boo-birds as fans. One goal in 419 minutes so far isn’t great, but I think at minimum he needs a five or 10-game run as a starter, and then we can revisit the assessment of Chicharito so far.
Bonus SAH: Are you sick of answering my questions yet?
LAGC: Not in the least!