In the early MLS years for Seattle, the LA Galaxy were the dominant team. Under Bruce Arena and with Donovan, Beckham, Keane, and Gonzalez, they were the envy of all. Galaxy captured trophies and global attention.
Those days are gone. Seattle Sounders are now the signature side in MLS, while LA doesn’t even have the attention of Los Angeles. Galaxy’s last trophy was in 2014, and over the past four years they’ve been more likely to put up a large negative goal differential than make the playoffs.
Javier Hernandez was supposed to change that. Chicharito earned them some cred with broadcasters and Mexican National Team fans in 2020, but only credit. In matches where he played his form was off.
FS1 and Fox Deportes (6 PM PT) will be thrilled that’s no longer true. The Little Pea must have taken some super serum, as he’s scoring like he did with CD Guadalajara a decade ago.
What’s going on with Chicharito and the Galaxy’s hot start? Alicia from LAG Confidential answers Three Questions.
SaH: The resurrection of Chicharito is obvious, but who gets credit for his return? Greg Vanney, Víctor Vázquez, a year with less wear-and-tear?
LAGC: The short answer is “yes.” It’s a combination of factors, honestly. First, Chicharito got his head right and got in killer shape in the offseason — I don’t think he was out of shape, per se, last year but he was absolutely out of form, and feeling good has obviously done wonders to get him back on track. But he’s not only said the right things, he’s clearly done them and so far he’s on fire this season, so the proof is in front of our eyes.
But it’s not just on the player, something I tried to make clear last season, too. Guillermo Barros Schelotto did nothing to really help unlock Chicharito and it was pretty obvious there was some friction between the two men, even if Chicharito has been pretty diplomatic about Schelotto’s tenure. But Greg Vanney has already made a huge difference. When the Galaxy looked awful in attack in the first hour of their opening game, he made crucial in-game adjustments and they immediately helped Chicharito get going, and he scored a brace to help LA win in Miami. On top of that, LA played without any string-pulling playmaker last season and it showed, whereas the arrival of Vazquez has already paid dividends. Vazquez looks good so far this season, and if he can stay healthy, he’s good for at least a few key passes a game and hopefully some assists to get the Galaxy on the board.
SaH: With the defense struggling a bit, will Vanney be satisfied running and gunning?
LAGC: No, Vanney is not someone who will take 3-2 wins every week. He definitely has styles of play but he’s a very flexible and adaptive coach, which helps when one part of your game is working and the other’s not. The good news is if LA can keep staying clinical in front of goal, they can weather some defensive wobbles. But ultimately, he was a former defender and it’s probably killing him a fair amount to see sloppy giveaways and unnecessary goals conceded. They’ve signed Derrick Williams, who last played in England, and just announced the signing of Séga Coulibaly out of France who should contend for starting spots in central defense. The defense has long been an issue for the Galaxy and Vanney has to have that near the top of his priority list this season.
SaH: Efraín Álvarez was once the Next Big Thing for two nations and now he’s barely an afterthought with his club. What’s going on?
LAGC: That’s a good question. Alvarez has prodigious talent and was previously carrying a lot of baby fat — maybe not an issue in the USL Championship but he wasn’t close to being a 90-minute MLS player. Last year during the pandemic he worked on his fitness and got some real run with the first team. The downside is the team were terrible, and he was playing as kind of a forward, which does not appear to be his position.
I thought he would push on for this year but it’s started in almost identical circumstances. Vanney continues to talk about Alvarez’s need to improve his physical fitness and he came off the bench for a brief cameo last weekend. He clearly needs to earn the trust of the coaching staff, and while Vanney insists he will be using his full squad or close to it, Alvarez appears to need to prove to Vanney that he can make an impact in any playing time he sees, otherwise it may be a long season for him. Stay tuned.
Projected LAG lineup
GK: Bond; Araujo, Williams, DePuy, Villafaña; Vazquez, Saldaña, dos Santos, Grandsir; Chicharito, Zubak
Check out the reverse for my projected lineup and this year’s most popular question, “Why the 3-5-2?”