From 2017 to the present the Los Angeles Galaxy faded from the powerhouse club that dominated MLS awards. No longer the club that earned a major trophy every other year, the recent versions of the Galaxy are more likely to compete for the wooden spoon than a Shield or Cup — they took the spoon in that 2017 season.
Bringing in Greg Vanney and reviving Javier Hernández have LA second in the Supporters’ Shield standings (by PPG) to Seattle Sounders. Saturday’s road game (6 PM PT, JOETv/Prime) will be the latest test for Brian Schmetzer. Though 538 thinks the Sounders are favored, their formula is slow to react to season shifts and ignores that the matchday 20 will be short eight players due to injury, loan, or international callup. The bench will be tight, the XI weakened. But, if Sounders can shut down Chicarito there’s a strong chance at victory.
For LAG Confidential, Alicia answers Three Questions.
SaH: MLS took the ‘international break’ off, but many players did not. Which Galaxy players will be tired or broken after suiting up for their countries?
LAGC: The only starter who played on the international break was Sebastian Lletget, but while the days are running together at this point, I think it will be close to two weeks since the last U.S. game so I’m not worried about fatigue for him at this point. Jonathan dos Santos went out on international duty, but he hurt his calf in his final Galaxy appearance and didn’t feature for Mexico, and he’s still working to come back and was listed as questionable by Greg Vanney on Wednesday.
All the rest of the players who went on international duty are reserves or spot starters at absolute most, so they’re not going to be dragging on the field. If anything, I think the lineup will feel their freshest now, before the MLS fixture congestion kicks off in earnest in the coming days.
SaH: Chicharito is obviously dominant. Who can be his support in the attack?
LAGC: Good question. Goalswise, only three other players — Lletget, dos Santos and Sacha Kljestan — have scored at all (although Samuel Grandsir forced an own goal in the last game), and on the assist front nobody has posted more than one so far. So it looks very much like feast or famine with Chicharito, and to an extent, that’s been the case.
However, I think Ethan Zubak started the season very well as a support striker, Victor Vazquez had a great start to the season before being slowed by injury and will likely play a major role as a playmaker if healthy, and Grandsir and new DP Kevin Cabral seem to be getting their sea legs and should hopefully figure in the goals soon. Throw in Lletget, Efrain Alvarez and bench spark Cameron Dunbar, and I think there’s legit potential scattered around the roster. The Galaxy are just counting on some of them to start firing soon.
SaH: Greg Vanney has his side with a 100% record at home. Is that mostly good fortune or does his approach change significantly?
LAGC: I think it’s a bit of both factors. Vanney made major tactical tweaks in the first game against Seattle, to the team’s detriment in that case, and the loss at Portland was primarily down to playing down a man for an entire half. So there are explanations for those road losses.
Normally I wouldn’t play up the crowd at Galaxy games, but the limited capacity in attendance has brought it at Dignity Health Sports Park this season. For the Galaxy holdovers who struggled through Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s dour style and playing in empty stadiums last year, I think they’ve been genuinely boosted by the crowd’s enthusiasm, and the fans are making the most of the opportunity to cheer on their team again. Saturday’s game will be the first where they can host a full crowd, and I think it will be full or close to it. It’s been some time since we’ve seen legit homefield advantage at Dignity Health Sports Park, but the combination of the team’s play and the supporters really providing a big atmosphere could bring it back.
GK: Bond; Araujo, Coulibaly, Steres, Villafaña; Kljestan, Saldaña; Cabral, Lletget, Grandsir; Chicharito
Check out the reverse where the questions about Seattle’s help and depth broke my brain.