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Sounders at LA Galaxy: Three Questions

Saturday’s match between two of the giants of the league will be a tough road test for a surging Seattle side.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Houston Dynamo FC
Will Chicharito be in a penny or street clothes on Saturday?
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

For so long the LA Galaxy held supremacy of the Seattle Sounders. They had more, of everything. But in the Brian Schmetzer era things shifted with the Sounders going 8-1-7 against the Galaxy during his tenure. Seattle now owns the all-time series 15-14-13, +3.

One-time Sounders broadcaster Greg Vanney is the current coach of the Galaxy. His goal is to bring them back to greatness — and that means beating Seattle and the other LA side regularly.

Saturday’s match (kick at 4:55 pm PT) is on FOX (Strong, Holden), Apple TV for Free (Zivin, Twellman), FOX Deportes, iHeart Radio and El Rey 1360AM.

For LAG Confidential, Alicia answers Three Questions.

SaH: LA Galaxy seem a bit slow out of the starting block struggling a bit to establish an identity. What’s Greg Vanney’s intent for playing style in 2023?

LAGC: Yes, the Galaxy have had a sluggish start to the season. Whether that’s down to the absence of Chicharito primarily, or a more general malaise, remains to be seen. The last two years the Galaxy started well, and Chicharito really propelled those hot runs. Without him appearing so far this season, it’s unclear if he genuinely is that vital to this team or the apparent issues run deeper.

I still think Vanney is trying to figure out his best system, which is a tad concerning in itself. Vanney wants his team to establish patterns of play, which have not really been apparent so far this season. He wants his team to play with tempo, so while they’ve held onto the ball like he likes, they are not playing quickly enough often enough. And thus a perennial problem with the Galaxy emerges. They have been playing so slow that they allow opposition defenses to set in time, and that’s reduced the number of scoring chances. Bear in mind as well that the Galaxy have mostly played on the road to start the season, and they may just need a healthy Chicharito and a couple more home fixtures to find some real rhythm.

SaH: Is Chicharito going to play? Because when he does LA has a great offense, also he was on my fantasy team but didn’t make the roster. If he’s not what will the attack do?

LAGC: We’re still waiting on the injury update on Chicharito, but he did return to training last week, so he might play this weekend. I think at best, he’ll come off the bench and Dejan Joveljić should then start. Preston Judd filled in for both last week, and he looked pretty decent, although I do think the Timbers defense and Sounders defense are on different levels.

But yeah, while Chicharito getting 15-20 minutes in this game may or may not affect the outcome, it’s pretty clear the team needs a spark. I think even though Chicharito remains a star he sort of flew under the radar to an extent last year? If not that, I do think he was somewhat taken for granted. So it will be nice to see him on the field again and see what he can do this season.

SaH: After the Jordan Morris x Léo Chú show last week, what do you think Galaxy will do to prevent multiple footraces?

LAGC: I’m intrigued by this one, because after a rough opening day for the defense, Vanney turned to 19-year-old homegrown Jalen Neal to partner with the experienced Martin Caceres in the center of defense. Their play hasn’t been flawless, but they seem to be building some chemistry together. Throw in the arrival of new right back Lucas Calegari, who made his debut last week, and the possible debut of new left back Julian Aude, and there’s a lot of new parts this season on the backline. I think it’s more likely that Raheem Edwards will keep his spot at left back for this game, but I will be intrigued to see if Vanney sticks with the inexperienced but high-upside Neal, or if he loses his nerve a bit and returns to another veteran, Chris Mavinga, in the back. Obviously whatever works is the best solution, but I think there’s a lot of value in the youth+experience punch of Edwards/Caceres/Neal/Calegari — with the obvious risk that Neal and Calegari have four total MLS starts between them.

As far as the tactics, Vanney’s made his reputation on being pragmatic but I also think with the Galaxy he’s tried to keep it front-foot soccer. I expect he’ll want the Galaxy to hold the ball, don’t cough it up in bad spots and defend as a team. Will it work? We’ll see.

Follow Alicia and Treb for all things SoCal soccer related.

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