It was a night for the youngsters to shine: goals from Samuel and Gyasi Zardes brought the LA Galaxy back from behind to triumph over Shirak FC.
The Armenian champions gave LA a run for it throughout the first half, catching the Galaxy’s defensive line out of position more than once. But LA’s control and patience wore Shirak down — by the time Bruce Arena replaced nearly the entire team at half, the Galaxy were well in control of the game.
Zardes got a chance to show at striker, and he showed well. His finish from just outside the 18 looked calm, collected, and sexy. He readily filled the role of playmaker that the second half line-up desperately needed, and his efforts did not go unnoticed. In the post game press conference, Bruce Arena made clear that Gyasi would be getting time both in the midfield and up top.
“It feels wonderful. You work hard at training, and just to put one in the back of the net during the game felt great.” —Gyasi Zardes
Samuel made sure to leave a good impression on the home crowd, picking off a loose ball during a set piece in the first half and sending the Galaxy into the locker rooms tied up. Although he didn’t back off any tackles, Arena did comment that Samuel needs to work on his fitness — he’s coming into a league that’s a notch more physical than what he’s used to.
“It was a good play. It was a play that we worked on where I found myself right in front of the net and I was able to score.” —Samuel
Leonardo was another surprising standout, taking charge of a defensive line that was too often out of position and weak on the wings. He made several game-saving tackles and looks a lock for the starting lineup come March 8th.
The verdict is still out on newly-imported winger Stefan Ishizaki. He made several good runs, crossed the ball well and even got two shots off. But he was out of position as often as not, contributing to the sloppy first half. Post-game, Ishizaki noted his first touch wasn’t doing him any favors tonight. He’s right, but he wasn’t the only one — poor passes compounded by bad touches were the end of far too many possessions for LA.
And we can’t sign off without mentioning Raul Mendiola, who looked very comfortable in midfield and had flashes of brilliance inside Shirak’s 18. With a delicate step-over he sent two defenders going crossways and played a dangerous ball forward. The attack was thwarted, but it was a moment to remember. Keep an eye on this guy.
Overall: the Galaxy were patient in their possession and persistent in their attack. It wasn’t the most beautiful way to win a game, but it got the job done. Defensive breakdowns were too frequent and could’ve easily lost the game. Expect that to be an area of focus for the coaching staff. But the second half saw LA showing off their depth, to great effect.
12,447 people made it out for the preseason match. That’s solid showings for a friendly. The Armenian supporters made themselves heard, repeatedly drowning out the stadium. Here’s hoping every LA fan was taking notes.