Carson, CA – The LA Galaxy youngsters once again did all the heavy lifting in a 60-minute performance that saw Jaime Villarreal score on an Emmanuel Boateng assist late in the first half. The preseason scrimmage with Western Conference foes, Real Salt Lake, looked good for the younger parts of the Galaxy. With several players – Jose Villarreal, Boateng, Jack McBean and others making a case for senior team minutes. And the goal they scored would end up being the deciding factor, even as LA’s first team took the field for the remaining 30-minutes of the match.
And while we once again hate to put anything meaningful into another game that doesn’t count, some real progress could be seen from the first team in the remaining third of the game.
But late in the second half, just when everything was going so well, Ashley Cole had to come out of the game. He threw his shinguard toward the sideline and angrily yelled as he picked up an apparent injury. Cole did relatively well last year, quietly playing in 26 games, and amassing more than 2,200 minutes for LA while generally being one of the best defenders on the team.
In his place, LA Galaxy II’s Josh Turnley played out the remaining minutes and helped the Galaxy’s defense wrap up the shutout.
At this time Cole’s injury is unknown. More information should be available toward the LA Galaxy’s final preseason game on Saturday night at StubHub Center
Romain Alessandrini finally got to see his first game minutes for the Galaxy. Alessandrini, who just joined the team and trained for the first time on Monday played all 30 minutes he was allowed. While he certainly showed some unfamiliarity with teammates fans should be excited that he plays on the same side of the field as Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damme, and Jermaine Jones. The left side of the Galaxy attack is stacked from front to back.
Alessandrini is quick with his feet and moves the ball quickly. He also seems to have the ability to find another gear when it comes to his straight line speed. Expect him to be an important part of the Galaxy’s attack. And he might just be ready to go 60-75 minutes in the season opener. Let’s see how many minutes he gets on Saturday and go from there.
João Pedro is another player to keep your eye on. Another recent addition, Pedro was dynamic with his positioning in the scrimmage. Honestly, it’s hard to know where to look for him because he has the ability to start with possession in the middle of the field and somehow end up wide right.
Normally, one might be worried about him getting pulled out of position, but when you watch him move to his right, which looks to be his move (he got an assist from that position in last Saturday’s win over Alashkert FC), he becomes an interchanging piece with Sebastian Lletget. Lletget played a bunch of time in the center for the Galaxy last year so it’s a fluid move that sees a switch and makes it difficult for defenders to mark.
Pedro also gets himself in good positions to stop counter attacks and he’ll line up beside or behind Jermaine Jones. The spine of Los Angeles looks good and Pedro seems to be a good addition to this club.
Jermaine Jones has played exceptionally well throughout the preseason. And while most would view bringing in a 35-year old midfielder as a gamble – and it is – Jones has been calm, confident, and creative with the Galaxy this preseason. He’s a player who outthinks opponents and when that doesn’t work, he’ll just take them down. You can leave him unmarked in the midfield and Jones will make the pass you don’t expect. That will probably be the biggest adjustment for his teammates — knowing when to expect the unexpected.
And while a lot will be made of Jones’ physical play, he will also be a catalyst for this teams offense. Most play will go through him and he’ll look to find the perfectly placed pass that springs Giovani dos Santos or Ari Lassiter.
Speaking of Ari Lassiter, he’s been having himself a good preseason. He’s been in a battle to replace the injured Gyasi Zardes* with Jack McBean. And both players have had their ups and downs in the preseason, but it currently looks like Lassiter may be in the lead to get that Opening Day start.
Ari is a straight line attacker. You get him pointed towards goal and he’ll do everything in his ability to take that ball at goal. He had several good moves inside the box during this game and was unlucky not to have one of his chances finished.
His chemistry isn’t there with Dos Santos, yet. But it doesn’t look like anyone is on the same page as Giovani this early in the year.
If Lassiter can get the ball off his foot just a split second sooner, he’s going to score goals in MLS. He puts himself in good positions and is a relentless worker – a characteristic the entire team has. Ari could have himself a huge year, and the Galaxy will need to rely on him for that reason.
* Note: Zardes was at this game but did no running or training of any kind. He’s recovering from knee surgery and the team expects him to start training soon. That leaves his participation in the season opener, in serious doubt. In fact, I’m not sure you want to even try to do that.
JACK MCBEAN & JOSE VILLARREAL
I think both Jack McBean and Jose Villarreal have had a good preseason. McBean pushed his one clear-cut chance on goal, and Villarreal was a little sloppy with possession, but both Homegrown Players should find themselves on the gameday roster.
With McBean, he provides that much-needed target striker. He likes to play with his back to goal and his physical ability to fight through challenges both surprises defenders and renders them useless. If McBean would only get 50% of the calls he should get when he’s fouled, the Galaxy would have a starter on their hands.
Realistically, McBean should be the super-sub Alan Gordon was. He gets his head on contested balls and his finishing touch, inside the box, will be an important part of the LA’s ability to score goals.
Villarreal has also been impressive this preseason. He has a calm on the ball that almost makes you believe he’s slow to release the ball. But he’s just thinking faster than many of his teammates and defenders. But he draws fouls and puts himself in dangerous positions. He has the smarts to be in Major League Soccer. Now it’s time to find out if he can survive the physical nature of the league, stay healthy, and score goals.
FORWARD & BACK
The Galaxy have now won two preseason games in a row. And with Alessandrini finally in camp, they can start to ready themselves for their March 4th showdown with FC Dallas.
But the big takeaway from a mostly positive game is that LA are still struggling with depth. Ashley Cole getting hurt – hopefully not seriously – shows how shallow the squad is at defense. And while there are names to back Cole up – Josh Turnley, Nathan Smith, and Dave Romney to mention a few – they haven’t been tested in MLS. And it will ultimately be a trial by fire.
I was speaking to an LA Galaxy Spokesperson while watching the scrimmage, and I said how exciting and quick the probable starting lineup is. I continued on with a statement about how the real test of this team wasn’t going to be about a healthy starting lineup, but how the team deals with injuries and international absences.
He said that the depth is there, but that the players are untested in MLS.
And that’s a 100% correct statement. The Galaxy do have depth. They will have plenty of people to fill out their 18-man gameday roster. And they’ll have plenty of bodies to put in place of guys who are on international duty or injured. But until any of those guys play actual minutes on the field in an MLS game that matters, we’re just not going to know whether the depth that LA have is any good.
For a team that is used to contending for championships and trophies, that’s a scary proposition. But it also makes the upcoming 2017 season that much more interesting.
As for the scrimmage with Real Salt Lake? Getting Alessandrini on the field was the best thing that could’ve happened. The injury to Ashley Cole is the worst thing that could’ve come from this game. And with Saturday’s final preseason scrimmage against Portland fast approaching, I think everyone will take any result that doesn’t involve injuries.
Staying healthy for the Galaxy is going to be the biggest key to success in 2017.