The LA Galaxy (1-3-0) are facing an early identity crisis. And a difficult, but winnable, game (Friday, April 7, 2017, at 7:30 PM on SpectrumSN and Spectrum Deportes) against the Montreal Impact (0-1-3) is all that is keeping this crisis from going into full-on meltdown mode. And it could be an early test of what this Galaxy team is made of in 2017.
Coming off an emotional loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps in a game they were winning at halftime, only makes the sense of urgency for this team even greater. Gone are the early season rumblings of being patient. Replaced by a mentality that winning is the only thing that will restore confidence to a team that has played without several starters for the early part of the season, but is now working those injured players back into the starting lineup.
Newly acquired players such as Romain Alessandrini and Jermaine Jones are trying to find chemistry in a team that just got back Ashley Cole, Giovani dos Santos, and Gyasi Zardes – all due to injury. And like Alessandrini, João Pedro is also getting used to a new country, city, and league. Pedro’s adaptation is still ongoing.
But younger players who have been promoted to the senior team also need to show their worth. Jack McBean, who has been stymied by a lack of service and players to combine with, will need to go above and beyond if he’s to start or come off the bench in place of Zardes. Real production from Dos Santos, and whomever he pairs with is crucial to the development of this team.
Nathan Smith, also an LA Galaxy II promotion, needs to continue his development at right back if he’s to secure that spot for the foreseeable future. He needs to be solid defensively and a factor in the offense going forward without overcommitting. It’s a balance he needs to figure out.
All of these promotions and acquisitions has turned this team into one giant science experiment and it hasn’t, so far, produced any meaningful results. Although, Alessandrini did score twice in the last game and the Galaxy did play some of their best soccer in the first 50 minutes of that game, losing by two goals after leading with 30-minutes left in the game isn’t conducive to confidence building.
But perhaps, meeting an Impact team that is playing its third consecutive road game isn’t the worst turn of events, right now?
Montreal could continue to be without Ignacio Piatti one of the league’s most dangerous creative forces, and Laurent Ciman. Both players have missed the previous game, a 2-2 draw at Chicago, with injuries. Their status for this game remains questionable.
Like most teams that come into StubHub Center, the Impact will look to exploit a glaring weakness in the Galaxy’s defense – their slow reaction to dangerous counterattacks.
Getting caught forward on set piece opportunities the Galaxy were dismantled by the Whitecaps on multiple occasions because a lack of recognition kept them from retreating in a timely manner. Onalfo needs to solve this problem in this game, or he risks putting his future in jeopardy.
Additionally, superstar Giovani dos Santos should also be on notice. And while he’s coming back from injury, his influence on the team in these early games has been negligible at best. He’s the highest paid player on the roster, and someone the Galaxy have repeatedly said the team would be built around. It’s time he makes good on all those front office promises and finds a way to be the dynamic playmaker he’s capable of.
With the injury to Sebastian Lletget, Jones, Dos Santos, and Alessandrini are the creative forces behind this team. The Galaxy should use their speed and quickness to exploit the outside space left open by the 4-3-3 lineup the impact is likely to field.
For this reason, Alessandrini and Emmanuel Boateng will be the highlights of the attack and will look to stay wide when able and suck defenders out of the middle for Zardes, Dos Santos, Jones and others to exploit. Big games are needed by the entire attacking core.
On the other side of the ball, expected starters Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damme, Daniel Steres, and Nathan Smith need to be smart before committing themselves forward on the attack. It should be a “defense first” mentality that takes into account the counterattack that is likely to come following set pieces or long advances into the attacking zone.
Any Major League Soccer season is long. And early results, realistically, mean very little in a race for a sixth MLS cup. But for a team that is breaking in new players, a new coach, a new GM, and a new philosophy, a win and points are more vital than any other professional sports commodity.
And for one game only, two 10th place teams could decide the upward or downward career paths of a whole multitude of Galaxy personnel. It really is that important.