The LA Galaxy had little time to dwell on their loss to Toronto FC on Saturday night. On Monday morning they were already jetting across the country to take on Atlanta United FC for the first-ever meeting between the two clubs (Wednesday, September 20, 4 p.m. – ESPN or ESPN2).
The Galaxy (7-15-6; 27 points) are scraping the bottom of the Western Conference and the league. They’re averaging less than a point per game (0.96 PPG) in MLS play this season and are on track to surpass the most losses in franchise history (16 losses in 1997) and, possibly, even the fewest wins (8 wins in 2008).
The club has been shutout ten times on the season with six of those shutouts coming in the last ten games. In that same time span, the Galaxy have a record of 1-7-2 and have been outscored 20 to eight.
Atlanta (12-8-7; 43 points) is on another trajectory altogether. Since June 21, they’ve only lost twice (both to DC United). They have a record of 6-2-4 in those games and have outscored opponents 24 to 12.
United striker, Josef Martinez – recently voted MLS Player of the week – has scored seven goals in his last three games and has 16 goals on the season. Martinez’s seven goals are just one less than the Galaxy have scored since July 4 (8 goals), and his sixteen goals are more than the Galaxy’s Giovani dos Santos (6 goals) and Romain Alessandrini (9 goals) combined.
Plus they’ll be buoyed by midfielder Hector Villalba who has scored 11 goals on the season.
And in goal, they have current U.S. Soccer National Team goalkeeper, Brad Guzan.
United is currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and is the midst of a six-game homestand. They have, so far, defeated FC Dallas 3-0, New England Revolution 7-0, and drew with Orlando 3-3 with the Galaxy next on deck.
In their 3-3 draw with Orlando last weekend, they played in front of a crowd of more than 70,000 – setting a new high for attendance at a single game in the league in a recently opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Galaxy, however, will get something of a boost as Jermaine Jones, and Alessandrini will return from yellow card suspension.
But, in another blow to the Galaxy’s backline, Daniel Steres has now been ruled out for the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his back. Steres was injured in the Galaxy’s 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders on September 10.
Officially he suffered an L2-4 transverse process fracture which is listed with a recovery time of six to eight weeks. Steres’ season is done.
This now puts Robbie Rogers (Ankle Injury), Sebastian Lletget (Foot Fracture), Baggio Husidic (Fractured Tibia), Pele van Anholt (Torn ACL & MCL), and Bradley Diallo (Hamstring), in addition to Steres, on the sidelines for the Galaxy. And Rogers, Lletget, Van Anholt, and Steres are all done for the season with Husidic an unknown possibility.
This now puts Michael Ciani, who made his Galaxy debut on Saturday to very mixed reviews, as the goto starter from here on out. More pressure on a man who was already under considerable attack after allowing three of Toronto’s four goals.
And while Galaxy Head Coach Sigi Schmid went with a 3-5-2 formation last week, dealing with the absence of the aforementioned Jones, Alessandrini, and Steres above, he’s likely to walk that back to a more standard 4-4-1-1 with Jones playing a holding midfielder role he’s been so good at in recent games.
“I’m just going to play for my job, play as good as I can and hopefully we can get some results on the road,” Dave Romney told reporters about the upcoming game in Atlanta. “We had a four-game road trip earlier this season and that was one of our best stretches so hopefully we can do something like that again.”
But regardless of the formation, or how hard Romney plays, the Galaxy will need to find some production out of their offense and hope their pieced-together defense can keep Atlanta, who’s second in the league in goal scoring (Toronto is first), off the board.
A difficult task, to say the very least.
This is the first of a three-game road trip that will see the Galaxy travel to Sporting KC on Sunday, and then Houston on Wednesday, September 27, before once again making their way back to StubHub Center to host Real Salt Lake at the end of the month.
With the playoffs out of reach, the Galaxy must convert themselves into a team that plays to spoil the chances of those they’re facing. Not a team that is playing for any postseason prize.
And for a team that hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2008, that’s a hard pill to swallow.
But in the end, this 2017 team has no relation to those past eight seasons. And it will take some sort of miracle, whether against Atlanta or anyone else, to keep this from being the worst Galaxy team in history.