We won’t waste time with trying to break down the failures of last weekend. You can read our game recap as the LA Galaxy lost 2-0 to Atlanta United. But what we are going to try and do is gauge where the Galaxy stand against other teams in MLS.
The loss to Atlanta shouldn’t have been a surprise. Atlanta is and has been, ranked within the top three teams in the league since the 2018 season started and is expected to be vying for an MLS Cup once the playoffs come around.
The Galaxy stand at 3-3-1 with 10 points after seven games. They sit fourth in the Western Conference and ninth overall in the league. But in order to understand what the wins and losses have meant, we have to look at their opponents. How good are they? How bad are they? And what does this snapshot in time tell us?
Disclaimer: When ranking opponents during the season, it’s impossible to tell if a team will remain good throughout the year. Example – Sporting KC is currently in first place for the Supporters’ Shield. But if they don’t win another game during the year, then their rank will fall and the loss to them looks worse for the Galaxy.
That can happen in the opposite as well, where a win over Chicago doesn’t look great, but if the Fire suddenly start winning games, the win could be seen as better for the Galaxy. So keep that in mind as we evaluate these wins and losses.
What we see above, is a rank of each opponent the Galaxy have faced. The average position of their opponent is 7.6. The lower that number, the more difficult their opponents have been, and of course the opposite is true – a higher number means the games should have been easier.
The 7.6 also means that so far in 2018, the Galaxy’s opponents have been in the top third of all MLS teams.
When we break it down by club wins, the Galaxy’s average opponent has been sitting in 12th-place. That includes the wins over Portland (15), LAFC (5), and Chicago (16).
Conversely, when you look at the losses, an interesting pattern takes place. The Galaxy have three losses on the year and those three losses have come to the top three teams in the league – New York City and Atlanta the clear Cup favorites in the early stages of 2018, and Sporting KC, the best team in the West.
New York City and Atlanta are the clear Cup-favorites in the early stages of 2018, and Sporting is the only team in the Western Conference that is rising to the top. The rest of the conference seems mired in uncertainty.
During those three games (2 home, 1 away), the Galaxy have been outscored by a total of six to one, with each of their opponents averaging two goals or more per game (NYC 2.0; SKC 2.5; ATL 2.4) and all three offenses ranked in the top three.
When put in this context, the losses start to make some sense and clearly, at least for the Galaxy, give them some early season credit. Yes, they lost. Yes, they lost at home twice. But they were also beaten by the clear early-season favorites. And that’s not bad for a team that jettisoned 15 players in the offseason.
GOALS FOR, GOALS AGAINST, GOAL DIFFERENTIAL
But that doesn’t answer the question of where this Galaxy team really ranks across all 23 teams in MLS.
The Galaxy’s offense ranks 18 of 23 teams in the league with just eight goals scored. And 50-percent of those goals came against LAFC. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored three of those eight goals, while the club itself have been shutout three times in their seven games – two of those shutouts came in losses to the teams in the top three (SKC, ATL), and one of those shutouts was against Vancouver on the road.
The Galaxy’s defense, which gets blamed for most losses this year, is ranked 11 out 23 teams in the league and is techncially better than the club’s offense. They’ve allowed 10 goals on the year and have held shutouts just twice (CHI, VAN).
When comparing the Galaxy’s goal differential the club sits in 13th position with a minus-two. That’s 11 goals behind Atlanta and Sporting who each have a GD of plus-nine.
If you average all of these positions together – which has no academic theory behind it, just simply as an exercise – you get a Galaxy position of 14; well below the midpoint of the pack.
And by all the metrics so far, the Galaxy seem to be that middle-of-the-road team.
Note: You can manipulate the standings table all by yourself. Just click on a column heading to sort it by that metric. STANDINGS
HOME SWEET HOME
Finally, the Galaxy haven’t been playing great at home over the past couple years. Everyone remembers the three home wins last year that eventually saw a home record of 3-9-5 for 14 points at StubHub Center. And surely the losses at home this year – Sporting and Atlanta – are giving fans flashbacks. But let’s just pause for a second to realize where the Galaxy are after playing four home games.
At 2-2-0 in Carson, the Galaxy have earned six of 12 points at home. It’s a small sample size, but if you project that out across the entire season the Galaxy would capture 25.5 points at home in 2018 (although, you’d expect it to be more when you factor in the Galaxy have already played the toughest teams in the league at StubHub).
Those 25 points would put them on a similar path as the 2009 Galaxy (7-4-4, home) who were also rebuilding after a horrible year in 2008. You’ll remember that team made it to an MLS Cup where they lost on Penalties to Real Salt Lake in Seattle, Washington. However, the 2009 team also captured 23 points on the road (5-2-8, road). Something this year’s team would love to do.
But it’s not anywhere near the pantheon of great Galaxy home records. That trophy belongs to the 2011 MLS Cup-winning team that captured 41 home points during that campaign and went 12-0-5 at the Home Depot Center.
The bottom line is that the Galaxy should be better at home than they were in 2017 – they’d almost have to be. But they’re far from making StubHub Center any type of fortress. Not yet, anyway. An easier schedule might help and it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think the Galaxy could still be a very good home team. Perhaps even in the 34-point range at home.
That does it for this weeks deep-dive into the numbers surrounding the Galaxy. I hope you found it info-taining and that you can look through the charts and do your own comparisons. All the rest of our charts are below for you to take a look at! Enjoy!