CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy will once again be playing short-handed against Minnesota United on Saturday night at Dignity Health Sports Park (7:30 p.m.; Spectrum SportsNet, Spectrum Deportes). Both Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Achilles) and Romain Alessandrini (Hamstring) will remain out of the lineup this week as both of them recover from injuries.
And to be successful on Saturday, they’ll need to figure out several important pieces to the puzzle.
NO ZLATAN, NO ALESSANDRINI, NO ATTACK
The Galaxy (1-1-0) only managed one shot on goal in their 2-0 loss to FC Dallas last weekend — a stoppage-time shot by 16-year-old Efrain Alvarez. The club had started Chris Pontius in place of Ibrahimovic and Boateng in place of Alessandrini, but neither was particularly useful. With Pontius managing three total shots and only one of those was anywhere near dangerous.
“I thought as a whole, as a team and myself, we played far too passive last game,” Pontius said. “So we’re looking to change that.”
While passive is the right word, it didn’t fully touch on all the issues the Galaxy had. The midfield couldn’t stay connected to the attack and allowed for space in all areas of the field, and the Galaxy lacked a dangerous goal scorer. Dallas was able to pass around Galaxy players.
The Galaxy will need to generate offense. But how they do that isn’t as simple as just getting another player. They’re going to need to rely on players who are ready to take the next step in their career.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto mentioned changing up formations — possibly to a 4-3-3 — and placing 21-year-old Uriel Antuna at the center of the attacking line.
That probably leaves Pontius and midfielder Emmanuel Boateng to attack
Then a midfield of Joe Corona, Sebastian Lletget ( who will likely play the game in a mask to shield the broken nose he received vs. Dallas), and Jonathan dos Santos can play in behind those three attackers. That would allow as many as five attackers to get forward at any one time — maybe seven if you can get the outside backs of Jorgen Skjelvik and Rolf Feltscher involved — and put some strain on a United defense that shutout the San Jose Earthquakes on the road last week.
But that does put a lot of pressure on Antuna.
POLENTA AND THE DEFENSE NEED NEAR-PERFECT NIGHT
Polenta should be taking most of the heat for the defensive missteps that have occurred over the first two games. It was his back pass against the Chicago Fire on the opening weekend of the league that spotted the visitors a 1-0 lead, and it was his mistake at Dallas over the weekend that saw him gift a penalty kick early in the second half leading to a 1-0 deficit.
The problem is, outside those clear mental mistakes, he’s been solid. He’s given the defense some physicality and bite, and he’s started attacks going in the other direction.
But Dan Steres, his partner, has been better over the first two games. And it’s going to take both of them working together to keep Minnesota off the board.
The much-maligned Galaxy defense is better this year with the addition of Polenta and the relocation of Skjelvik to the left. Feltscher, for his part, had one of the best right-back performances in the league last weekend.
So the Galaxy defense is starting to come together. But any lapse is going to hurt, and Polenta needs to have his best game of the year to date as the rust continues to work its way free from his six-month hiatus from the game.
MINNESOTA AND QUINTERO ARE HOT!
The Loons may be starting their season on the road because of the frigid temps and snow that still hold their brand new stadium locked into winter, but the team itself is on fire right now.
They started their season, and their road trip, with a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps, and then traveled to San Jose where they smacked the Earthquakes for three goals and held the shutout.
The main reason for their success is their lightning-quick Columbian striker Darwin Quintero. Quintero has two goals and three assists in their two games this season.
“They’ve done pretty good,” Pontius explained. “They’ve got some attacking weapons.
“Ever since they’ve gotten Quintero they’ve been a different beast to deal with.”
Schelotto agreed with Pontius’ assessment.
“They won two games, and Quintero is playing at a really good level,” he said. “They are more organized than last year. they have a really good team right now, but we play at home, and we need to win.”
Minnesota also added defender Ike Opare from Sporting KC over the offseason as well as former Seattle Sounder Osvaldo Alonso. That has strengthened the spine of the team and should see some good battles down the center of the field.
But with momentum on Minnesota’s side, the Galaxy could be looking a 1-2-0 start. That’s a stumble that wouldn’t exactly fit into the narrative that the club has tried to repair with both Schelotto and general manager Dennis te Kloese’s arrival to the Galaxy in the offseason.
The Galaxy are still an incomplete team – especially if rumors about Giancarlo González are to come to fruition. And that incompleteness is something that Minnesota is looking to exploit on Saturday.
This story was written by Josh Guesman. Larry Morgan contributed to this report.