The LA Galaxy are in danger of letting the league run away from them. Can the month of May still be salvaged with a win against Orlando City?
CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy made the 2,218-mile journey from Los Angeles to Orlando on Wednesday in hopes of bringing home three points from Orlando City and ending a four-game losing streak that has seen the club go without a point in May.
But that task will be more difficult without the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic and seeing as how the Galaxy (7-5-1; 22 points) haven’t scored a goal in their last 183 minutes played — being shutout in back-to-back games for the first time since September of 2017. Add to it that they’ve never won a game in Orlando (0-2-0) and the added pressure of a quick turnaround to play midweek in Kansas City, and there’s a real recipe for disaster.
Below we’re tracking the biggest storylines for the Friday night match (4:00 p.m. PT; UniMas) with Orlando (4-6-3; 15 points).
STOPPING THE SLIDE
The Galaxy haven’t won a game since the end of April, which was, coincidently, when they last seemed like a complete team. The start of May saw two losses on the road, three losses in eight days and then the loss last weekend to the worst team in MLS — a 1-0 defeat to the Colorado Rapids at Dignity Health Sports Park.
The losing streak is now the longest since 2017 and is just three losses from the worst losing streak in club history (7 games in 2006).
And while the losing streak can be blamed on many variables — the congested schedule, the cross-country travel, formation tinkering, injuries, and suspensions — the Galaxy are clear that none of those are excuses for how they’ve been playing.
“I think you can check game after game, we always have had some problems,” Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto told reporters after the loss to Colorado. “[Romain] Alessandrini out, [Zlatan] Ibrahimović out, Jonathan [dos Santos] out, all big players for us.
“We had three games in seven days last week,” he continued. “I don’t want to put excuses, but when you want to play the same line-up, you’re going to [come across] problems always.”
Schelotto has vowed to tinker less and be more cautious with the Galaxy’s training to ensure that the team has the legs to be able to compete.
And against talented players like Nani, and Tesho Akindele the Galaxy defense will need to be on its best behavior. With Orlando coming off a 5-1 victory over Cincinnati last weekend, which stopped a three-game losing streak and a four-game winless streak, any slips from the Galaxy defense will inevitably show up on the scoreboard.
TRAVEL AND SUSPENSIONS
As mentioned above, the Galaxy had to travel a long way to get to a Friday night match. The club flew commercial from LAX directly to Orlando where they then trained on Thursday to get ready for the 7 p.m. ET kickoff.
In Major League Soccer, the home team always has an advantage, but when you add a cross-country trip across three time zones, the going gets even tougher.
The Galaxy lost their previous east coast game when the NYRB beat them 3-2. And the only winners of the games between these two clubs – four games in total – have been the home teams.
The Galaxy will be without leading goalscorer Ibrahimovic but should find their roster reasonably healthy. That’s, of course, outside of the long-term knee injury to Alessandrini who isn’t expected back with the club until September at the earliest.
Orlando will be without striker Dom Dwyer (yellow card accumulation) who came off the bench last weekend to score one goal in the route of Cincinnati when he came on in the 66th minute for Nani who scored twice himself.
STAYING CONSISTENT WITH THE LINE-UP
Schelotto has injuries to deal with, but also an abundance of players at one particular position – center back – that has him continually shifting the line-ups.
That needs to end.
So expect a line-up that is very similar to last weeks with a hopeful nod to start Chris Pontius over Emmanuel Boateng at the top of a 4-4-2 formation.
The Galaxy are sure to score goals in the match, but having said that, no one can put their finger on who will score them.
It’s time someone on the Galaxy stepped up to do the goal scoring while Zlatan is away.
More importantly, with three inform center backs — Daniel Steres, Diego Polenta, and Giancarlo “Pipo” Gonzalez — the Galaxy need to settle on a backline that makes sense.
Polenta played left-back last weekend in the loss while Steres and Gonzalez filled in the center.
Rolf Feltscher is the only locked-in starter on the backline, and that’s mostly due to the fact his replacement – Julian Araujo – is away on international duty (U.S. U-20 World Cup).
If Schelotto is going to play with three center backs on the field, then figure out the best way to make that happen and make it consistent.
The only other question with the consistency of the starting line-up is how healthy Jonathan dos Santos is. He complained of a hip problem after the loss to Colorado but seemed hellbent on playing all three games before the international break takes over after the Galaxy’s June 2 match against the New England Revolution.
The Galaxy have a lot of work to do if they’re going to beat Orlando. But Orlando is not a complete team — much like the Galaxy — even if the talent for the LA is missing that true superstar without Ibrahimovic.
If the Galaxy want a four-game losing streak to end, they’re going to have to fight for it. The talent gap they have over Orlando isn’t enough to think that this will be anything resembling a walk in the park.