CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy played Toronto FC to a 2-1 loss on Saturday afternoon at Dignity Health Sports Park in their first public preseason game of the 2020 season. And while the loss might lead you to believe the Galaxy didn’t play well, that’s not the whole story.
Below, I’ll give you three things we learned in today’s preseason scrimmage.
The Galaxy didn’t get a full season of Cristian Pavon as he played his first game for LA on August 11. And in those 11 games to close out 2019, he had three goals and eight assists.
But in the game today, after the Galaxy went down a man because of a very questionable red card to Aleksandar Katai in the first half, Pavon made a half-field run that required dodging four tackles and weaving his way through five Toronto players before launching a 25-yard shot from just outside the right post. His curling right-footed shot finished past goalkeeper Quentin Westberg for the 1-0 lead.
Pavon has the skills to be a league MVP in 2020, and if we’re going to overreact to what we saw on the field today, we’d say he think and reacts quicker than nearly everyone in MLS. His ability to cut inside, switch sides with Katai, and combine with Javier Hernandez is something no one else in MLS will have. Will that be enough to lead the Galaxy to an MLS Cup? We’ll have to wait and see.
DEFENSE ANSWERS QUESTIONS
The Galaxy defense remains one of the biggest questions in 2020. And in today’s scrimmage, with injuries to Daniel Steres, Rolf Feltscher, and Emiliano Insúa — all three expected to be starters — they couldn’t answer many questions besides that they do seem to have some depth.
The standouts on the day included 90-minute performances from Julian Araujo and Nick DePuy. With DePuy marking Jozy Altidore for most of the game, he looked confident, calm, and physical. Afterall, DePuy had a good five inches on Altidore and didn’t look out of place as a pro.
Araujo was similarly excellent. He was quick, fluid, decisive, and at times a little careless. But in total, both showed themselves to be more than capable at playing in MLS — or MLS Preseason.
Araujo will push for starting minutes, and if Pipo Gonzalez doesn’t improve, DePuy could be driving him to the bench. However, the Galaxy are still hunting for another starting Center Back — currently chasing 23-year old Argentine Alan Franco.
The defense still made plenty of mistakes. And allowed Toronto to pass in behind them multiple times. The worst was on the goal to end the first half.
But I’d call much of what we saw as an improvement. There’s still room for so much growth, though. So the questions need to continue to be asked. And the absence of Jonathan dos Santos (groin injury), you could see the defensive side of the midfield just wasn’t as it should be.
The Galaxy will live and die by their defense this year. But the young-guns impressed in a far from perfect performance.
CHICHARITO CAN BE DANGEROUS
This was our first look at Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. He donned the captain’s armband in place of the injured dos Santos and had a couple of good chances to score.
His movement off the ball is endless and sharp. And it will be up to his Galaxy teammates to unlock his potential. What we say today was encouraging. And his post-game press conference was more positive than any comment Zlatan Ibrahimovic ever made for both the Galaxy and MLS. But having said that, Chicharito seems like the type of player to suffer if service isn’t everpresent.
He almost ended up in the right place a couple of times, and if it wasn’t for Toronto’s Westberg standing on his head a couple of times, Chicharito might have had a couple.
What we really suffered from seeing, however, was the flow between Katai, Pavon, and Hernandez. That was starting to build into something when Katai was sent off for what was deemed a “stomp” on Laurent Ciman.
Bottom line: we need to see more from everyone before we can draw any crazy conclusions. But Chicharito did just fine for his first minutes on the stadium field at DHSP.
OVERALL EVERYONE SHOULD BE CONTENT WHILE WANTING MORE
It wasn’t a win, but it didn’t need to be. The offense played well and missed some good chances, the defense did fine playing down a man for about 65 minutes, and overall Guillermo Barros Schelotto should be pleased.
But the game raised questions about the depth at midfield and certainly the durability of this team over the long MLS season. Injuries are mounting, and the Galaxy are not the deepest team. Not yet.
But the good games from Pavon, DePuy, and Araujo certainly are leading the Galaxy toward their goal of being ready for the Houston Dynamo on February 29.
The Galaxy look to have another closed-door scrimmage lined up this next week, the final public scrimmage on February 22 against the Chicago Fire.
It as a good step forward for the Galaxy, even if the ten vs. 11 nature of the game was more than a little disappointing.