CARSON, Calif. — It was the last game of the preseason, and for the LA Galaxy, it may have been their best performance. And while the final score showed a draw, the Galaxy created chances, pressed numbers into the box — something goalscorer Sacha Kljestan said the club had been working on earlier in the week — and generally controlled the ebb and flow of the game.
Below are the three things we learned from the 1-1 final with the Chicago Fire.
SAVIOR AT LEFT-BACK?
Injured for the entire preseason and delayed even getting into camp by a lengthy visa process, Emiliano Insua impressed in his time on the field for the Galaxy. The traveled defender was sharp with his passes, patient with getting forward, and good with his combinations.
His ability to overlap to the outside and to cut inside are all positives. And his varied runs were something that Jorgen Skjelvik could only dream of matching.
Left-back has been an awkward position to fill since Ashley Cole left. But Insúa’s initial showing is more than a positive.
The only downside to his time was that there wasn’t enough of it to develop chemistry with Aleksandar Katai. And one must undoubtedly question Insua’s durability during a long MLS season.
But what we’ve seen in just a single preseason game is enough to be optimistic.
OFFENSE IS FINDING THEIR SPOTS
The LA Galaxy are finding their chances. And as a dangerous counterattacking team, they sometimes need to rely on their opponent to also take their chances. Against Chicago, you saw both of these phases of attack. The counterattack after pressure, and the build-up of play that could lead to chances.
The most significant difference in this final preseason game was that when the Galaxy had a chance at goal, they got bodies into the box. This generated some excellent opportunities, and it also produced the lone goal for Kljestan.
Getting up the wings solo is great, but you can’t score goals from there. You have to get players supporting runs, and ready for rebounds. If Kljestan doesn’t support the run of Katai — who shot from a tight angle — the Galaxy don’t score. And if Kljestand and Chicharito aren’t in the box together, the Galaxy don’t score.
The “late-ish runs,” as Kljestan called them, are essential to the success of the Galaxy. And getting bodies into the box — both near-post and far-post, strong and weak side will be a clue to how successful this offense can be.
KATAI ISN’T READY
He will be a talented and vital role-player for the Galaxy this year, but Katai hasn’t shown us very much this preseason. Limited in playing time by a red card against Toronto, pulled late in the first half against Colorado during their midweek scrimmage, and unable to go the distance on Saturday night, Katai’s early exits have frustrated all that watch.
But that likely means that he’s dealing with something. That could be a sign that he’s overexerted himself in the preseason, it could mean he’s dealing with an injury, or it could mean he’s dealing with an illness of some sort.
Because if none of those are correct, then he simply hasn’t been performing. And that’s a bigger worry.
Katai did have the shot that led to the goal, but his overall play lacked sharpness, intensity, or complexity. He’s being tasked with rotating positions during the game — with crossing the field and swapping spots with Pavon. But if he can’t be dangerous and intense from the first whistle, then he’ll be the weak link in the Galaxy’s hope for league dominance.
BONUS: CHICHARITO WILL BE FINE
We’ve talked about this many times, but Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez needs service to be successful. But all the signs are there in the preseason. He’s finding space, and he’s developing the chemistry with those around him. He’s been stopped with great saves multiple times, but he hasn’t officially scored a goal.
Even if Guillermo Barros Schelotto confirmed he scored in a closed-door scrimmage against Vancouver (Shhhhh). And according to at least some accounts, the goal was rather spectacular.
So should you be worried about Chicharito? The bottom line continues to be that once the chemistry is established, with those around him, he’ll find the back of the net many, many times.
No concern on our part. At least not yet.
The best-case scenario is that he scores a goal or two in the Galaxy’s season-opener against Houston on Saturday.
The preseason is over. It’s time for everything to start counting!