The LA Galaxy let points slip away on the road, yet still remain unbeaten in the MLS restart.
Expectations were high going into Sunday night’s match-up against the San Jose Earthquakes. The Galaxy were coming into the game well-rested, in contrast to the Earthquakes who suffered an embarrassing 7-1 defeat away at Seattle on Thursday evening.
Poor air quality and field conditions contributed to a disjointed match where neither team was able to capitalize on their chances leading to a 0-0 draw, which likely felt like a loss for both teams.
While chances were limited, there were still opportunities for the Galaxy to return to Los Angeles having stolen all three points. Efrain Alvarez hit the post and Cristian Pavon was unable to get his shots on target.
The Galaxy offense was left scoreless for only the second time in their first ten matches. In turn, the defense extended their shutout streak to 180 minutes. The backline did well enough to hold San Jose to only two shots on target and David Bingham did his job when called upon to keep the clean sheet.
The game felt like a bit of a let down after some stellar performances over the last four matches. However, when pulling back and looking at the big picture, a point on the road, and 13 out of 15 points, in this first phase of Major League Soccer’s return to home markets needs to be looked at as a great success.
Let’s take a look at who slid into the top spots of ‘Grading the Galaxy’ this week:
TOP OF THE CLASS
It is hard to find high marks to be given when two teams draw 0-0, but David Bingham did everything that he was asked to do on Sunday night.
Bingham only faced two shots on target, but did well to put himself in positions so that he did not give San Jose any easy rebounds or chances on poor distributions.
In a match where field conditions were questionable, Bingham appeared to be comfortable on his old stomping grounds, even mentioning as much in the post game press conference.
A keeper who has been under fire during moments of this seasons has now put together two shutouts in a row. Bingham will need to keep his confidence high if he wants to maintain his form and the matches will come fast and furious in the next phase of league play.
Sometimes it is easy to forget that Nick DePuy was not part of the plans to be a regular starter for the 2020 season. Guillermo Barros Schelotto slotted DePuy in the center back position at the start of the season out of necessity and he continues to make the most of his opportunity forcing more expensive options to the bench and delaying the pressure for an outside acquisition.
DePuy put in another solid performance against San Jose as he held an 89% pass success rate while adding several pass interceptions and recoveries. In addition to his defensive contributions playing out of the back, DePuy looks likely to score at some point this season as his big frame is always dangerous on set pieces and corner kicks.
DePuy has neutralized some big names in his performances during this breakout season for him. The challenges will continue to come as the opponents will begin to vary and DePuy looks ready to take on all offenses from around the league.
Efrain Alvarez got another opportunity in a starting role on the road and nearly got off to an identical start as he did in Portland with his best opportunity bouncing off the post in the 42nd minute.
Throughout the match, Alvarez was connecting on excellent passes and crosses to find his teammates running into space.
Alvarez appears to have a lethal left foot from distance, but I would like to see him put away the higher percentage chances as well. His vision and technical skill was on display, but he still squandered some of the game’s few chances after doing everything right leading up to his final runs in the box.
The paradox of Alvarez is that the more promise he shows in these games, the higher the expectations rise for him to deliver these performances on a consistent basis.
This week, the LA Galaxy were rumored to be in negotiations with Boca Juniors to work out the details of a deal that would keep Cristian Pavon playing for the Galaxy on a permanent basis.
Ironically, this was the week that Pavon played one of his most frustrating games in a Galaxy shirt. While his performance was still good enough to earn him Man of the Match honors on the TUDN broadcast, it was not the MVP level performance that Pavon has put in over the past month.
Pavon was still a threat on the wing as he would use his speed to sprint past the San Jose defense before cutting inside to find what is becoming his signature move en route to a shot on goal. Unfortunately, his shots were nowhere near the target this week.
Pavon has earned the right to be selfish with the ball in order to create opportunties in front of goal, but he also needs to find a way to include his teammates in the offense when his shot is not at its best.
Coming off an incredible string of performances in the last four matches, Sebastian Lletget earned his 100th start for the LA Galaxy. While Lletget has been thriving in the central attacking midfield role, he was not able to have the same impact on the match as he’s he did over the past few weeks.
Lletget had more touches in this game than Cristian Pavon, yet seemed to have less of an impact on the field. His best chance of the game came from a header on a quick corner, which is not the the type of chance where Lletget is going to be most dangerous.
Not a bad performance from Lletget, but it wasn’t the type of performance that earned him MLS Player of the Week honors last week. Hopefully he can bounce back next week.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez made a triumphant return to the LA Galaxy after being sidelined for several months with a muscle injury. While the Galaxy have not lacked the ability to score goals, scoring 11 goals over the course of their four-game win streak, many were salivating at the opportunity to have a proven goal scorer like Hernandez playing with a team with newfound confidence.
Hernandez was subbed on in the 57th minute, giving him plenty of time to find his footing and get back in the scoring column. He was looking to pick up where he left off after scoring a late goal against Portland at the MLS is Back tournament in Orlando.
It did not appear that Hernandez was match fit and he struggled to mesh with his teammates throughout the second half. He ended the match with only 10 touches and no shots on goal.
The only way to get match fit is to get competitive minutes in actual matches and this was one of the positives from Chicharito’s return. Most importantly, Hernandez walked off the field without aggravating his injury and will get more chances to find connections with his teammates.
Ethan Zubak’s header goal against LAFC may have only been three weeks ago, but it feels like a lot longer. Without much to show for it the subsequent games, Zubak has failed to show that he can be a viable option at the undeniably thin striker position.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto has shown trust in the youth movement by starting teenagers Julian Araujo and Efrain Alvarez. Schelotto has also shown that standouts at the USL level can play themselves into a starting MLS role as evidenced by Nick DePuy. Zubak finds himself in a no man’s land as he may be a step above the level of LA Galaxy II, but not quite up to the task at a first-team level.
In the match against San Jose, Zubak looked out of place among his peers as his heavy touch led to turnovers. Additionally, his runs and passes were not on the same page as his teammates. While Hernandez failed to register a shot on target, Zubak was also blanked even though he was on the field nearly twice as long as the first-choice striker.
Zubak looks like a hard worker and it is a feel good story to have an academy player moving up through the ranks, but at 22 years old, he doesn’t seem to have the ability to be even a back up striker in this league.
In his seven matches played this season, he has only produced one time on a team that has been firing on all cylinders otherwise. It may be time to give other players, such as Gordon Wild or Cameron Dunbar, an opportunity at the striker role as Chicharito plays himself back into the starting role.
Below you can find all player grades plus their per game average rating.