CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy can check this one off on their list of things that needed to happen during their 2021 preseason. A preseason that finds them short of bodies and one that is starting to find them short of time as they get ready for the new season.
But winning is good for any team looking for confidence, and thanks to a 22-minute goal for Jonathan Perez, the Galaxy beat the New England Revolution 1-0 on the night at Dignity Health Sports Park in a closed-door scrimmage.
New Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond was excellent in his 60-minutes of work, making six saves on the night and controlling a patchwork defense that included just two starters and featured a young Jalen Neal at right back.
In fact, the Galaxy only had four perceived starters and were missing more than a handful of players. Jonathan dos Santos, Efrain Alvarez, Julian Araujo, and Sebastian Lletget were all away on international duty. Pipo Gonzalez, Derrick Williams, and Oneil Fisher all missed the game due to injury. Newly signed Victor Vazquez and Samuel Gransir have yet to arrive in the United States as they work to finalize their travel visas.
The Galaxy dressed 19 players for the match, while Bruce Arena’s Revolution dressed 23. And both teams used most of their subs in the second half once the starters had gone more than 60 minutes.
Here are three things we learned from tonight’s scrimmage.
The Young Players are Making an Impact:
Vanney mentioned it in his post-game press call, but he’s been impressed with several of the younger players the Galaxy have had to rely on in the preseason. Adam Saldaña, Jalen Neal, Jonathan Perez, and Cameron Dunbar all had moments to shine in the Galaxy’s win.
Perez scored the Galaxy’s only goal, Saldaña was calm on the ball and creative when he needed to be, and Neal played at right back when he’s really a center back. And while all three made mistakes on the night, they also showed their ability to not let the situation get too big in their minds.
And while we saw a flash of Dunbar in last years “MLS is Back” Tournament, he really looked comfortable moving around seasoned MLS players on Saturday night. If his finishing wouldn’t have let him down he might have had a couple of goals as well. But he opened up space for himself on multiple occasions, combined with Javier Hernandez on a couple different plays, and generally caused problems for the Revolution through most of the first half. And along with Saldaña, Perez, and Neal, they all seemed unfazed by the talent around them, nor the positions that they were fighting for.
Bond is a ‘keeper:
Jonathan Bond was everything the Galaxy were missing in his 60′ minutes of work on Saturday night. He was confident, vocal, authoritative, and unflappable. He made save after save on some very nicely hit balls and didn’t put the ball in danger on any of the rebounds he gave up. And for most of the night, New England had the initiative to break up the Galaxy’s attempts at playing out of the back.
Vanney talked about Bond being comfortable playing the ball with his feet and also mentioned that they asked Bond to get outside his comfort zone in the preseason to see what kind of disruption he could cause to their opponent’s offense. That leads to Bond being a “sweeper-keeper” on more than one occasion, but he never put the team in any danger when he did. He was all positives on the night, and his loud voice from the back kept control of a defense that needed some guidance.
It was just 60 minutes, but Galaxy fans should be excited by what we all saw on Saturday night.
Hernandez is playing the part:
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is on his way to redemption. Or at least that’s what he’d like you to believe after his 61-minutes of work against New England. Chica was hardworking, made some intelligent runs, dropped back to help the Galaxy win the ball, and distributed well to the younger players around him.
He had one combination with Dunbar that should have resulted in a goal, and Ethan Zubak missed him with a cross on another run that should have resulted in a goal. Vanney told reporters that players were missing Hernandez on his runs and that in time those players would start to adjust to the second and third runs he’s making.
In 2020 Hernandez often looked uninterested and incapable of keeping up with and producing for the Galaxy. On Saturday night, that wasn’t the case at all.
It seems that all those runs up Runyon Canyon may finally be paying off. Chicharito should be a much different player in 2021 — or at the very least, the Galaxy need him to be a much different player.