CARSON, Calif. — Ready or not, the LA Galaxy will open up their 2022 season next Sunday. So Saturday’s final preseason game was a chance to showcase and highlight just where this team had improved since last year’s disappointing end of the season. But an unconvincing 2-2 draw against DC United at Dignity Health Sports Park will certainly leave Galaxy faithful with plenty of questions.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, coming off a season where he scored 17 goals in 21 games played, added two more goals to his preseason total. Scoring on either side of the half (26′, 74′), Hernandez was able to link up with Kelvin Leerdam for a simplistic, and easy overload on the right-hand side that saw him effortlessly finish past DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid. And on his second goal, showcased the speed, and the intensity at which the Galaxy can apply themselves when they get out on the break.
The second goal started with Kevin Cabral and Raheem Edwards combining to play Cabral into space behind the United backline. And then saw Cabral’s cross to substitute Dejan Joveljic just barely reach him after being tipped toward Hamid. It was the calm but strong final touch from Hernandez who was in the right spot to continue the Galaxy’s play from right to left. And with Hamid out of position trying to break up the cross, Hernadez fired toward the not-so-empty net and found a gap wide enough to tie the game in the 74th-minute.
The Galaxy’s counter-attacking, something Vanney has said in previous games the club has failed to exploit properly, was the only cohesive part of the attack on Saturday night. And the only source of excitement for the 9,534 fans in attendance on the 70-degree afternoon kick-off.
“Aside from the second goal, I think we had a couple of opportunities to break out. We maybe missed the final pass or just missed the link there. But we had a couple.” Vanney said of the Galaxy’s counter-attacking.
“And I think when we defend well, we’re going to have the capacity to transition well, given the group of players that we have,” he continued. Especially on the attacking half of the field. Between the speed, the passers, and the clever runners, we can be very dangerous in that, I think. Again, today we had some moments for sure. I think in games, I expect us to have more of those moments. So I’m pleased with that.”
The Galaxy got some good performances out of Samuel Grandsir and Efrain Alvarez, but lacked a creator in the middle of the field. Mark Delgado and Rayan Raveloson were not as connected to the middle of the play as Vanney would have hoped, and Raveloson, in particular, struggled to keep the ball moving in the earlier parts of the game.
Kevin Cabral also added to his stellar preseason (he scored 3 times this Winter) and looked like he was more than up to the task of playing some impactful soccer this season. He’s been stronger on the ball, a lot more confident in his decision making and has highlighted his speed early and often this year. If this is the precursor to his breakout season, the Galaxy may have gotten it all right with Cabral.
But the Galaxy were far from energetic for most of the night. And with DC’s Steve Birnbaum scoring on a corner kick in the 14th-minute, the Galaxy’s willingness to play slowly and predictably, at times, seemed to encourage an intelligent press from the visitors. Sega Coulibaly was victimized multiple times on the night as he mishandled or put himself in bad positions, and Nick DePuy didn’t seem up to the task in the afternoon.
Those are important issues to work out, with center-back Derrick Williams yet to be back to full first-team training. Vanney said Williams could be in the mix for Sunday, but his body language seemed to indicate it most likely wouldn’t be as a starter.
In other injury news, Coulibaly left the game in the second half with an arm injury of some sort with Vanney indicating it was either the elbow or the shoulder. Midfielder Victor Vazquez missed with a minor calf injury (he could be available for Sunday’s season-opener) and Douglas Costa — who isn’t injured — wasn’t able to play in this game as the Galaxy wait on his visa paperwork to clear. Vanney said that they were hopeful that gets cleared up in the next couple of days and that Costa would be able to be selected for Sunday’s match.
“He would be available to play,” Vanney said of Costa. “I mean, his fitness level is good. He’s still in a good position to be able to move forward. We wanted to get him on the field so he could continue to connect with his teammates and get a feel for all of it.”
But Vanney continued making the case for Costa. “I think adding another high-quality sophisticated player like Costa, who I do believe he’s going to score goals in this league, he certainly can set up goals. His vision is outstanding. His technical ability and his ability to hit different passes and to hit shots that he can get off instantaneously — I don’t know if I’ve seen many people release a shot as quickly as he does.”
Julian Araujo, who missed about 2.5 weeks with the Galaxy when he was away with Mexico for their World Cup Qualifiers, played the second 45 minutes after going 90 minutes midweek in the Galaxy’s scrimmage loss to Vancouver. But Vanney seems confident that his fitness is improving to the point he could be a starter on Sunday — something he hasn’t been the entire preseason.
The Galaxy will train all of next week as they ready for New York City — the defending MLS Cup Champions — to come into Dignity Health Sports Park on February 27 (2 PM PT, ESPN/ESPN Deportes).
They finish the preseason with a 4-1-2 record while scoring 19 times and allowing 12 goals. And as a whole Vanney seemed very pleased.
“I thought today specifically was probably our most disjointed performance of all of the ones in the preseason,” Vanney explained. “But I felt like the guys have been great all preseason. I feel like guys have, you know, have their legs under them. We’ve dealt with different types of opponents. Opponents playing with three in the back, like we did today. We played against a diamond, we’ve played a lot of things. So I think the guys have seen a variety of teams that do things, in different ways. The last couple of teams like DC, really want to try to press in and disrupt. And I thought they did that, you know, today for us. We didn’t handle that as well as we have done in the preseason. So, all in all, I think we’re in a good place.”