Carson, CA – The LA Galaxy finished out their preseason schedule with a 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers at StubHub Center on Saturday night. More than 10,000 fans showed up to see the closest thing to a starting lineup the Galaxy have had this preseason.
With injuries to Robbie Rogers, Gyasi Zardes, Ashley Cole, Jack McBean, and Baggio Husidic the Galaxy still trotted out most of the big names the team is now associated with. Jelle Van Damme, who only played 45-minutes because of food poisoning, wore the captain’s armband and Jermaine Jones and João Pedro played in front of him in the midfield. Emma Boateng started the night at on the left, in place of the Designated Player, Romain Alessandrini. Alessandrini would see time for the entire second half. Ari Lassiter took the place of Zardes and Giovani dos Santos spent his night living in the space between the midfield and the Lassiter.
The first half saw the Galaxy concede a goal on one of the many defensive miscues. Fanendo Adi, who would score twice, got the ball from Diego Valeri. It was Adi who easily out maneuvered Daniel Steres on the play and then beat him to the return pass for the goal. It was a defensive error that repeated itself throughout the night and Portland should have scored more than two goals.
The young backline of Rafa Garcia, who was playing in the place of Rogers, conceded too much space to Portland in the first half. And bad giveaways by Jermaine Jones and João Pedro contributed to the Galaxy having to chase the Timbers toward their own goal on too many occasions.
The Galaxy defense, decimated by injuries and a questionable trade, is far from a finished product, but you could see from the very beginning that Portland was targeting the random of Garcia and Steres on the right side of LA’s defense. It should be a common theme in these early days, and something that the Galaxy will need to work out if they’re to put up a fight against FC Dallas, and the home opener, in one week’s time.
The lone Galaxy goal came on a great ball from Romain Alessandrini — a ball that was played to the back post and found the head of Dave Romney. Romney played the ball across the goal and Daniel Steres, who was onside, made a perfect move toward it and flicked it past the Goalkeeper, Jake Gleeson.
It was a good result to some sustained pressure and some enlightened play from Alessandrini.
We’re not going to get to all the players, and we’re certainly going to skip your favorite player, but in a preseason game, let’s talk about some of the performances we saw tonight.
Daniel Steres — Steres is going to be put under a lot of pressure this year, especially with Rafa Garcia still learning the right back position. Steres was okay under some pressure tonight, but in the first half, he got man-handled by a much larger Fanendo Adi multiple times. He watched as Adi positioned himself in better positions and he was slow to react in cases of danger.
He gets some credit for the goal, but ultimately he knows that a performance like the first half of tonight’s game, won’t do against a much more dangerous, FC Dallas.
Rafa Garcia — Garcia is learning a new position. We know this. But it doesn’t make it any easier to watch. For me, it comes down to playing too narrow. Something both he and Dave Romney did on multiple occasions. While it’s important to play compact when being attacked, Garcia tends to give too much ground and allow the attacker into the box before making his stand. He has gotten better since the last time we saw him, but the Galaxy defense, with Garcia and Romney outside, will get relentlessly attacked down the wings.
The second goal proves how far Garcia has to come. The right angle keeps Valeri from finding Adi for the second goal. But the right angle was played. It was too easy.
Jermaine Jone — Jones had a rough first half that saw many of his passes and touches go to Portland. There was relatively little connection between him and Giovani dos Santos, but his partnership with Pedro seems to be growing and improving. They are both physical players and Jones is alway good for a stiff challenge or a beautiful through ball. This wasn’t his best night, but in the second half, with Alessandrini providing more outlets the Galaxy got going. Jones seems like the guy who will create on this team, and he’ll need to do it better if LA are going to beat FC Dallas.
Romain Alessandrini — It was his first debut under the lights at StubHub Center and the Galaxy are much better with him on the field. His fitness is going to be a questions, as will be his adjustment to a more physical league — something he struggled with in his early minutes. But he was the spark that propelled the Galaxy to a much better second half. He played the majority of his time inside instead of stretching Portland wide, but he said they were giving him the room, and if they’re going to give it, he’s going to take it.
He had an amazing turn on a deflected pass from Jones that almost caught Portland’s ‘keeper asleep. And his free kick late in the game could’ve tied it up — especially after he was the one that drew the foul. But he needs to learn his teammates before anything magical really happens. But he has the ability to amaze. I think we saw a piece of that tonight.
Giovani dos Santos — The Galaxy need Dos Santos to have a big year. In this game, however, he was missing. He had a few good touches, and his positioning under Lassiter is probably okay, but besides one over-the-top ball from Jelle Van Damme, he was absent for me. He combined at times in the midfield with everyone he should, but ultimately his job is to score and create goals. And he fell short on that.
He has a history of disappearing in games and in the first half, he was largely absent. While the second half he provided more movement and passing he’s playing much too deep for my liking. The galaxy are going to need much more from him. And if he starts clashing in space with Alessandrini, we have a Robbie Keane/Gio problem all over again. He must learn to play with the guys around him.
Sebastian Lletget — Lletget had a very good game. In fact, over the entire 90-minutes, he was probably this team’s best performer. But he was particularly useful when Alessandrini came on in the second half. Those two seem to combine effortlessly, and it probably doesn’t hurt that they look like identical twins.
Lletget lost the ball on the wings trying to dribble through multiple players too many times for my liking, but because he’s on the wing his miscues hurt less than when he’s in the middle. He’s versatile, quick and he got a couple good looking shots and looks on goal. The Galaxy are going to need big things out of Lletget and he looks to be playing the roles they’re asking him to play.
The Galaxy are done with preseason. Now it’s time to prepare for FC Dallas on Saturday and the start of the MLS Season. Dallas just won their CONCACAF Champions’ League game 4-0 earlier in the week and they should be more than rested for their tie with LA.
Los Angeles is an unfinished product with some heavy legs. And they can only hope that Dallas eases off on the goal scoring against some solid competition. But the Galaxy will have their hands full as they continue to work guys into the team who weren’t in those positions only weeks ago.