Steve Carrillo

Match Preview: LA Galaxy Face Confident Portland Timbers on Sunday

This Sunday, March 12th, the LA Galaxy square off against the Portland Timbers at the StubHub Center in Carson. Sunday’s game promises to answer questions raised by last week’s games for both teams: are the Portland Timbers truly as dangerous as their 5-1 thrashing of the fledgling Minnesota United suggests? Are the LA Galaxy doomed to another poor season in 2017, albeit under new management?

Last week’s game against FC Dallas offered signs of both hope and despair for LA Galaxy fans coming into the 2017 MLS Season. On the bright side, Jelle Van Damme was indomitable: smothering attacks, making emergency clearances, pushing forward into the attack – in short, Van Damme proved precisely why he has been designated LA Galaxy captain this season.

Jermaine Jones also showed why, even in his mid-30’s, his mentality and boundless energy mask his age – as long as Jones is healthy (and not suspended), he will be an asset in the LA Galaxy midfield. It is those caveats which make all the difference, of course, since it appears Jones will be suspended for Sunday’s game against Portland, following the tackle set forth below:

Further, the same physical commitment and positional awareness that earned Sebastian Lletget his first cap with the U.S. Men’s National Team earlier this year was also on display.

Certain LA Galaxy newcomers also showed glimmers of promise. At times during the first sixty minutes of the Dallas game, the newly signed Romain Alessandrini demonstrated true quality both in his technical control of the ball and his spatial awareness. And though the 23-year-old Joao Pedro appeared a bit unsure of himself early in the game, in the second half Pedro made several crucial aerial clearances and at least one dynamite tackle, which is a promising sign for LA Galaxy fans who were harping on the team’s need to nab a defensive midfielder.

And though he’s no newcomer to fans of Los Dos, Jack McBean showed that the departure of Alan Gordon in the offseason did not leave the LA Galaxy without a target forward – though McBean lacks Gyasi Zardes’ flint-like footspeed and God-given athleticism, he plays with his back to goal better than Zardes and also does a fair amount of defensive work.

Further, one of the most glaring deficiencies in last week’s game against Dallas was a general lack of chemistry among the LA Galaxy players. That these players had been together for a matter of days before the game was evident and, fortunately, chemistry develops over time, which means it should improve.

However, for those who saw Portland’s Fanendo Adi eat the Loons alive last weekend, LA Galaxy fans will tremble at the prospect of what Adi will do to the LA Galaxy’s makeshift backline on Sunday. Though Van Damme may be the best player on the pitch for the LA Galaxy, there is only so much that one man can do and even Van Damme cannot carry the Galaxy’s entire defensive burden on his broad Belgian shoulders. During last week’s game, Daniel Steres looked inept, Rafael Garcia demonstrated that he is not a right back by any stretch of the imagination and Dave Romney’s touch was sloppy (Romney will also be suspended for this game).

Portland’s attack is dangerous to teams that have a competent backline, what with the likes of Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe, and Fanendo Adi on Portland’s roster – Caleb Porter must be licking his chops at the prospect of unleashing his attacking weapons on the likes of Daniel Steres, Rafael Garcia, and Dave Romney’s replacement — likely Nathan Smith. So desperate was the LA Galaxy’s defense that Coach Curt Onalfo opted to substitute Garcia out late in the second half and deploy Sebastian Lletget (you read that correctly) as right-back.

Following last week’s game, Van Damme graciously stated that he needs to improve in order for the Galaxy to win games. On behalf of LA Galaxy fans, Jelle, YOU don’t need to change a thing – but if there’s any way you could clone yourself three times, I doubt any LA Galaxy fan would object to an all Van Damme LA Galaxy backline come Sunday.

The LA Galaxy’s game against the Portland Timbers starts at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. Attendees are encouraged to arrive early.