Carson, CA – It’s no secret that the LA Galaxy (2-5-1) haven’t started the season well. And following a scoreless draw with the winless Philadelphia Union (0-4-4), that opinion isn’t going to change anytime soon. And while the media and fans continue to heap pressure on the team, the organization, and Giovani dos Santos, to change things quickly, everyone deals with that expectation differently.
For Dos Santos, he says he’s just simply not feeling the pressure – even if he is.
“No, not really. I’ve been through a lot of difficult times in my career and this is another one,” Dos Santos said speaking about if he feels pressure to perform, after the game. “So I know what I have to do and I know what kind of player I am and I know what kind of team we have.”
The kind of team they have is not even close to a shadow of the team they had. And Dos Santos might fall into the same category.
In 2016, in place of an often injured Robbie Keane, Dos Santos was a spark in a sometimes complacent offense. He scored 15 goals (14 in the regular season, 1 in the playoffs) and had 13 assists (12 in the regular season, 1 in the playoffs). The Galaxy finished third in the Western Conference but fizzled out quickly in the playoffs.
But the team was 6-2-8 (W-L-D) when Dos Santos had either an assist or a goal. And he had three games in which he scored multiple goals. Five of those games saw him score at least one goal and have one assist. He was more than just a creator last year, he was both a creator and finisher. Something this year’s team desperately needs.
After the first 8 games of the 2016 season, Dos Santos had recorded four goals and three assists. Numbers that are more than impressive considering he only played in five of those games.
Through the first eight games of the 2017 season, he has one goal (a penalty kick conversion) and zero assists, even though he’s been available for more games than last season (6.5 games).
And As the highest paid player on the Galaxy roster — the Major League Soccer Players Union lists his guaranteed compensation at $5.5 million dollars — Dos Santos should be the one player capable of creating and scoring on a regular basis. But nothing has clicked for him in this offense. Even as embattled Galaxy head coach Curt Onalfo moves things around to try and spark the Mexican International.
In a change from the previous weeks, and with Gyasi Zardes out of the lineup due to illness, Dos Santos was placed at the top of a 4-2-3-1 formation. Backing him was Jermaine Jones, Romain Alessandrini, and Emmanuel Boateng on the offensive side of things, with Baggio Husidic and João Pedro helming the defensive midfield. All of this was in front of a back four of Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damme, Daniel Steres, and Bradley Diallo.
In the opening minutes, Dos Santos saw two early chances go wanting. He was getting on the end of long balls and was creating scoring chances for himself. But as the game wore on, Dos Santos started dropping back deeper and deeper in an effort to start the play, while Jones crept higher and higher. After the sixth minute, Dos Santos didn’t record another chance toward goal. While Jones, almost replacing Dos Santos as the man highest up the field, recorded three chances. One, in particular, a wide open header, that he failed to put on frame.
“It’s difficult to talk about when things are going in a bad way,” Dos Santos said to reporters. “You can say anything. I think now’s not the time to talk or make excuses. You have to keep trying, keep working and believe in ourselves.”
“You can say anything. I think now’s not the time to talk or make excuses. You have to keep trying, keep working and believe in ourselves.” Giovani dos Santos, Galaxy Designated Player
But belief can only go so far in sports. Eventually, players and coaches need to be held accountable for their success and their failures.
The bottom line is that Onalfo has done relatively little to help the situation. With Dos Santos listed as the lone striker in the formation, nothing was done to keep him high – if that was the game plan to begin with. And Onalfo did nothing to keep Jones from taking that space from Dos Santos. The Galaxy need to figure out who they want closest to the goal and keep them there. It’s not a coincidence that the Galaxy had success through Dos Santos early in the game.
And it’s not all Onalfo’s fault either. Both players, Jones and Dos Santos, seem to play where they want when they want, and neither is being put in a position to succeed by the other.
Onalfo is feeling the pressure. He’s moving things around and attempting to get more out of the offense – a Galaxy striker has not scored from the run of play this season. Perhaps, as Onalfo has suggested, the Galaxy are just tight.
“We feel pressure. So when you feel pressure, sometimes you force things and you don’t have that extra pause and that extra amount of relaxation where you just put that play away. It’s been a very frustrating and difficult start for us,” Onalfo released after the game.
“We feel pressure. So when you feel pressure, sometimes you force things and you don’t have that extra pause and that extra amount of relaxation where you just put that play away. It’s been a very frustrating and difficult start for us.” Curt Onalfo, Galaxy Head Coach
But Dos Santos is positive that things will start to turn around, and soon. “I’m trying my best. I feel great. I’ve been working a lot on my body and my fitness. I will just keep working. As I said it’s not just about one player on the team, it’s about all the team. So I’m going to try and do my best every single game and get better every single day. I know that good times will come.”
For the Galaxy and Dos Santos, they better hope that the good times begin soon. Or all the pressure they are either feeling or not feeling will begin to get people fired and benched.
And for everything he’s saying, Dos Santos is feeling more pressure than he’s letting on. “We have pressure every single game because we have to win and people respect us. We know our responsibility. We’re not playing well now, but we have to keep working.”
The Galaxy will continue “working” on Saturday, May 6, at 7:30 PM when they host the visiting Chicago Fire at StubHub Center in a bid to regain some footing in a league that is vastly superior to their current form. And Dos Santos will have another chance to find his place in this Galaxy offense that has so far eluded him this season.