It’s not the start the LA Galaxy (1-0-0) were hoping for – off the field that is.
Coming off a 2-1 victory over the Portland Timbers the Galaxy should be riding high. But instead, they’re searching their pockets for an extra midfielder or two as Romain Alessandrini has been ruled out of Sunday’s clash with New York City FC (1-0-0), and Chris Pontius, who was a game-time decision, didn’t travel with the club. Add to that the preseason concussion of midfielder Bradford Jamieson IV and suddenly they’re running out of bodies.
GAME INFO: New York City FC vs LA Galaxy, Sunday, March 11, 2 p.m. PT
TV INFO: Spectrum SportsNet, Spectrum Deportes
This leaves the Galaxy, who see the midfield as their deepest position, in somewhat of a conundrum concerning who will start against New York and who may be forced into a starting role earlier than previously planned.
Let’s start with Alessandrini, who is no small loss. In 2017, he was voted by the media as the team MVP, scored 13 goals, and assisted on 12 others in his debut campaign for the Galaxy. He’s persistent in attack and is generally the most dangerous offensive player on the field. His presence alone makes the opposing team plan differently for him. So his absence is immediately felt.
While defense isn’t always on his mind, he’s also a considerable deterrent for teams who are looking to attack the right side where MLS and Galaxy newcomer Rolf Feltscher is still settling into his right-back role.
If everyone was healthy, the first choice to replace Alessandrini would probably be Jamieson. But his concussion has kept him far away from the playing field this season. Second would be Pontius. But with a “knock” that was picked up in Sunday’s win, And the fact he didn’t travel, means he’s out, as well!
The Galaxy have another piece to this puzzle, though. And that’s Sebastian Lletget. Lletget, who is coming off a 2017 season that saw him play in only three games because of a broken foot, is almost back to full fitness. But he’s still not ready for 90-minutes of play, and so far the coaching staff has been very slow and precise with the minutes they’ve allowed him.
If Galaxy Head Coach Sigi Schmid decides to start Lletget, he knows he’ll need a sub in the 45-60 minute range. And if that’s the case, wouldn’t he be better to have come off the bench? There’s no doubt that Lletget is eventually a starter in this midfield, but would Sunday be too soon?
And for the Galaxy, the injury problems aren’t the only issues they’ll have to deal with on Sunday. NYCFC plays on the smallest field in the league. LA Times Reporter and CoG Co-Host Kevin Baxter relayed that the field at Yankee Stadium – yes that Yankee Stadium – is only 68 yards wide by 106 yards long. Whereas the field at StubHub Center is 75 by 120 yards in width and length.
That’s a reduction of over 16,000 square feet and usually makes the tight confines in the outfield of Yankee Stadium, play more like pinball and less like the beautiful game.
The Galaxy are faced with many issues on their first road-trip of 2018. Injuries and small fields are all factors that must be accounted for. But big decisions will have to be made about the long-term benefit of any drastic move. And it’s the overall health of the club that Schmid must get right. The major reason for 2017’s lowest of lows was due to injuries. And the Galaxy can’t afford to re-live those days.
Alessandrini is out. That’s not at question here. But starting Lletget in cold conditions, on a small baseball field, and expecting 45-minutes out of him might be too much. But that may be the only choice left to Schmid outside of starting Baggio Husidic on the wing.
New York is a good team. They have world-class talent in David Villa and a very capable offense that was able to put two goals on Sporting Kansas away from home last weekend. They’ll be missing Maximé Chanot, who picked up a red card in the previous game, but they should feel more than comfortable facing an Alessandrini-less Galaxy.
Ola Kamara will be given his first chance to shine without Alessandrini and Giovani dos Santos has something to prove after getting pulled by Sigi Schmid in in the 70th-minute of the last game. While Schmid maintains it was for fitness reasons, Dos Santos’ poor performance says otherwise.
Schmid will also have to decide if Michael Ciani is going to be his starting center-back or if Daniel Steres still has a shot at the position. The defensive unit, as a whole, still remains much of a question mark.
The bottom line is that it’s early in the season. Schmid seems ready to start a cautious group that will still protect the upcoming season. And with two weeks following Sunday’s matchup, the Galaxy will be given a chance to get fully healthy before they head to the carpet in Vancouver.
TRAVEL DELAYS: UNEXPECTED STOP
To ensure this was a trip that wouldn’t soon be forgotten, the team’s flight, destined for New York from Los Angeles International Airport, was re-rerouted to Las Vegas after a passenger suffered a medical emergency.
As told by LAGalaxy.com’s Adam Serrano, Galaxy trainers, and a doctor who was onboard, helped to resuscitate the woman as the plane made its way toward McCarran International Airport.
Woman was taken to a local hospital by paramedics upon landing in Las Vegas.