The LA Galaxy are searching for something that, at least so far, hasn’t been attainable: consistency. The club has failed to put together two starting lineups that are the same all year, and they’ve seen early-season injuries decimate a team full of talent and severely lacking on familiarity.
So when they travel to Texas to face-off against the Houston Dynamo (5:30 p.m. PT, SpectrumSN and SpectrumDeportes) in the first of their three-game road trip, they’re hoping a recent string of bad luck suddenly turns around.
For their part, the Dynamo (2-3-2) are coming off a 2-1 loss at Minnesota United and hold just a 2-2-0 record at home. They currently sit in the eighth spot in the Western Conference and are two points behind the Galaxy with one game in-hand.
The Galaxy (3-4-1) have yet to establish an attacking identity. Blame some of that on injuries, some of it on new players, and some of it on Galaxy Head Coach Sigi Schmid who has been experimenting with different formations since superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived from Manchester United.
But Schmid may have finally settled on a 4-3-3 formation that slings striker Ola Kamara to the left-hand side and allows Ibrahimovic to play in the center. This also pushes Frenchman Romain Alessandrini further up the field and gets three dangerous attackers into the box.
“I think it fits us better,” Ibrahimovic told reporters about the team’s formation. “But it’s up to the coach to choose how he wants to play – which tactics to use. And I think a good team can adjust from every type. It’s all about the 11 players that go on the field. So it’s up to them to make it work.”
In their controversial 3-2 loss to New York Red Bulls last weekend, six Galaxy attackers could be found lining up to overload the New York defense. And in total, the Galaxy put four balls in the back of the net – with only two of them counting towards the final score.
“I think we were unlucky in this last game,” Schmid told reporters after training. “I think we had opportunities. We had a goal called back earlier which yeah, he was offsides on. We had a couple of really good chances early in the game. I know they had one off the post, but we had Ibra’s goal that would have put us up.”
But in the minds of the players, getting healthy and staying healthy so that the team can begin to develop some chemistry is most important.
“What we need now is games,” Ibrahimovic said. And we need to win those games.”
“Confidence is something that comes with wins,” Schmid added. “So getting wins will help our confidence.
“The other factor for us is just getting a stable situation in terms of a lineup and also in terms of, ‘OK, this is how we’re going to play.’ We’ve run through different things, we’ve experimented with different ways. We’ve got to push forward with how we think is the best way for us to play.”
The Galaxy should once again start defenders Dave Romney at right back in place of the injured Rolf Feltscher (out four months with a torn pectoral muscle) and Michael Ciani in the center of defense. That will leave Jorgen Skjelvik and Ashley Cole to fill the balance of the defensive responsibilities.
Sebastian Lletget and Perry Kitchen will also reprise their roles as facilitators in the midfield with Giovani dos Santos pressing up higher than both of them to connect with the three forwards.
Jonathan dos Santos, who is questionable for the match, could see some late-game minutes as he makes his way back from a calf injury that was sustained in pre-game warmups before the loss to Atlanta United on April 21. But there is no guarantee that he’ll even travel with the team.
The Galaxy, defensively, will need to be wary of a talented Dynamo group that can attack in a hurry.
Alberth Elis and Mauro Manotas lead they Dynamo in goals with four each and Elis also holds the team lead in assists (4). Elis had the Dynamo’s only goal in their loss last weekend, and the club as a whole outshot Minnesota by a total of 19 to six.
In trying to throw the Dynamo off the Galaxy will need to worry about transitions – that three to five seconds after a turnover in a dangerous space.
Throughout the early part of the season, the Galaxy have been out of position or behind the pace of the game when they’ve turned the ball over. But Schmid says they’ve focused on that in training and they’re hopeful they’ve put an end to being beaten during this critical phase of a game.
The Galaxy will need to put all their focus on this game. Next week, they’ll return to Texas to take on FC Dallas. Then they’ll make a nearly 6.5-hour flight to Montreal the following week.
It won’t get any easier as they embark on this journey. But the club is hopeful that when they return to StubHub Center to host the San Jose Earthquakes on May 25, that this team will understand who they are, and what they can do as a unit.
If they can’t figure it out during this stretch of games, it will only make the questions fans and pundits are currently whispering to each other get louder. And if that’s the case, the Galaxy will have a bigger problem on their hand than just not winning games.
Larry Morgan contributed to this article.