Steve Carrillo

Frustrated LA Galaxy will face defensively sound FC Dallas without Giovani dos Santos

The LA Galaxy are frustrated, that much is clear. And they’re hoping to end that frustration when they travel to take on FC Dallas on Saturday afternoon in Frisco, Texas (12:30 PM Pacific, Univision).

But they’ll need to do it without Giovani dos Santos who did not travel with the team to Dallas on Thursday afternoon due to an apparent illness or injury.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Galaxy defender Dave Romney told reporters after training on Thursday. “We’re not getting killed, we’re just finding ways to lose. That’s a habit we have to break now or it’s going to be with us the rest of the season.”

And Romney is right.

The Galaxy (3-5-1) are in 8th place in the Western Conference and are losers in four of their last five games – having been outscored 10 to 4 in those games. They most recently lost back-to-back games by a score of the 3-2 to the Houston Dynamo and New York Red Bulls.

But the way they’re losing is another important issue to ponder.

The club has now allowed the first goal in six of their nine games they’ve played this year and hold a record of 1-5-0 in those same six games. Their only win coming after going down 3-0 to LAFC in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

During that stretch, they’ve allowed early goals to Houston (2′), New York Red Bulls (7′), Atlanta United (22′), Sporting KC (56′), LAFC (5′), and New York City FC (22′).

All goals coming early in the first or second half with the game-winner for the Dynamo coming past the 90th-minute. In total, the club has allowed seven goals in the first 15 minutes of either half.

“Every loss doesn’t feel good,” Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters. “But certainly losing on a late goal when you’ve fought to come back and equalize hits you a little bit.

“We’ve still got a long ways to go in the season and what’s important is we start playing better and better and we’re playing our best soccer at the end of the season.”

Dallas (3-1-4) on the other hand, is the proud owner of the league’s best defense. They’ve allowed just seven goals on the season and are sitting proudly tied for third in the Western Conference with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

They’re backed by goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer who has three shutouts and a 0.88 goals-against average in 2018 which puts him in second overall in the league just behind Colorado’s Tim Howard (0.86 GAA).

LA Galaxy vs FC Dallas Saturday March 4, 2017. Photo by Steve Carrillo

On the offensive side of things, Dallas hasn’t been as sharp. Their offense is ranked 16th in the league and has scored just 11 goals – one less than the Galaxy’s offense in one less game. Both Roland Lamah and Maxi Urruti are tied with the club lead in goals at three each, and Lamah leads the team in assists as well (3).

Colombian Santiago Mosquera may help to elevate the offense and has a goal and an assist in each of his last two games and should cause trouble for the Galaxy’s weather-weary defense.

Temperatures for the match are expected to top the mid 90’s on Saturday and the afternoon kick has more than the players a little worried.

“Obviously, the conditions are what they are,” Schmid explained to some laughter. “I don’t know why the league always insists on afternoon games in Dallas. They do. It’s difficult, but it’s something we have to endure and they have to endure. And for us right now it’s just about us and playing well.”

The weather will be so warm that both teams are expecting some hydration breaks as mandated by the league and the match officials when the temperature reaches a certain threshold.

“We’re working hard every day, they’re fantastic guys,” Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic smiled. “We just need to find the small details that make a big difference. Slowly it’s getting better.”

But the Galaxy may be running out of time. Already entering the 10th game of the year, and hitting the second difficult game of the three-game road-trip, the Galaxy need to find results.

“It’s very important,” Romney added. “We’re playing two good teams coming up, so this is going to be a big test. These two games could shape how the rest of the season goes. We definitely have to get points out of these next two.”

And for Ibrahimovic, a man who’s entire soccer-playing career has revolved around winning, this stretch of bad form, bad play, and losses are almost unfathomable. But he seems to be taking it as some sort of personal burden – a test.

“It’s a new situation for me,” he explained. “Absolutely. I like the challenge, the different challenge compared to the other ones I’ve had. And I like it. So let’s resolve this one also.”

The Galaxy will need to get some points from Dallas before entering a stretch of more-winnable games. Even though their next trip will include the nearly six-hour flight from Los Angeles to Montreal, Canada.

Jonathan dos Santos is expected to be available for the starting lineup on Saturday and should be available to fill in for his brother.

Schmid might have thought about getting creative with his two strikers if Giovani dos Santos was going to reprise his role as the playmaker but will now reserve any creative formations for when the team gets it’s superstars back from the World Cup.

The Galaxy are likely to fall back into a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 pairing Jonathan dos Santos with Perry Kitchen and moving Lletget out to the left wing as they did earlier this year.

Regardless, Giovani dos Santos had two goals and two assists in his last two games and was starting to find some chemistry with Kamara and Ibrahimovic. This will be the fifth missed game of the season for Giovani dos Santos out of 10 played.

The Galaxy need wins. And it isn’t just a simple matter of getting three points in Dallas against a stingy defense. They also need to resurrect some of their lost points at home by winning games on the road.

When Schmid was asked if a win in Dallas would turn things around, his answer was simple.

“We need a couple of wins to get us turned around and moving in the other direction.”