CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy closed out their 2019 preseason schedule with a 3-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids on a cold Saturday night at Dignity Health Sports Park.
But the loss isn’t the most concerning item of interest. Instead, it’s the continuously deteriorating health of the club as they quickly approach the start of the season.
Jonathan dos Santos (precautionary), Perry Kitchen (right ankle), Sebastian Lletget (right hamstring), Juninho (knee), and Giovani dos Santos (muscle injury) all missed the match. And starting goalkeeper David Bingham, who played every minute of every game last season, exited the game with a head injury in the 17-minute after making a save with his face on a Kellyn Acosta shot.
The injuries have made a once-deep central midfield very thin. And the starting pairing of unsigned draft pick Emil Cuello and Servando Carrasco were overrun for most of the match.
“Today we did not play well,” Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto told reporters after the game. “Sometimes when you play bad, the other team pressures you, and they get the ball, and they get the game.
“It’s sometimes good that it happens before the season, because in the season we don’t get a rematch,” he continued. “But now, we have a week to figure out some problems we had today and get ready for our Saturday game against the Chicago Fire.”
Additionally, a solid preseason by the defense was upended by a highly inconsistent night that saw the Galaxy concede three goals and look lost for large portions of the match. Most of that can be pinned on the ineffective move of Cuello deeper into the midfield, but the spacing jumped wildly at times with defenders failing to close space and mark attackers throughout the run.
Skjelvik was victimized first with a headed goal by Rapids forward Kei Kamara in the 42-minute of the match. The first half saw possession tilt in favor of Colorado, but the Galaxy, specifically in the last 15 minutes of the half, were starting to apply pressure. It was a good inside-out run that found Skjelvik trailing Kamara as he easily got to the ball first and headed past substitute goalkeeper Matt Lampson.
“It was definitely a setback for us,” Skjelvik explained. “We didn’t play well enough both offensively and defensively. We didn’t have the ball as much as we wanted to, and Colorado pretty much ran the whole first half and at the end they got the goal.”
In total, Colorado launched 12 shots on goal in the first half – enroute to 20 shots overall on the night – with six of those either forcing a save or finding the back of the net.
On the flip side, the Galaxy only managed 10 shots total with just four forcing a save from Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard. And the anemic preseason offense of the Galaxy continued even with the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ola Kamara who had both missed three of the last four preseason matches.
Ibrahimovic’s lone goal of the preseason came on a header in the 77-minute of the match thanks to a left-footed cross from Manchester City loanee Uriel Antuna. Kamara and Ibrahimovic did well to vary their positioning on the night and, along with Romain Alessandrini, Antuna, Skjelvik, and Feltscher, provided many opportunities from the outside wings. But the finishing touch and the setup pass were missing the mark even while the creativity was there.
“Every game counts,” Ibrahimovic confessed. “We learn from the mistakes we do, and we are here to develop, to progress. Every game counts, even if it’s a friendly we have to do better because you prepare for the real game so we’re working hard and hopefully we learn from this mistake.”
Diego Polenta seems to be finding his footing on the backline with partner Daniel Steres and, under Schelotto, seems to have been given the chance to move forward freely while easing himself into the attack.
Steres, however, will wish the game ended about five minutes earlier, as a frantic push by the Galaxy to get back into the game after Ibrahimovic’s goal, was derailed by poor timing on a bad turn that led to an easy giveaway and goal for Colorado in the 85-minute to put the game out of touch.
But outside of the giveaway, Steres was a solid partner for Polenta and the two kept more than a few chances from developing because of the porous midfield.
The Galaxy now have one week to fix the problems that have thrown the modest re-build of the roster into question. Surely the team is still grasping at the overall ideas behind Schelotto’s tactics, but positive momentum throughout the offseason has come to halt after Saturday’s results.
And trying to predict whether or not the Galaxy will be able to use this as a teachable moment is nearly impossible.
Preseason result don’t matter. That is until they do. And the loss to the Rapids was eerily reminiscent of exactly what had plagued the Galaxy for most of 2018.