CARSON, Calif. — The injuries continue to rack up for the LA Galaxy and they’re only in the second game of a very long season.
Perry Kitchen (ankle), and Romain Alessandrini (hamstring) won’t be traveling to Frisco, Texas on Friday as the Galaxy get ready for a Saturday match against FC Dallas (0-0-1) at Toyota Stadium (12:30 p.m. PST, Univision, UniMás).
And there are also serious concerns surrounding Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a sore Achilles that he complained about after the first game of the season – a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire in which Ibrahimovic scored the game-winning goal. Ibrahimovic hasn’t trained with the Galaxy this week and seems unlikely to travel for the game this weekend.
To make matters worse, the Galaxy haven’t beaten Dallas since August of 2015, when Galaxy Legend Robbie Keane scored two second-half goals just five minutes apart to lead the club to a 2-1 road victory. And the Galaxy have beaten Dallas just nine times in 36 tries in Texas (9-20-7) even if they hold the overall series lead at 33-27-12.
But the good news is that the Galaxy (1-0-0) will have their newest signing available, midfielder Joe Corona, and are likely to get Sebastian Lletget back into the lineup as well. Lletget had been sidelined with a hamstring injury since he returned from U.S. Men’s National Team training deep into the preseason and forced him to be unavailable for the season-opener.
That should allow the Galaxy to flood the midfield with talented and creative players. And it likely pairs Lletget and Corona in the center with Jonathan dos Santos backing them both up.
For his part, Corona thinks he’ll fit comfortably into the formation — whatever Guillermo Barros Schelotto demands of him.
“We talked a little bit of what position I feel more comfortable playing in,” he explained “He wants me to be a midfielder that can help going forward and also defensively, so I’ll try to do my best. Kind of a number eight, yeah. I’ve played in different positions, so I feel pretty comfortable playing a five, a six.”
If the situation allows for it, Lletget, Corona, and Dos Santos would be the strongest midfield triangle the Galaxy has put together in quite some time. And that could force Dallas outside where the Galaxy might be able to match their speedy offense.
Chris Pontius – sometimes a midfielder, sometimes a forward – will pick up the torch for Ibrahimovic, with the likelihood that Emil Cuello, Efrain Alvarez, and possibly newly signed Homegrown player Ethan Zubak, will back up that striker position.
Filling in for Alessandrini, Uriel Antuna will take up the right flank while Emmanuel Boateng slides into the starting lineup and guards the left wing of the midfield. This means the Galaxy will have their fastest players on the field and that should alleviate some of the worries with Dallas’ straight line and technical speed coming from Michael Barrios and Dominique Badji.
The Galaxy defense allowed five shots on goal against Chicago, with goalkeeper David Bingham making four of those saves. But they’ll need to do better and focus on defending the edges of the box without allowing Dallas room to pass around the defense.
Diego Polenta, Dan Steres, Rolf Feltscher, and Jorgen Skjelvik will reprise their roles on defense with Feltscher being the player who needs the biggest improvement over last week’s victory.
Both Skjelvik and Feltscher are important to the Galaxy’s attack, but Dallas’ strengths lie in their ability to counter quickly. So forrays forward from either outside back will need to be covered by the midfield — particularly dos Santos — or the Galaxy will simply need to sit back more and try to generate set-piece scoring chances.
Using the bodies of Polenta, Steres, Skjelvik, and Pontius to overmatch a smaller more technical style of play. The focus for the Galaxy needs to be on generating these set-piece opportunities by drawing fouls and creating corner kicks. That’s where both Antuna and Boateng can really stretch the field, get deep into the corners and force Dallas to foul or clear the ball over the end line.
It’s going to be a tough go for the Galaxy. They’re likely missing two Designated Players and their offense wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders before Ibrahimovic and Alessandrini got injured.
With wet weather expected, and the ever-present “weird things happen Dallas,” a single point would be great work from this Galaxy team.