Steve Carrillo

Preview: Galaxy positioned to take down Cincinnati on the road

CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy are licking they’re wounds after a brutal 4-0 defeat to the Portland Timbers on Wednesday night in the fifth round of the US Open Cup.

But it was a game that Galaxy Head Coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto wasn’t choosing to focus on. Instead, he shifted the conversation to the weekend and the Galaxy’s return to MLS play, as the real focus of the club.

They’ll now travel to Ohio and take on FC Cincinnati (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. PT; SpectrumSN) who has won just once in their last 10 games and are looking for just their third win in the last eight games for the Galaxy.

But the Galaxy (9-6-1; 28 pts), as well as Cincinnati (3-11-2; 11 pts), will be shorthanded as they approach the game. The Galaxy will be without Jonathan dos Santos (Mexico), Uriel Antuna (Mexico), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Costa Rica), and Rolf Feltscher (Venezuela) while Cincinnati will be missing Kendall Waston (Costa Rica), Allan Cruz (Costa Rica), Emery Welshman (Guyana), Alvas Powell (Jamaica), and Darron Mattocks (Jamaica). In total, the two clubs will be down nine combined players, before looking at the injury report.

The Galaxy rested several starters for the midweek match with Portland and should have a refreshed side ready to take on Cincinnati. Just Emmanuel Boateng, Perry Kitchen, and Dan Steres are likely to have to start both games. And Chris Pontius, and Diego Polenta – both of whom made substitute appearances in the Open Cup game – are likely to get the Saturday nod after making appearances in the second half of the last game.

The big key for the Galaxy, missing six starters with both international duty and injuries combined (Romain Alessandrini and Sebastian Lletget), will be how the backups can fill those positions. And how they handle both the turf and the soldout crowd of more than 32,000 at Nippert Stadium.

And while it’s true that Lletget, who missed a call-up with the US National Team because of an injury, is back to training this week, it’s unlikely he returns for this match — targeting instead, the Galaxy’s next game in Palo Alto against the San Jose Earthquakes.

The Galaxy will need to lean on the offensive pairing of Favio Alvarez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The two have been close to perfecting that pairing in the last couple of games, but haven’t had the breakout the team is expecting. If those two players can start to get on the same page, especially against a struggling opponent, the Galaxy could be off to the races in this match.

“I expect to win that because we saved a lot of players for that game with Cincinnati,” Schelotto told reporters after the game on Wednesday.

“But we are talking about the game today, and I am a little angry because we need to fight more. We need to have a better attitude. When you are playing for the Galaxy, you have to feel the honor to be here.”

The Galaxy currently sit second in the Western Conference and third in the overall league standings. Cincinnati sits dead last in both the conference and the league as the MLS sides first-year struggles become more and more apparent. And their minus-19 goal differential is a big reason for their struggles. While they’ve had some success generating offense, the defense has given up the second most goals in the league (33 goals).

The Galaxy are looking at a full three points on Saturday. But whether they fit the mold of what Schelotto is looking for – a better attitude, more fight, and understanding the weight of playing for the club – will undoubtedly be felt in the final scoreline of the game.