CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy want to forget about Saturday’s loss to the San Jose Earthquakes. And the scheduling gods at Major League Soccer are keen to oblige, in this situation.
The Galaxy (10-7-1; 31 pts.), losers of their last three home games, will face Toronto FC on Thursday night (7:30 p.m.; SpectrumSN), to keep the club’s July 4th holiday streak going. It will be the 23rd consecutive year that the Galaxy host the holiday fireworks spectacular, and it comes at a time that the club needs points, and needs to find wins with players absent to both injury and international duty.
Toronto (6-7-5; 23 pts.) comes off of two good performances in beating Atlanta United and drawing with DC United – two top-tier teams in the Eastern Conference. But they’ll also be without some key players due to international call-ups. US Men’s National Team members Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley will both miss the game as they’ll play against Jamaica on Wednesday night in the semi-finals of the Gold Cup.
Below, we’ll highlight the three big storylines that we’ll be watching for this match.
INJURIES AND ABSENCES
The Galaxy will start this game missing as many as seven players for this match with both injuries and call ups.
Jonathan dos Santos and Uriel Antuna are still with Mexico as they’ve made it to the Gold Cup Final. They’re not expected back until the July 12th matchup with the San Jose Earthquakes.
On the injury front, the Galaxy will be without Designated Player Romain Alessandrini (knee), Sebastian Lletget (pelvis), Chris Pontius (hamstring), and Rolf Feltscher who has returned from Copa America with another injury.
Feltscher trained on Tuesday but didn’t fully participate and isn’t expected to be available for Thursday night.
And with the injuries to Pontius and Lletget and the absence of Antuna, the Galaxy have no one to dress in that right midfield role.
That could mean a change of shape for Head Coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto and a different look from the Galaxy.
Following along with the absences, the Galaxy are lacking in creative options. While they managed six shots on goal in the loss to the Earthquakes, they never looked very dangerous. They’ve scored seven goals in their last eight games, but haven’t run up the score on a single opponent this year.
The reliance on Ibrahimovic, who tied his second-longest goalscoring drought since joining the Galaxy (two games), is both predictable and boring. And without another creative presence on the ball, the Galaxy have lacked the final cross or shot.
This may open the door to Favio Alvarez having a big night, or it could mean calling upon Emil Cuello or Efrain Alvarez for a spark in the dark offensive night for the Galaxy.
PATIENCE IS KEY
The Galaxy are 9-0-0 when scoring the first goal of the game and just 1-7-0 when allowing the first goal.
The club is fragile. It lacks the discipline to be able to press forward for a goal without throwing lopsided numbers on the attack. And when it does attack with full-force, it leaves the defense open to counter attacks.
Without Antuna to balance an attack that will rely on the speed of Emmanuel Boateng and the size and technical ability of Ibrahimovic, the Galaxy will see half-chances created, but rarely finished.
Waiting for the right moment against a Toronto team that can be suspect at the back, will be the most critical point for the game.
And the Galaxy can’t allow the first goal. They have to keep the game in front of them. Which also means being smart with the ball, and finding good, safe outlets for the build-up.
Or, they could throw everything forward in the opening minutes and see how many goals they score before parking the bus. That seems a likely option as well.