Can Julian Araujo and Efrain Alvarez be the difference in turning this LA Galaxy season around?
The LA Galaxy were flying high as recently as a month ago with a six-game unbeaten streak that resulted in a steady and inexorable climb up the MLS Western Conference standings.
But that was then and this is now. The Galaxy suddenly are mired in a five-game winless streak (0-4-1) as they prepare for Wednesday’s clash with the Portland Timbers at Dignity Health Sports Park (7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet).
These clearly are not the best of times for the Galaxy (4-7-3, 15 points), who are tied with Vancouver for last place in the West. And they don’t figure to get any easier with Portland (7-4-3, second in the West) in town and midfielder Jonathan dos Santos and right back Rolf Feltscher away on international duties with Mexico and Venezuela, respectively.
But there could be some hope for a team that badly needs some. Promising youngsters Efrain Alvarez and Julian Araujo are expected to replace the aforementioned duo, and Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto is confident they will rise to the challenge.
“I think they’re ready to play,” he told reporters Tuesday. “They are very young, but they have a lot of quality to make some difference.”
Araujo, in particular, has looked especially polished in a number of his nine appearances this season, but he also has had his share of on-field discipline problems. The 19-year-old, for example, was issued a second yellow card during a recent loss to Colorado and was red-carded for his reaction to the call by referee Ted Unkel. That forced him to miss the following match against Real Salt Lake. Araujo then missed last weekend’s 2-1 loss to San Jose because of yellow-card accumulation.
Araujo, by the way, has five yellow cards this season, tops on the team.
“He has to learn about that,” Schelotto said of the cautions. “When he’s on the field he gives a lot of attitude. He’s so fast and growing. He’s a young player, but he looks like a professional and he fights like I want everyone to fight.
“I’m very happy with him and that he’s on the field again.”
He certainly will be needed against the Timbers, who are led by Diego Valeri’s six goals and Sebastian Blanco’s five assists. Portland also is on a three-game winning streak for the third time this season and are the league’s highest-scoring road team at 2.4 goals a game. Colorado, at 2.2 goals per away match, is second.
Schelotto admitted his team understandably is getting frustrated with its recent form. They have been outscored 9-2 during their current dry spell.
“Yes, there’s frustration when you don’t win,” he said. “You play to win. Every time you don’t win you feel frustrated. But we have a lot of confidence for the game tomorrow.
“It’s a big rival … I hope tomorrow we play well and get three points. It will be very important.”