Injuries hit the LA Galaxy hard and Vanney is confident that players are being put in the right position to score.
There is no question the LA Galaxy are much improved from a year ago, but as with any renovation project, there have been glitches in the reconstruction process.
One of them is putting the ball in the back of the net on a consistent basis, something which the five-time MLS Cup champions definitely lacked in last Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City at Dignity Health Sports Park. Head coach Greg Vanney understandably sounded some concern about it as his club prepared for Wednesday’s match against visiting FC Dallas (7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet).
“It’s the process of us improving as a team, understanding our principles, the relationships on the field continuing to improve, the ball moving faster, the trust in each other, the awareness of each other,” Vanney told reporters Tuesday. “For me, that was one of the best games that we’ve had from that side of it. Us recognizing and really playing in our principles and creating the scenarios we want to create and creating more chances.
“I don’t know if we’ve had a game where we created more good chances than the other night against a very good opponent, by the way. Not just against some opponent.”
The Galaxy (7-4-0) out-shot Kansas City 18-12 and finished with seven shots on target.
“From my perspective, from a process standpoint, I saw a lot of positives the other night,” he continued. “As long as we keep playing we’re going to create very good, very clear chances. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Two players who are creating such chances — but have little if anything to show for their efforts — are Samuel Grandsir and Kevin Cabral. The recent roster additions continue to have their dangerous moments but can’t get the final touch for a goal. Vanney isn’t especially concerned about them, but he also wouldn’t be surprised if some frustration has started to set in among the duo.
“I think they’re progressing in terms of their play,” Vanney said. “Cabral is often in some of the best positions for us to score goals. He’s had some of our best chances in the last few games. For one reason or another, he just hasn’t. He hasn’t been fortunate or executed well enough to put the ball in the back of the net.
“The most important thing is he’s getting chances, he’s getting to those spots and he’s showing he can be a dangerous player. If you don’t get to the spots, you’re never going to score. As I said to him today, I want him to relax a little bit in his mind, take the stress off. The ball will hit the back of the net.
“If he can find that right balance, the ball is going to hit the back of the net,” Vanney went on. “He’ll take a deep breath and things will start to flow. He’s creating havoc, he’s in good spots.”
Vanney said he was impressed with Grandsir’s performance against Sporting Kansas City.
“I thought Sam’s game last game was one of the best he’s had,” Vanney said. “He showed real directness and some speed. I think we needed to get him on the ball a little bit more, recognizing that was a matchup that we could really expose if we could keep putting him in those situations. He strikes the ball with a lot of power, he can release quickly, he can do a lot of things that can help him be a goal scorer in this league.”
Vanney said it’s only a matter of time before the Frenchmen break loose in the goal column.
“They’re going to find their way,” he said, “and when the ball hits the back of the net they’re going to start to find a rhythm and feel a lot more comfortable and confident. I think both of their games are on the rise, they’re fitting in with the team.
“They give us something different, something that really stretches the opposition and forces those gaps to open up.”
It’s not surprising to find the Galaxy are not faring particularly well on the injury front.
For starters there is Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, MLS’ leading goal scorer who aggravated an old calf injury during warmups before last Sunday’s match and “probably won’t be available tomorrow,” Vanney said.
“But it’s nothing that’s too bad,” Vanney added. “I know last year he had some issues with it and there was a little bit of concern but nothing that we’re seeing that’s anything long-term. By the time we return to games hopefully he’ll be good by then.”
Center back Sega Coulibaly, who suffered an abductor injury Sunday, still was experiencing some tightness a day later and, according to Vanney, is “very questionable” for the Dallas game. Center back Dan Steres continues to recover from a hamstring injury and will not be available. Neither will defender Danilo Acosta, who has been out with a stress reaction in his foot.
The lack of depth at center back — Giancarlo Gonzalez, for example, is with the Costa Rican national team in the Gold Cup and Derrick Williams will finish his six-game suspension Wednesday — means defensive midfielder Rayan Raveloson likely will see more duty on the back line.
“That’s one of our options,” Vanney said. “He has done that in the past and as we saw the other night, he was fairly comfortable in the situation. We’re a touch thin and we’re working through our different thoughts for the game tomorrow.”
The Galaxy will be facing an FC Dallas team that is winless in four road games and has been outscored 9-1 in those losses. The lone goal was by Ricardo Pipo, Dallas’ leading scorer with five goals, in a 3-1 loss at San Jose on April 24.
Dallas is 2-4-5 for 11 points, tied for 11th in the Western Conference with San Jose, but it does boast a 2-1 victory over New England, pace-setters in the East. Dallas also is unbeaten in its last two games (1-0-1).
Right-back Julian Araujo, who Vanney said should be ready to go despite suffering a bone bruise on his ankle Sunday, signed a 4 1/2-year contract extension with the club on Tuesday.
Vanney said the deal gives the club “long-term planning with him.”
“He fits our plan,” he said of the talented 19-year-old. “Julian fits in that profile and that mold as a guy that if he’s here for the long haul that’s fantastic for us. If not, that’s great for everybody included.
“It’s the idea that we want to be successful year in and year out and not just go for one year at a time. We’re investing our time and energy in a group that we believe can be together for some time and grow together.”
There have been various reports of late linking Welsh international Gareth Bale with the Galaxy – something Corner of the Galaxy has been saying didn’t carry any truth. Vanney all but discounted such news and went so far as saying Bale would not be an ideal fit in the club’s long-range plans.
“I think it’s an interesting rumor,” Vanney said. “To me, there’s nothing to it. Obviously, he’s a good player, a fantastic player and I’m sure a player who probably has some interest in Los Angeles as a destination and a place to be, but for us, it doesn’t fit the direction that we’re going with our group.
“While I’m sure he would help our team it’s just not the direction we’re going right now.”