Observations of a LA Galaxy supporter

Went to the LA Galaxy vs. Manchester United friendly on July 15. As a Galaxy fan since 2010, I know that these friendlies are for the European clubs to show the flag and pump up their USA fan base. I was a Galaxy fan in a sea of red!

Within a matter of minutes, LA was down a goal on a defensive turnover. The Galaxy got beat 7-0 by Manchester United in 2014; thus, this looked familiar! By half time it was 3-0 and the Galaxy had maybe one rush against the United.

Coach Onalfo played the “B” team in the first half and the “A” team in the second half. It really is a tough situation for the Galaxy as this match takes place in the middle of the season. The team is tired overall and some players are in various stages of injury – some recovering while others clearly not at 100% but playing through them.

For the “B” team, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be on the same field as players they watch on TV and in FIFA video games. For the “A” team, there is some pride on the line to not be totally embarrassed.

The difference between the two clubs can be categorized in three obvious areas: size, speed, and skill.

Size. The Galaxy players looked shorter and smaller. Man U players like Pogba, Lukaku, and Fellani, and many others made the Galaxy players look like hobbits in comparison.

Speed. If there was a loose ball, MUFC players probably got to it first 3 out 4 times. And when they had the ball at their feet, it looked like they were coasting while the Galaxy players seemed to be running full tilt just to keep up.

Skill. Manchester United players were pinging the ball all over the field and dominated possession. The Galaxy rarely strung together a few passes before kicking it out of bounds or to an open space where an MUFC players could pick it up. Even in the second half, with the Galaxy “A” team, it was pretty clear they were literally not in the same league though they put up a little better fight on defense and did have a few rushes at the goal. But a few times Jones and Van Damme were left with no alternative but to foul to stop the attacking threat.

We sat in the south end of the stadium so the swarm of red jerseys were mostly on our side of the field. In the second half, the swarm of red jerseys were attacking the other side so I occasionally had to see the action on the jumbo video screens. But hats off to the Galaxy “A” team as they put together a few good possessions and had some attacking opportunities on our side of the field. Dos Santos is the most skilled on the team and he delivered the first goal. The Galaxy got a second goal off a set piece to satisfy their pride and send the small band of Galaxy fans in the stands to the moon and with something to talk about as we headed off to the parking lot at the closing whistle.

But it was back to MLS regular season reality on Wednesday July 19 in the home match against Vancouver. The Whitecaps fielded a depleted team as many were still on international duty for Team Canada in the Gold Cup. The Galaxy fielded a stronger line-up than has been available the last few weeks so there was hopes and expectations that the Galaxy could get three points from this match. 

Alessandrini and Dos Santos have been the key players in the limited success the team has had this season. Unfortunately, both seemed to be less than 100%. Alessandrini showed some spark in the first half but by the second half, he seemed worn out (he has been recovering from injury) and was subbed out. When the Galaxy had to scramble for an equalizer in the latter part of the second half you would have expected Dos Santos to be in the mix helping to make it happen but he too seemed out of gas and out of sorts. Perhaps, the international duty training and match play took its toll as did the Manchester United friendly 4 days earlier.

Instead, much of the attack in search of the equalizer was at the feet of Lassiter and Jamieson, the young speedy players developed by LA Galaxy II our USL affiliate. They certainly have the pace to trouble defenders but the skill level simply isn’t there yet. Thus, they were unable to snatch a point with an equalizing goal.

The Galaxy brain trust has a four-legged table on which to serve up entertaining and winning soccer. 

First, they wanted to give their younger players more opportunities and that is happening but the jump from USL-level play is still a jump and it will take time to sort out which ones truly have what it takes to be prime-time MLS players. C+

Second, supplementing the youth movement is the role of the veterans such as Cole and Van Damme who have largely held up their end of their bargain. Jones has been injured and when he was playing at the beginning of the season seemed to be having trouble fitting into the flow of play. In fact, when he got injured the Galaxy went on a hot streak suggesting that Jones was a net negative when he was in the game. B-

Leg 3A is mid-priced US players such as Zardes, Lletget, and Rogers. Here is where the Galaxy has been snake-bitten with a season ending (and possibly career ending) injury to Rogers. Lletget is still rehabbing from his freak injury suffered while on USMNT duty. Zardes has gotten healthy from injury but still seems a little out of sorts though his performances in recent USMNT duty look promising. It is not the fault of players to get injured but the current grade on this leg of the Galaxy plan has to be C- or worse.

Leg 3B is mid-priced non-US players such as Pedro and Boateng and the most recently recruited van Anholt. Pedro appears to be settling in but initially when he was paired with Jones, he seemed very confused on the field. Boateng has been a bright spot with his speed gaining shots for himself and opening things up for others. We shall see if van Anholt is the solid right back they have been looking for in place of the injured Rogers. Current grade: B-

Leg 4 is the designated players. Technically Van Damme is a DP but with financial moves that spot can be opened up. Thus, Dos Santos and Alessandrini are the "true" DPs on the club. Without them (Alessandrini more so than Dos Santos so far), the Galaxy would be at the bottom of the table. Yet, the unblinking eye of the sports fan would have to say they haven’t been consistently the dominant forces on the team that instills fear into the opposing team. Current grade: B-

The Galaxy brain trust has some tough decisions to make. Do they want to try to fill the 3rd DP slot in midseason? The rumors of Zlatan were pretty fierce but it seems to have finally faded. Or should they wait until 2018 and see where they are at with the younger players?

With LAFC starting up in 2018, the LA Galaxy front office will have competition for fans in the stands, TV ratings, and merchandise sales. This year has not gone according to plan. Some of it due to injuries that can't be foreseen. But in the end, part of building a club is not only getting high level talent but enough mid-level talent to navigate fixture congestion and weather injuries that are inevitable in a long season.

We shall see. Go Galaxy!

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