Overall I thought this weekend's match against FC Dallas was something to take away as a positive. We did seem to control large portions of the match and did look dangerous in the attack. You can see how if given time to jell and we get (and stay) healthy this team appears to have what it takes to compete in the league perhaps not for the Supporters Shield but we should be in the MLS Cup playoffs.
By and large the Galaxy dominated the game, the way that we've come to expect a home team in MLS to dominate: possesion, passes completed, shots all in favor of the Galaxy. You can check out the stats from MLS here.
Dallas was simply in form and clinical with their chances. That is fully because of the way they trained this offseason being in Argentina preparing for a CCL cup run while we are missing three key starters our new midfield has only been playing together since the first full week of February and our new DP winger has only been with the team for a little over two weeks.
While I am a firm believer in the statistical revolution (I came of age as an avid NBA fan during the advanced stats revolution of the mid to late 'aughts) the eye test does still have merit. This Galaxy team has holes add to that the usual early season problems and you begin to see a few warning signs.
First, we don't have a single starting caliber outside back on the team at the moment. In fact we're starting a central midfielder and reserve at outside back. I understand we are dealing with injuries but this is exactly why there is so much fan consternation at the AJ Delagarza trade, we know Robbie Rogers has a long injury history and we know that Ashley Cole is thirty six, and while I have no problem with Dave Romney as a reserve or even as a spot starter, the stated goal is playoffs and a sixth MLS cup, we will not achieve that without at least one experienced MLS defender as a spot starter/reserve. Yes, play the kids and develop your academy players but you have to have smart depth to split the time. That said, Rafa actually does look solid defensively as a right back. He's perhaps a bit shorter than you want and doesn't have the best recovery speed but he's an intelligent physical defender who spent most of the US Open cup run last year at right back the problem for me is on offense. Presently, we lack width from the outside backs and that is causing spacing issues. If we just had one of Rogers or Cole available this would less of an issue. As it is neither Rafa nor Romney are starters on a playoff team. Romney is really more of a tweener he's not quite fast enough to be an outside back and not quite big and physical enough to be a center back (but he can play both which is what makes him a solid reserve). Also, it seems that offensively we are having some holdover problems from last season, our loan goal come from a (very light) penalty and not from the run of play. Again, it's early things will develop but it's something to keep an eye on.
Speaking of our youth Jack McBean looked solid as a center forward, he had several absolutely fantastic combinations with Giovani Dos Santos and generally held the ball up well and gave his team a chance to get into dangerous positions against one of the best center back tandems in the league in Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman. The problem was that after he laid the ball off to a Giovani or Romain Alessandrini he didn't make the supporting run, that will come with time and experience. Ariel Lassiter came into the game and looked dangerous (after we pulled a completely gassedAlessandrini) he didn't finish his chances but he was there to help create a couple last ditch chances on goal. You really can't expect much more than that with more time and experience he'll finish those chances. We've seen it with Los Dos and I believe he has the talent to do it at the MLS level as well.
Something I am troubled about is the tactical decision late in the second half to either move Sebastian Lletget to right back or switch to 3-5-2 and play Lletget as some sort of wing back. Look I understand the need to get an extra attacker on the field and perhaps get an equalizer but switching to an unpracticed formation and playing a Lletget so far out of his natural position doesn't make sense to me (there were a few moments on the field where it was obvious that Lletget was having to ask JVD where he needed to be). I had huge issues with the USMNT doing the same thing, and ultimately it lead to Jürgen Klinsmann being replaced by Bruce Arena. Now it's one game, and we were going for it, but I've sat in a lot of Los Dos games with questionable tactics. Further, while the official word from the Galaxy is that Los Dos is not about results it's about developing young talent, you cannot tell me that Curt Onalfo would have been handed the senior team job or even kept his job with Los Dos if they weren't at the very least competing for a playoff spot in USL. At the end of the day sports is a wins and losses based business. You can tangibly look at the academy and know that your project is working because your developmental teams are achieving success. It's why the Galaxy are comfortable going with a youth movement, they've seen these players succeed at the lower levels! You take a chance on the coach from that project because he was successful AND has a relationship with the academy players (because you definitely aren't going to hire him for the LA Galaxy based on his MLS merits). I could go all super Mr. Negative and point to Los Dos superior talent in the USL and lack of trophies while Red Bull has a lauded development system and a championship USL team in Red Bull 2 but I digress.
Look I know this probably has come off as anti Curt Onalfo and truly I am not, I think he has done well with Los Dos, he understands the organization, has a relationship with the academy, has coached in MLS previously (so he understands how unique this league is with our travel and roster rules) and has been an assistant to Bruce Arena. I like that we are approaching this transition holistically and that means going with a coach who has been working with these players and has had success with them. If anything it's building trust in both your academy and your coach. However, when you promote from within you have to expect that familiarity breeds a bit of contempt. Curt isn't being granted the same honeymoon period from the Galaxy faithful (myself included) that perhaps an outside hire would have been granted. Is it unfair? Absolutely, but we are LA Galaxy supporters. We have been around the game for years, we expect success and are rightfully a bit edgy after the let down of 2016 and the questions surrounding 2017.
While I do have questions the fact is it was ONE game, ONE week (Small Sample Size Institute Approved). We have Portland this week and are now without two of our starters on an already depleted roster. If we manage to snag a point or even get three points (we have the attacking talent to make that a reality) a lot of these doubts will settle. Come on you boys in Blue, White and Gold!
Are we in for a long season full of ups and downs? Am I just jumping wildly to conclusions after one game? Lemme know in the comments below!