The Galaxy defense is out of order.
LA have given up ten goals the past four matches, and more often than not Sigi Schmid’s side are guilty of conceding first and/or blowing leads, putting an unreasonable burden on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy attack to bail the team out week after week.
The switch to a 3-5-2 formation in June temporarily alleviated LA’s defensive shortcomings, but it has become more apparent the Galaxy don’t have the individual quality to shut out teams. It’s an absurd notion considering LA have the most expensive backline in the league, but an accurate one nonetheless.
For all of Ashley Cole’s positives, the 37-year old is susceptible to pace, and with Dave Romney out of position (Rolf Feltscher can’t come back soon enough), opposing teams have been able to penetrate the wings with the time and space to wreak serious damage. Carlos Vela’s opening goal in the last El Trafico and Minnesota’s opening tally are both testaments to LA’s fatally languid demeanor, with Dio and the Scientist afforded all the time in the world to pick their passes and Michael Ciani unable to track the attacking threats in time.
The Ligue 1 veteran is adequate when the game is in front of him, but his reactions inside the area have not been quick enough.
Jorgen Skjelvic can talk about tactics and shape until he’s blue in the face, but as Ashley Cole hinted with his long stare at the ground following the 4-3 comeback vs. the Lions, the players only have themselves to blame.
Which is all the more reason why Tomas Hilliard-Arce deserves a look.
First, the practical. With LA battling the Rapids on 72 hours tonight on 72 hours rest, it make sense to rotate the Stanford graduate into the lineup. (Daniel Steres didn’t play particularly well vs. the same Rapids squad ten days ago)
The 2018 SuperDraft No. 2 pick admittedly struggled in Philadelphia a few weeks ago before he was subbed at the half, but the potential to form a partnership with Skjelvic if given the opportunity is there. An intelligent reader of the game with the ability to make plays on smaller attackers and a prolific aerial presence on both sides of the field, Tomas could be the yin to Jorg’s yang. (FWIW, I believe Skjelvic is a quality footballer who’s been miscast next to the big Frenchman)
Also keep in mind that LA are bleeding goals at the moment, so the opportunity cost of starting THA would be minimal.
Then, the big picture. The organization is already hard at work scouting defenders to shore-up the back line this offseason. Ciani is all but gone this winter and you can count on LA signing a replacement (Or two). There’s the possibility Sklevic is moved to left back in 2019 which would open up a center back spot, but that’s no guarantee.
Skepticism aside, there’s every reason to believe the Galaxy defense will improve next season, in which case it becomes exponentially difficult for the three-time NCAA Champion to earn playing time.
Should LA struggle to integrate Hilliard-Arce in the future, the failure to give the center back reps now could turn out to be a wasted opportunity.