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LA Galaxy still a work in progress

MLS: New York City FC at LA Galaxy Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Last week the Galaxy floated back down to Earth. With the blue white & gold in a favorable position to jump their cross-town rivals in the standings, LA squandered the opportunity, dropping three straight matches vs. the Red Bulls, Columbus Crew and NYCFC.

What happened? Attacking blues, tired legs and rookie mistakes. In other words, welcome to MLS.

As we’ve said before, El Trafico has a way of skewing the thinking of just about everyone, and last week it was Guillermo Barros Schelotto who may have over-prioritized the battle for first place.

With LA staring at three matches during the week to conclude a brutal stretch of six games in 22 days, the Galaxy boss elected not to rotate the squad, selecting the strongest possible starting XI in a bid to earn the coveted points needed to top the Western Conference standings.

The LA Galaxy led the Red Bulls at halftime, but the signs were there. The central midfield trio of Joe Corona, Sebastian Lletget and Jonathan dos Santos lacked the usual spring in their step, and New York would ultimately take advantage of poor tracking from the center of the park to win the match. Wednesday the team looked (and played) heavy-legged en route to a three goal Crew defeat, and from the opening whistle on Sunday NYCFC dominated an exhausted Galaxy side.

It’s no secret LA are presently too one-dimensional in attack, with the team leaning heavily on Jona pulling the strings and Zlatan scoring goals to produce results.

That being said, when healthy and rested the technical skill and tidy possession of Seba and Joe Corona combined with Jona’s tempo-setting distribution create a formidable central midfield triangle capable of shielding the back line and lulling opponents to sleep in possession.

While that possession has yet to create much in the final third, it has laid down a foundation for LA to build upon. The Galaxy have been criticized for a lack of production from the wings, however after struggling to get on the board early Uriel Antuna has quietly scored twice the past four matches. It will be interesting to see if new signing Favio Alvarez can build on the current progress and give LA the No. 10 they need to penetrate defenses.

With the Galaxy boss’ time in MLS as a league MVP and his managerial success in Argentina, not to mention his early success with LA, you could be forgiven for forgetting Schelotto is a foreign manager susceptible to rookie mistakes just like anyone else. (Infamously Tata Martino ran his stars into the ground their opening season) As we know Guille was hesitant to rotate the squad after just completing a three-a-week and a heavy-legged Galaxy paid the price.

With Schelotto declaring the need for LA to top the Supporters’ Shield standings on multiple occasions, was the former Boca Juniors manager perhaps leaning a bit too much on his experience in Buenos Aires where the only mission is leading the table? Saturday vs. NYCFC Guille opted to field two academy graduates in 17-year old Julian Araujo and Diedie Traore as wingbacks in a 5-3-2 which ended up crashing and burning.

I’m for #PlayingYourKids as much as anyone, but expecting two players with zero experience to adjust to a new formation on the fly maybe have been asking too much. Expecting the best and the brightest of Boca’s academy to rise to the occasion makes sense, but on this occasion Traore’s positional flaws were exposed as he made way for Ema Boateng at halftime.

Consider it a week of learning experiences for the Galaxy manager.