Friday’s 3-1 loss to the Quakes was a total disaster, the kind of match you’d like to scrub from your memory if possible.
When the LA Galaxy lost the opening Cali Clasico a few weeks ago at Stanford Stadium, the team struggled to adjust to San Jose’s unique man-marking system deployed by managerial wizard Matias Almeyda. Having familiarized themselves with the Quakes style of play, it was expected LA would put on a better performance at home.
What happened was the exact opposite: Outshot 32 to 5 with 16 shots on goal to just a single tally for LA, the midfield was completely overrun, Zlatan was a non-factor and the usually dependable defense folded.
And yet it wasn’t a complete disaster. Here are three positive takeaways from a dismal night.
The proverbial wake up call. Friday is the one and only El Trafico, the most anticipated matchup in MLS vs. the top team in the league.
As poor as LA were on the night, it should be noted their collapse coincided with a nasty collision from Judson twenty minutes into the match that left winger Uriel Antuna with a noticeable limp. The Mexican international who performed so well for El Tri during the Gold Cup never really recovered and was replaced by the ill-suited Emil Cuello.
The back four wasn’t ideal either: Fullbacks Rolf Feltscher and Jorgen Skjelvic hasn’t played in a month and looked as much, and the dependable Diego Polenta was missing due to yellow card accumulation.
The recipe was there for a bad night. That being said, it can’t happen again.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto recognizes the issue.
GBS "I think we had a bad game today. Everything we talked about this week doing today, we only did the first 15-20 minutes"#LAGalaxy #LAvSJ #CaliClasico— LA Soccer Nation (@lasoccernation) July 13, 2019
One observation we’ve made about the former Boca Juniors frontman is his level-headedness: Neither a tinkerer nor a stubborn ideologue, GBS is committed to his ideas but flexible enough to adjust when necessary. At the height of LA’s unbeaten streak earlier the coaching staff was guilty of running the starting XI into the ground, but eventually Guille would make the necessary adjustments.
Drawing up a battle plan to withstand LAFC’s attack and press won’t be easy given the Galaxy’s struggles in transition, but San Jose’s steamrolling of the LA midfield should push GBS to mix up his tactics ahead of El Trafico.
Playing for a paycheck? Similar to David Beckham during his spell in LA, Zlatan’s genius on the field is unquestioned but his presence on the pitch forces the Galaxy into a one-dimensional style of play that isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing.
Debate on the topic is fierce. Some have argued the issue lies with his teammates who admittedly have not provided accurate service to the Big Swede, while others claim the prerogative should be on Zlatan himself to adjust. GBS’ tactics have been questioned.
Regardless, the burden is on Ibrahimovic to justify his presence on the field now and potentially in 2020. We’re not sure Ibra is done with MLS yet, but the Galaxy might itself done with Ibra should he end the season without producing at a level they deem acceptable. Against one of the league’s top center backs in Walker Zimmerman, the stage will be set Friday for Zlatan to prove he deserves a bigger paycheck than Carlos Vela. A commanding performance may give Ibra the ability to prove the doubters wrong and decide his own future.