It was pretty dire all of three weeks ago. A meek exit out of the MLS Is Back Tournament which saw the LA Galaxy overwhelmed, overpowered and clueless in attack. The team looked dead and buried, and their coach was very much on the hot seat. With some personnel changes, and tactical changes, the Galaxy look refreshed, rejuvenated, and more importantly — they are winning. From dead last to fifth (FIFTH!) in the Western Conference standings.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto looks to have finally admitted he was wrong on some players: Giancarlo Gonzalez has been benched and Rolf Felscher appears benched in favor of Julian Araujo. Sebastian Lletget has been moved into a more central role. Efrain Alvarez has put in the hard work to earn some more time, and it looks like Cameron Dunbar may be a find. This was all done without Jonathan dos Santos, and with an injured Chicharito. I’ll eat some crow, Schelotto has earned it.
Gone are the days of endless crossing to nowhere. This game featured the return of central build up and tiki taco (!!!!!). Passing into the net? No longer seeing 5,432 crosses to tiny forwards? Who is this team?!?!?!
It’s a team that also has Cristian Pavon, a player who manages multiple moments of brilliance a game. He’s a joy to watch.
The defense capitulated and did make the game closer than it needed to be through some bad play from the fullbacks, and some head scratching goalkeeping from David Bingham. Daniel Steres and Nick DePuy on the other hand have been solid. Araujo needs more time at RB, and I’m not sure Emiliano Insua is the permanent answer at LB.
One note: this one shouldn’t have been a win, and should have been a tie. Portland’s second goal looked onside. But a tie on the road would have still been a decent result. A win due to some VAR intricacies is a gift, and the Galaxy will take it.
- Cristian Pavon - Tested the Portland keeper right at the start of the game with a great header. Great finish, great save. Capitalized on a quick throw-in by feeding Lletget in the 35th minute. Individual brilliance on his goal, LA’s second: great first touch, great run, great finish. Skinned multiple players with pace in the 65th minute. Fed Dunbar who hit the post in the 91st minute. Three key passes. Exhausted at the end of the game — he needs some rest. Man of the Match
- Sebastian Lletget - Another game, another assist. Great pick out of Alvarez’s late run on the Galaxy’s first goal. Forced the Timbers keeper into a save off a great pass from Pavon. Two key passes on top of the assist.
- Daniel Steres - Entire defense lucky after Portland just missed the target on a 23rd minute corner kick. Forced Timbers goalkeeper into a save off a corner in the second half.
- Efrain Alvarez - After a promising substitute appearance against the Earthquakes, Schelotto rewarded him with the start. It paid off within two minutes with a ball on an absolute dime to Pavon. When that didn’t work the youngster took matters into his own hands and scored his first MLS goal 10 minutes later off a lovely passing sequence where he was also the main star. Sent in some dangerous corner kicks as well. Three key passes. Faded as the game wore on, but a very nice build on his sub appearance.
- Nick DePuy - Great tackle in the 11th minute to steal the ball down the left. Fed Pavon on LA’s second goal with a pass out of the back. Once again led the team in defensive actions.
- Joe Corona - Stuffed by Timbers goalkeeper in the 57th minute for what would have been LA’s third goal. Scored in the 71st after Alvarez took forever to position the ball on his left foot (SHOOOOOOOT!) and deflected the ball straight to Joe for a great finish. Covered more ground than Kitchen.
- Cameron Dunbar - He had less than 10 minutes on the pitch, and managed to hit the post on a great strike. This one has potential, folks.
- Ethan Zubak - Did the hard work making runs and tried to hold up the ball. Unfortunately, most of his passes were misses. Chicharito is a very different player and will make this interesting when he is back in full fitness.
- Jonathan Dos Santos - Calm, ordered, nothing of note.
- Emil Cuello - late sub.
- Perry Kitchen - Didn’t close Blanco down on a shot in the 64th minute. Repeated the mistake in the 76th minute letting Blanco hit the crossbar. Lunged and missed Blanco on the sequence leading to Valeri’s goal.
- David Bingham - Terrible goalkeeping on the Timbers first goal to punch the ball straight into the middle of the pitch…and directly to a Timbers player.
- Julian Araujo - Moved to RB and pushed Rolf Feltscher to the bench. Great tackle in the 22nd minute after an errant pass from Alvarez. Awkward attempted finish on a great ball from Insua to start the second half. Earned a yellow card on a stud-to-foot challenge. Ball watching on the Timbers first goal - he has got to work on sticking with his man. Should still be starting over Feltscher.
- Emiliano Insua - Critical block in the 26th minute after he lost his man preventing a shot on goal. Great floated ball to Araujo to start the second half that the younger just couldn’t finish. Lost his man on what should have been Portland’s second goal (he looked onside to me).
- Rolf Feltscher - One of his first actions was to let in a dangerous Portland cross. Inexplicably in the center instead of marking Valeri on Portland’s second goal. Woof.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.