I think, generally speaking, the LA Galaxy have been so competent this season that it can be easy to forget how hard the last several years have been for the team. But on the bright side, the appointment of Greg Vanney as head coach and the almost complete turnover of the roster has paid off immediately.
But it’s pretty obvious that the current six-game winless run is fully exposing the flaws still present for the Galaxy, even with the improvements. To put it simply, they look like they are hitting a wall, and fairly hard.
It’s not all terrible: Of the last six games without a victory, they’ve still drawn three times, two of those results on the road. Generally speaking, getting a draw on the road in MLS is a good result, if teams can pick up a good number of wins at home. And compared to the Onalfo/Schmid/Schelotto era that preceded this one, the team generally looks substantially better overall this season. They appear to have a plan, and they don’t play like crap for weeks on end.
But they still appear to be slipping, and arguably at the worst time. LA’s surprisingly hot start had many wondering if they were capable of competing for the top spot in the Western Conference this year. Even if the Galaxy don’t appear to be at the level of the Seattle Sounders or Sporting Kansas City this year, if they hit a hot run of form, they may have been in the conversation for the rest of the regular season.
But it’s safe to say they won’t be competing for 1st place, sitting eight points back at present and closer to being out of the playoffs altogether than top spot. Right now, they’re 4th in the West, with 38 points. LAFC are the first team out of the playoffs right now, on 33 points. Arguably, 12 teams still have a shot of making the postseason in the West, where seven will eventually qualify. So the Galaxy remain in good shape, but their comfortable position is relative.
Five of LA’s final nine games of the regular season are against teams currently in the playoff spots, all Western Conference opposition. And five of the games are on the road. There won’t be too many easy games left, maybe not any.
I think the Galaxy are at a tipping point in their season. If they can pick up three wins in the next four or five games, they’ll likely be just fine for the stretch run. And we’ve seen they have been able to rise to the occasion this season and play well on both sides of the ball. It’s entirely possible this slump is a blip.
But the defense has gotten creakier and creakier, and Vanney has seemed to be at a loss in terms of how to address it in the moment. I don’t think it’s a lost cause, or even that most of the personnel on defense can’t figure it out and start locking things down in the back, but it’s a growing concern. At the very least, opposing teams know LA’s defense is a weakness and they need to poke at that as a primary strategy. If the Galaxy can score two goals in a game, opponents will just try to score three, because they know the defense can collapse.
So it’s put up or shut up time. I think a playoff berth would be the sign of a successful season overall, and the Galaxy are on track for that still, but they look like they’ve hit a wall, about six weeks before the end of the regular season. Time for Vanney and his team to prove otherwise.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.