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Riqui Puig makes energetic impact for LA Galaxy

Young midfielder made game-changing play in road draw.

Courtesy of LA Galaxy

Expectations were fairly high for Riqui Puig when he was signed by the LA Galaxy at the end of the summer transfer window, but they were also pretty subdued, paradoxically.

Chicharito has been performing the past couple years, but he had a rough debut season. Douglas Costa and Kevin Cabral have been disappointing Designated Players. Puig had come from FC Barcelona, but why was a guy in his early 20s with that pedigree coming to MLS?

Regardless of all that, in limited minutes Puig has been immense. Starting the last two games, he has an assist and a goal, as LA picked up four points on the road.

But it’s not just the production, although that has been key. Puig, an attacking midfielder, shows he is willing to work on the defensive side, too, and his main role shows he is speeding up the pace of play, a perpetual issue for the Galaxy in the run of play. Fellow newcomer Gaston Brugman, the defensive midfielder that is the yang to Puig’s yin, has struggled to keep the ball moving quickly enough at times since arriving. But with Puig in the XI, Brugman is not dawdling on the ball anymore.

In Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against Toronto FC, it wasn’t just Puig who shined. Brugman was good as well, and Costa had perhaps his best game to date in a Galaxy jersey, as he opened the scoring with a free kick. But Puig drew the headlines, and after seeing this goal capping off his performance, it’s not hard to see why.

“It’s his mobility,” TFC head coach Greg Vanney told reporters after the game when asked what makes Puig so good. “It’s his ability to find spaces, find gaps. Play on the move. Pick up the ball. Kind of glide into new areas. Play off of people and get the ball back. It just keeps the tempo of the game, kind of flowing all the time. And obviously, he’s very smart about positioning himself. When to play in one touch, when to take more touches. And he just has a unique ability to slide through spaces and eliminate, kind of either eliminate guys, or get the game into a new area so that we can move the ball. For us, we have a lot of our midfielders are guys who receive and play, receive and play. And he now kind of takes the game into a different level just with his dribbling. So, I thought he was excellent.”

Feeling good after opening his MLS account, Puig also emphasized the energy needed to play well.

“I think we all bring energy to this team,” he told reporters in Spanish. “I have come here to give it all. I am going to leave everything on the field. I have come here to give my all, demonstrate who I am, the type of player that I am. And the truth is I am very happy. I am adapting well. The team has helped me a lot and I think we are a very competitive team, and we have a big desire to win titles.”

While the Galaxy are just below the playoff line and their first target is to reach the postseason this year, Puig says his sights are set much higher in LA.

“I have come to the LA Galaxy to win titles and I don’t like to lose. Since I was little I never learned to know how to lose. I like to win and I am very competitive. That’s why I give my all every day. Every day I try to win every game and do my best,” he said.

If Puig continues to bring his infectious energy and silky play, he could be the linchpin in a new era of Galaxy ball. Bring it on.

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