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LA Galaxy’s Vanney still not convinced Chicharito, Dejan Joveljić can play together

Like it or not, coach walks through thought process.

MLS: Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs Conference Semifinals-LA Galaxy at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Galaxy have two bonafide scorers on their roster in Chicharito and Dejan Joveljić. Chicha’s resumé speaks for itself, and he’s been a consistent scorer and on-field leader the past two years in MLS. Joveljić is the up-and-comer who is prodigious in terms of scoring off the bench.

But the Galaxy aren’t entirely a free-scoring team, and since Joveljić hit a hot run in the 2022 season, fans and pundits have been clamoring for the two forwards to play together more often, since head coach Greg Vanney typically starts Chicharito and brings Joveljić off the bench. But the manager remains reluctant.

Vanney fielded a question about playing the duo together during LA’s first media availability of the preseason on Friday and immediately quipped that he was asked that question a lot last year and gets it early on this year, too, but ultimately, remains convinced the two players’ games are too similar.

“I’m not a proponent of a straightforward 4-4-2,” Vanney told reporters. “Especially when your two 9s are similar types of players. You know, if you have a 9 and a 10, or a 9 and a 9.5 and you’re looking at Robbie Keane and Landon [Donovan], that’s a different profile of a 4-4-2.”

While Joveljić seems to be playing well enough to merit more time as a starter, with the player not shy to vouch for himself with the press, the numbers back up Vanney’s assertions, to a point. Joveljić scored two-thirds of his goals in 2022 across all competitions off the bench, so he was performing in relief of Chicharito and others. Plus, given Chicharito’s injuries his first two years in MLS, it was a surprise (albeit a pleasant one) that the Mexican was healthy throughout 2022, and as a result, Joveljić being the insurance policy expected to make more starts just didn’t end up happening.

But behind the scoring exploits of the two strikers, the Galaxy had no other players even approach double-digit goals last season, with wingers Douglas Costa (4 goals in all competitions) and Kevin Cabral (3 goals) and Samuel Grandsir (4 goals) all faltering as the preferred options starting around Chicharito.

Even Vanney understands the conundrum, and with Cabral traded away this offseason, Grandsir looking set to return to France before the season and the team likely hoping some team, somewhere will take Costa off their hands, the head coach maintains he is flexible in terms of getting the best out of the attack.

“These are two goalscoring strikers who are out and out, now thinking ‘How do I put the ball in the back of the net?’ And for our style of play and being able to overload in certain areas of the field and keep possession and dominate the ball? It’s not always the clearest,” Vanney admitted.

“There are ways for us to do it. And we’re gonna play around with those ways so we can look at that. I’ve said this before, I’m not so married to one system as some people are. I think that within our principles of play, within our style of play and our vision of play, we can do different things in terms of our shape and our structure and still stick very consistent with what our principles are and how we want to play.”

With Cabral gone, Grandsir likely out and Costa possibly out, Vanney could bring in new players in the primary transfer window and run it back, hoping the new wingers will be more productive. Or he could change the formation(s) to account for different kinds of attackers.

Still, it is clear that Vanney thinks Chicharito and Joveljić are too similar to play consistently together for now, and so we’ll have to see how he manages the strikers for the upcoming season.

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