Before you start rage-reading this based on the headline, I advise you to take a moment, and breathe. There are, undoubtedly, a lot of emotions around the club at the moment but as LA Galaxy make final preparations for the start of the new season it is important to remember, this is only match day one. That said, this is still a team whose fanbase is desperate for a return to the glory years and patience has come to a boiling point.
Yesterday the club had their first pre-match media availability of the new year. As you can imagine, one of the more constant questions had to do with the future of the club, the next steps that will, or need to be taken, in order for the Galaxy to lift the MLS Cup once again. The team took a huge step towards that goal last season, after a late push saw them not only reach the playoffs for the first time in three years, but saw them host their first-round victory.
Head Coach Greg Vanney is looking to build on that.
“For us it’s about continuing to take steps forward as a group” he said to media ahead of Saturday’s opener against LAFC. “Ultimately winning a championship is another step for us. I would like to see us in Champions League next year, we’re a club that should be present in Champions League year-in and year-out. I think we should ultimately be closer to the Supporter’s Shield race if not at the top. That shows the consistency we want to get out of our group over the course of 34 games.”
That last part was a theme for Vanney throughout the availability. Less about the obvious goal of MLS Cup that every team has at the start of the season, but more-so about finding that consistency. Being contenders for the Supporter’s Shield, competing not just for MLS Cup, but for trophies in all competitions. The last two seasons Galaxy have struggled with finding consistency. They are either in the middle of a great run, or dropping several in a row.
Setting the tone
Which is what makes Saturday so intriguing. Not only will they be center stage from their old home of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, they kick-off the new season with a rivalry match against their cross-town rivals, LAFC. Who also happen to be the defending MLS Cup Champions. It’s completely ridiculous to call this a must-win match when it is literally the first of 34 MLS matches, however it is a big one. For a team looking to find consistency this season, there is no better time like the present, and no better catalyst than humbling your rivals on the first day of the new year.
“It’s LAFC, the rival. To be knocked out by them last season, so there is a little source for revenge” said Galaxy defender Raheem Edwards when speaking to media. “Obviously, it's the first game of the season. It’s not the end-all-be-all, but it’s a game we want to win for our supporters and bragging rights for LA.”
“It’s something we’ve been looking forward to throughout preseason” said Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond. “It’s not just any first game of the season. It’s LAFC and it’s at a place [Rose Bowl] that’s connected to the LA Galaxy, and we know there’s going to be big crowd. It’s not any normal game, we’re very much hype for it.”
Saying the quiet part out loud
Amongst all the hype for Saturday, there was a sense yesterday of a bit of a looming dark cloud that had nothing to do with impending rain on the forecast. No, the call was coming from inside the house, as plenty of the questions posed yesterday were in regards to the boycott planned by several supporter’s groups this season. Simply put, fans are not happy with LA Galaxy front office, with calls for changes. Things reached a tipping point this offseason when it was announced the G’s would be facing sanctions from getting caught breaking roster rules several years ago. Credit to some of the players, who expressed sympathy for the fans while also calling for support.
“I know the supporters have had their issues with the front office, and I wanted them to know that I know the past couple of years have been very difficult for them so I’m not faulting them for that” said Edwards when asked about the potential lack of supporters at the match. “As players we depend on the supporters so much, so I don't know if it's a cry for help, but we need your support. I completely understand how it’s been, but we need your support and not just for the first game, but here for the whole season.”
What success in 2023 looks like
For the Galaxy, while the obvious goal going into every season is to win the MLS Cup, this season feels a bit more tempered, but in a great way. The team isn't putting all their efforts into one basket. They understand the season is long, and this year will feature plenty of competitions which brings opportunities for trophies. They know consistency is key if they want to avoid fizzling out in stretches throughout the year, and finally reach their goals of returning to their own gold standard.
Saturday’s match at the Rose Bowl is, in a lot of ways, the perfect start to the season for LA. A night that will be pure spectacle, playing at what used to be your home stadium as an MLS original, in a match against the newer LA side, who've become bitter rivals, and oh yea they just won their first MLS Cup last year after eliminating you from the playoffs. It’s not just a chance at the stereotypical revenge. For a team looking to build consistency and compete for more than just a few weeks at a time, this is a chance to prove not only to supporters, but to themselves, that this year is different.
Excited for the start of the new season? How do you think the Galaxy finish 2023? Leave a comment below!