The future looks bright for the Los Angeles Galaxy. After a slow start to preseason, their performances against both New York clubs showed signs of improvement. The team also revealed the kit for 2024, just in time for their newest big signing. 

It has been a massive week for LA Galaxy fans.

The first big hit came on Valentine’s Day when the LA Galaxy faced up against NYCFC in their penultimate fixture of the Coachella Valley Invitational.

Head Coach Greg Vanney started the match with a rotated squad containing mostly youngsters and depth players.Vanney’s starting eleven came out with five defenders, giving wingbacks John Nelson and Maurico Cuevas the freedom to roam forward in support of their young forwards. 

The center back trio of Chris Mavinga, Eriq Zavaleta, and Marcus Frekanus performed about as well as one might expect, which is to say not very well at all. Mavinga upheld his reputation as a harbinger of chaos as he once again demonstrated his penchant for creating emergency situations. This quality was highlighted by the inexperienced players in front of him and the Galaxy would find themselves losing by two at the end of the first half.

The second half would see most of the academy and GII products make way for players that are much more likely to appear in the regular season. Mark Delgado, Daniel Aguirre, and Miguel Berry all came on at the 45th minute, immediately giving the Galaxy more chemistry as they built up from the back. 

The substitutions paid off almost instantly as Gino Vivi made an excellent driving run down New York’s left wing in the 52nd minute. His cutback pass would find Aguirre before landing at Berry’s feet, whose finish was fitting of a striker of his experience. 

The equalizer would come no more than 3 minutes later. Tucker Lepley whipped in a dangerous ball from a free-kick on the right side which would bounce painfully off of a NYCFC defender and into the path of academy prospect Harbor Miller. Miller was sure to finish to score his first professional goal in front of his family and brought the Galaxy level.

As the half progressed Galaxy fans would get the chance to welcome Gaston Brugman and Dejan Joveljic back to the pitch from injuries of varying length. 

Brugman has been out since suffering a torn meniscus during the League’s Cup fixture versus Club León last July. Joveljic returned to action for the first time since picking up a hip contusion in the closed-door friendly against San Jose Earth on February 3rd. 

The Galaxy started taking more control as more first team players entered the pitch. As noted by Galaxy beat writer Alex Ruiz, Edwin Cerillo and Gaston Brugman have formed an impressive pair. Cerillo has proven himself as a reliable defensive-minded midfielder and he offered great cover for Brugman as he stretched his legs and became an attacking presence. 

Defensively, the Galaxy’s starters and their most important rotation pieces are beginning to leave less and less to be desired. Even without the experience of captain Maya Yoshida and Japanese International Miki Yamane, Mauricio Cuevas and Martin Cáceres locked down the right flank, hardly giving NYCFC a chance to progress through that channel.

Even Eriq Zavaleta, who has received plenty of valid criticism, looked better. He wore the armband in this game as he helped support Julian Aude, who is still looking inexperienced when on the pitch. 

Despite ending in a 2-2 draw, this match should leave supporters with positive sensations. For half of the starting eleven to react so well to the defensive work Vanney has been implementing in training suggests that the first team will be much more difficult to break down than in 2023.

Further evidence of defensive improvements would come on February 17th when the Galaxy took on the New York Red Bulls in their final preseason game.

Greg Vanney started the strongest eleven seen so far this year. John McCarthy got the nod in goal and had undisputed starters (until Jalen Neal’s return) Martin Cáceres, Maya Yoshida, and Miki Yamane in front of him.

Riqui Puig also started in this game. Jonny Perez, a winger who often finds himself on the squad’s margins, would give Puig a chance to impact the game near the end of the first half. Perez’s excellent use of his body and open space against much larger and stronger defenders allowed him to drive into the box and earn a penalty, which the Spaniard was sure to convert.

The score would remain 1-0 until the 87th minute. Many have criticized Julian Aude for a lack of size or strength, but the Argentine would remind everyone that he can’t get outmuscled by his opponents if he outpaces them. Aude played the entire match but showed that his fitness was sharper than the other team’s with a long, mazy run as the match was drawing to a close. This late burst of speed would see him slalom through the midfield, beat his defenders, and get a shot off. Luck was on his side as the rebound fell to him kindly and he obliged by smashing the ball home to double the Galaxy’s lead and secure a victory to start the regular season on the right foot.

Joseph Paintsil lands in LA

Let’s travel back in time to Valentine’s Day, when the Galaxy community was lit up by a report from Belgium’s HBVL announcing that Joseph Paintsil had completed his final training session with Genk last Tuesday. The report also suggested that Paintsil would fly to Los Angeles on Thursday to complete his physical and complete his signing.

HBVL’s reporting would be proven accurate by X/Twitter user @naza_mac, who posted a photo with Paintsil at an African cuisine restaurant in Inglewood on February 16th.

It goes without saying that social media was ablaze with excitement for the imminent transfer. Will Kuntz and the Los Angeles Galaxy have been working on this deal for well over a month. 

Doubts about the transfer emerged as it was revealed that the club would have to negotiate a fee with Genk as the player’s release clause had expired before Paintsil could accept the Galaxy’s offer. These only grew larger as the club would submit another offer for Ramón Sosa to CA Talleres.

Despite the uncertainty, Galaxy Nation continued to report that Paintsil’s move was in constant development. After weeks of speculation, the latest footage of Paintsil taking his first steps at Dignity Health Sports Park finally laid all doubts to rest.

As reported by trusted Genk reporter Bob Faesen and MLS insider Tom Bogert, Paintsil is set to sign for the LA Galaxy on a four year deal worth roughly $9 million. 

This comes just days after Gabriel Pec announced himself to Galaxy supporters. Pec was recently confirmed as the club’s record signing on a five year deal worth around $10 million.

Riqui Puig, Gabriel Pec, and Joseph Paintsil will be the Galaxy’s three designated players. Together the trio pose an incredibly dangerous threat to MLS defenses, able to create goal scoring opportunities at an elite level. 

After such an exciting news cycle, the Galaxy ended the week by releasing The Angeleno Kit.

Los Angeles is home to a storied soccer tradition. LA Galaxy. Our new jersey embodies these traits and is an original design that comes from those most important to us, our fans. The design values have been inspired by fan loyalty and traditionalism. A unique style that is representative of our past driven by personal tastes, and the city of Los Angeles that continues to power the style sphere more than any other.” (LA Galaxy)

There is plenty to be excited for in the upcoming season beyond the new look. The season opens at home against Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Inter Miami on February 25th. 

Be sure to follow Nuestra Galaxia Fútbolera on X and Instagram to stay informed on all the best Galaxy news. Subscribe to LAX Sports Nation and follow us on social media to enhance your fan experience.

PHOTO: LA Galaxy

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