The LA Galaxy’s schedule has not offered a gentle introduction to the 2024 season, but the squad has shown that they are tough enough to deal with it. After clawing back a draw in Nashville, the team is ready to host a western conference rival in St. Louis SC. 

The Galaxy returned home from their first road trip of the year with four points in hand and a chip on their shoulder. 

After winning in San Jose, the team traveled to Nashville, where the black and yellow welcomed them by putting two past McCarthy by the 60th minute. Having yet to face such a deficit this year, the team impressed by responding with two goals of their own.

A missed Dejan Joveljic penalty in the first half left supporters in disbelief as the Galaxy maintained their 0% penalty conversion rate in 2024. The rest of the half was hardly worth mentioning, as poor play from both sides saw them going into the break scoreless.

Despite controlling the flow of play and chances immediately after the restart, the Galaxy conceded twice in quick succession. A 2-0 deficit in the second half would have sentenced the match for past iterations of the team, but Vanney’s side is genuinely moving differently this year.

The Galaxy maintained their pressure and eventually found their breakthrough via Riqui Puig in the 67th minute. Puig showed excellent composure and technical ability as he avoided pressure from multiple defenders to receive the ball, turn, and set up a right-footed shot that curled into the right-side netting. 

About 15 minutes later, Joveljic was given the chance to partially make up for his penalty miss. Julian Aude picked up the rebound off of an excellent shot from Mark Delgado, and the young Argentine dished a clever ball to Joveljic, who converted from around the penalty spot to equalize in the 81st minute.

Last year, the Galaxy failed to earn more than 6 points in their first 10 matches. The comeback against Nashville seems the team is more than halfway to beating that record with just three matches played. Although it is easy to feel disappointed by missed chances, the Galaxy overcame a deficit and earned an incredibly important point at a difficult stadium.

Frustrated by draws but confident in their ability, Greg Vanney’s team have been preparing to host St. Louis SC in their second home match of the year. Both the Galaxy and St. Louis are undefeated so far in MLS. In fact, both sides come into this match with identical records (1W 2D). 

These teams also share some recent history, as the Galaxy hosted St. Louis during a 2-1 loss during preseason on February 3rd. Greg Vanney is familiar with how SC play, highlighting the importance of wingbacks in their system. 

When asked about keys for the match during yesterday’s pre-match presser, Vanney shared that, “For us, it’s ball speed. Being in the right places at the right times are critical in these situations, being reliable and responsible in our possessions.” Framing the match in this way makes it sound like another opportunity for Mark Delgado to prove his quality and importance.

During the same presser, Vanney also noted that “[Delgado] has been fantastic. For me, he’s kind of the epitome of our system”. Mark Delgado has made a career out of being a tireless runner, but this season, it seems his contributions are being highlighted by the more complete version of Vanney-ball on display this season.

In the post-match presser after Nashville, Vanney added, “He’s the great balancer on our team because he just does whatever we need to do, and he recognizes in the run of play there needs to be a certain player in a certain spot, and he’ll go fill that spot even if in the moment it’s not necessarily his job.” Delgado’s ability to blend a high soccer IQ with legs that are always willing to run into key areas has made him an invaluable player. 

Despite being such an important cog in Vanney’s system, Delgado also understands that play should not always revolve around him. Yesterday, Vanney shared with the media that “He’s been very efficient and clean with the ball. One of the things I love about [Mark] is he never really steals time from anybody else. He’s always getting guys the ball when they need it in opportunities and moments to be successful.”

Mark Delgado has been excellent in being at the right place at the right time and has been reliable and responsible in possession. In other words, he’s the perfect player for what Greg Vanney believes will be key for unlocking St. Louis SC tonight. 

For those supporting at Dignity Health Sports Park or watching for free tonight on MLS+, be sure to keep a close eye on Mark Delgado. By watching Marky, you are watching the epitome of Vanney-ball.

PHOTO: LA Galaxy

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