Home Galaxy RECAP: LA Galaxy’s Undefeated Start Ends at LAFC

RECAP: LA Galaxy’s Undefeated Start Ends at LAFC

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The LA Galaxy struggled against injuries, controversial decisions, and their own poor play in a 2-1 loss at BMO Stadium. They will know something was missing from that performance and will do well to find it before traveling to face a strong Vancouver side next week. 


The clash between the LA Galaxy and Los Angeles Football Club wasn’t quite the festival of football that the league has become accustomed to. Yesterday, April 6th’s fixture will be remembered for yet another questionable VAR decision.

The LA Galaxy began the week looking forward to this fixture with plenty of confidence as conference leaders with an undefeated record, while LAFC was sitting down in 9th place. 

Unfortunately, the positive feelings began to dissipate as backup center back Eriq Zavaleta was suddenly listed on the Galaxy’s injury list with a head injury. With Martin Cáceres unable to accelerate his return to fitness, Head Coach Greg Vanney was forced to call on Edwin Cerillo, a midfielder, to be Maya Yoshida’s center-back partner. 

LAFC v Makeshift Galaxy Defense

Vanney adopted a very top-heavy approach in order to minimize how often the improvised backline were exposed. The LA Galaxy were lined up with three central defenders and up to six attackers at a single time for much of this match. By congesting the opponent’s half of the pitch, the Galaxy were able to dominate possession and keep most of the play far away from their own goal.

In possession, the Galaxy took up a back three with either fullback venturing forward, but never both. The remaining defenders would slide into a line of three, with Gaston Brugman playing just ahead of them to offer cover and be an outlet going forward.

When defending, the backline looked to cover central areas while waiting for the roaming fullback to return and complete the back four. LAFC looked to come at them quickly on the counter, but even against just three defenders, they were forced to play wide, often neutralizing the threat.

Despite the vulnerable and not-ideal nature of the Galaxy defense, LAFC struggled to exploit the spaces in open play. Not to mention the controversial decision on the eventual winner, both of LAFC’s goals came from dead-ball situations rather than from well-executed counterattacks or lapses in defensive organization.

Gameplay

It was evident from kickoff that this was a rivalry match as both sides came out swinging. The LA Galaxy created the match’s first big chance just after the second minute as Gaston Brugman’s shot from the top of the box commanded a big save from LAFC goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

In the following sequence, LAFC won a corner that resulted in the first goal of the game. A deep cross in the fourth minute into the second post avoided everyone’s head but Timothy Tilman’s, who scored his third of the season. 

This is where the game shifted, and LAFC began sitting back, happy to allow the Galaxy to possess the ball while they tried to exploit space in behind on the counter. As mentioned, they found this problematic despite the Galaxy’s weakened backline, but the Galaxy had their own struggles.

Despite playing with a back three in possession and loading up the attacking half of the pitch, it felt like the Galaxy’s forwards were unable to connect or create a threat for each other. 

Poor play from the goal-getters placed a heavy onus on Julian Aude. As the more progressive fullback between himself and Miki Yamane, Aude was able to assist in the build-up and add much-needed dynamism with his overlapping runs. 

This constructive style of play eventually earned Aude his first career MLS goal. After making good passes to retain possession, he began creeping into the midfield, staying close to the touchline and helping the Galaxy advance up that flank. He continued progressing down the line, passing Joseph Paintsil and ending up close to Dejan Joveljic. Joveljic then received the ball, held it up, and slipped it into Aude to have a right-footed effort.

Aude’s shot flew past Lloris’s fingers and rocketed off of the far post right back into his path. The follow-up shot was blocked by a sliding defender before falling to Pec, whose shot was also blocked. Luck kept the ball close as it would fall to Aude one last time as he wrapped his left foot around it and finally scored the leveler for the Galaxy.

Parity wouldn’t exist for long in this match as Miki Yamane was whistled for an apparent foul on Denis Bouanga inside the box, not even five minutes later. While Yamane did slide, replays show that Yamane retracted his feet to avoid contact, while Bouanga had flopped and was halfway to the ground before moving his foot towards Yamane in an attempt to fabricate contact. Regardless of how genuine any contact may have been, the penalty was given, Bouanga scored, and LAFC took home all three points.

A Single Rose Amongst a Bushel of Thorns

LA Galaxy supporters will be trying to forget this most recent performance, along with the entirety of 2023, when the defense capitulated as a result of injuries.

Although injuries have already forced the Galaxy to put their depth to the test again this year, the integrity of the defensive unit as a whole has suffered much less. They managed to hold off LAFC in open play throughout the entirety of the match and gave the forwards the best possible chance to win the game. Even at their weakened state, it is difficult to ask for more from the Galaxy’s defenders and makeshift replacements. 

Depending on how their injury list develops over the coming days, the Galaxy could be obligated to make it work defensively again in the coming weeks. They are currently preparing to travel to Vancouver to face the new current Western Conference leaders. 

Vancouver Whitecaps FC have been enjoying an incredibly strong start of their own. Having played one game less than the Galaxy, they have scored the same number of goals (14) but have conceded nearly half as many (6 goals to the Galaxy’s 11).

The original angelenos have less than a week to recover players from injury or before facing another difficult challenge. Their luck could go either way in that time, but one thing is for sure: the killer P’s must find their killer instinct once again.


PHOTO: LA Galaxy

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