Home Galaxy Midseason Appraisal: The LA Galaxy Have Room to Grow

Midseason Appraisal: The LA Galaxy Have Room to Grow

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The Los Angeles Galaxy are in fourth place in the Western Conference with 28 points in 17 matches played.
This kind of form was almost unthinkable in 2023, but recent results show that the club still has much to do to achieve its goal of hosting a first-round playoff match.

Last Saturday, the LA Galaxy suffered a shocking loss to the Chicago Fire, ending the first half of the MLS season.

Their last game before a two-week break ended in a 2-1 loss, in which the Galaxy gave up an early lead. This revealed that although they have improved significantly since 2023, the road towards reaching the club’s lofty standards has only just begun.

After conceding 29 goals in 17 matches last year, the Galaxy’s problem was easily diagnosed as a lack of defensive stability. Since then, Maya Yoshida and Miki Yamane have introduced immense levels of experience

Their leadership has been complemented by Jalen Neal’s long-await return and Julian Aude’s emergence as a quality MLS (and possibly higher) level talent, leading to a backline that feels much more secure.

A record of 7-7-3, improved from 3-5-9 at the same point in 2023, suggests that the Galaxy’s defense has improved by leaps and bounds. However, the backline’s performance this year has remained roughly the same. 

Despite the positive results, the Galaxy have conceded 25 goals at the halfway point of the season, just four less than in 2023

How does a team manage to rise so far in the standings while improving only slightly defensively?  The answer lies with the Galaxy’s Killer P’s.

The LA Galaxy have scored 31 goals at this stage of the season, more than three times as many as the paltry 10 they scored halfway through 2023. A massive improvement in attack has compensated for slower progress defensively.

Designated players Riqui Puig, Gabriel Pec, and Joseph Paintsil have been key to achieving this total, scoring fourteen of those goals directly and combining for 27 goals and assists (many of these to each other) so far between the three of them.

Much must also be said about the season Dejan Joveljic is having. He is currently level with Riqui Puig in terms of goal contributions with 11 goals and assists in fourteen matches. The Serbians’ work rate and efficiency this year are instrumental for the Galaxy, as evidenced by the gap felt up front when he is unavailable.

While this festival of goals has made for thrilling viewing, the Galaxy are clearly overexposing themselves and balancing on a knife’s edge every single match.

The recent loss in Chicago was unfortunately excellent proof of this concept. After Riqui Puig rocked out and put the Galaxy up 1-0 in the seventh minute, an inability to define the game and stay sharp at the back ended up costing the Galaxy all points as they went on to lose 2-1 off of the back of two mistakes in defense.

So, the Galaxy are scoring more, and while the defense hasn’t been great, it has been good enough to keep them in fourth place.

Where else can they grow? In midfield.

With Riqui Puig continuing to dazzle in the middle of the park and Mark Delgado putting in excellent performances while glaring mistakes from John McCarthy and the defense take most of the attention, it is easy to see why the midfield may be deemed as the area of least concern. 

The club’s transfer activity in the Will Kuntz era shows that leadership has felt that the midfield needs less immediate attention than other areas of the pitch. Examining where Will Kuntz improved the squad since arriving last year reveals that the defense and attack have received the most love, with the midfield getting almost no improvements. 

In the same amount of time that Yoshida, Yamane, Emiro Gárces, Gabriel Pec, Joseph Paintsil, and Diego Fagundez have joined the defense and attack, only Edwin Cerillo has been brought in to reinforce the midfield.

The seemingly imminent signing of Marco Reus could change this trend, but it might do little to steady the ship and more to expose deeply rooted issues within the club.

The most recent article from Corner of the Galaxy’s resident contributor, Catamount, was a scathing indictment of Riqui Puig’s play style and how the newly-extended Spaniard may actually be causing the Galaxy more harm than good. 

After analyzing exactly why Puig-ball has been the Galaxy’s downfall this year, Catamount ends his piece by suggesting that, “Perhaps if a world class player that favors Vanney-ball joins the team, it will force Puig to make a decision, incorporate Vanney-ball or play Puig-ball somewhere else”.

Catamount’s somewhat controversial commentary rings even more shocking with the recent news that UCL finalist Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus is close to joining the Galaxy on a TAM deal after terms for the player’s discovery rights have been agreed with Charlotte FC. 

Marco Reus has made a career of adapting to the systems of many different managers during his time at Dortmund, and in each system, he has made those players around him shine. In the twilight of his career but yet trophyless, Reus would likely join the Galaxy with the same flexible mentality that has made him one of the best modern footballers. Rather than looking to shine individually and earn a move abroad, like Riqui Puig may be doing, Reus will likely look to fit into the system and contribute as much as he can in search of his first club title. 

As a creative attacking midfielder, Reus feels like the player who can contribute massively to the attack without dominating the team’s playstyle, which leads to the many deficiencies that Catamount describes as symptomatic of Puig-ball. 

It remains to be seen whether the move materializes and whether Reus-ball ends up being what the Galaxy really needs.

For now, the LA Galaxy must work on improving their weaknesses with the players they currently have.

We are halfway through the 2024 season, and things are much better than they were last year, but the Galaxy is far from a finished product.

PHOTO: Los Angeles Galaxy

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