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RECAP: LA Galaxy vs SKC – “Everyone Needs to be Ready”, 4-2

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The LA Galaxy started the second half of the season on the right foot with a 4-2 win over Sporting Kansas City.
Greg Vanney’s system prevails, and Gabriel Pec steps up without star man Riqui Puig.

Dignity Health Sports Park remains a fortress after the LA Galaxy overcame Sporting Kansas City 4-2 on Saturday, June 15th.

Goals from four different players got Greg Vanney’s side over the line in a match that threatened to go either way at times.

The uncertainty began on Friday when it was revealed that Riqui Puig and Gaston Brugman would be unavailable through a pair of niggling injuries.

After the match, Greg Vanney revealed that Riqui Puig had picked up a groin issue earlier in the season but was able to play through it until the recent break. During the team’s downtime, the medical staff decided to put a hard stop on Riqui’s playing time until he fully moved past the pain rather than have him continue to add more strain to the muscle. Puig has already completed about a week of recovery and may be ready to go sometime in the coming week.

Gaston Brugman’s case is more serious. The bone bruise he picked up in his knee during the warm-up of the game against Chicago presents a sensitive situation, considering the knee injury he suffered in 2023. The medical staff have opted for a conservative approach for everyone’s recovery, shutting Brugman down until the pain completely goes away. Greg Vanney claimed Gaston’s recovery could take at least two more weeks.

Supporters would not be blamed for feeling pessimistic about this game upon hearing about the loss of their star player, but this win revealed how Greg Vanney’s system can thrive even without Riqui Puig.

Corner of the Galaxy’s Catamount recently published an excellent piece that explores the conflicts between the much-critiqued Vanney ball and the much-lauded Riqui-ball. Essentially, Riqui doesn’t adhere to any system or game plan because he believes he IS the system. It can be difficult to argue against that belief when he produces magic and conjures up goals out of thin air, but rebuttals quickly become apparent when Puig’s chaos results in defensive breakdowns.

In this game against Kansas City, without Riqui Puig, Greg Vanney felt that his players were positionally more stable and predictable in terms of knowing what spots their teammates occupied. This provided the purest example of Vanney-ball to date, as the coach’s system was able to manifest itself without the influence of the team’s enigmatic Spaniard.

Greg Vanney’s players have to show how well they’ve internalized his principles and how capable they are of scoring when they play by the book.

Within the system, Gabriel Pec managed to shine, being involved in all four of the Galaxy’s goals.

The young Brazilian was in inspired form Saturday night. His runs and interplay with teammates were instrumental to unlocking Kansas City. He combined with Dejan Joveljic for the first two goals, received a brilliant pass from Miki Yamane before setting up Joseph Paintsil for the third, and turned a defender inside out to allow Miguel Berry to score the fourth.

This was arguably Pec’s best-ever performance for the Galaxy so far. As he grows more confident and achieves better understanding with his teammates his output will only improve, painting a scary future for MLS defenders. 

Miki Yamane also had an excellent game. His progressive runs and the overloads they create allow the Galaxy to exploit the half-spaces where wingers like Gabriel Pec and Joseph Paintsil can thrive. Yamane was involved in Pec’s goal and stunned DHSP with the beauty of a pass to create Paintsil’s goal. 

Another player to make a special note of is Diego Fagundez. The Galaxy’s number 7 played in the 10 role and helped lead the side to another positive result. The Los Angeles Galaxy are undefeated in each of Fagundez’s nine starts this season. 

After the match, Diego Fagundez was asked multiple times about how he felt the team played without Riqui Puig. His answers revolved around the idea that the Galaxy must find a way to win in every match, regardless of who may or may not be available.

He said, “Everyone has to be ready,” and cited each of the night’s four-goal scorers as evidence that the Galaxy have what it takes to win, even without Riqui Puig.

Puig’s return is greatly anticipated among supporters. Greg Vanney will be happy to have him back as well, but he mentioned that his goal will be to find a way to fit Riqui Puig and his brilliance into the system that proved itself against Kansas City.

If Saturday’s result is any indication, a successful marriage between Vanney-ball and Riqui-ball has the potential to be unstoppable. 

Before Vanney can continue working on trying to contain the little Spaniard, he must focus his attention on Wednesday night’s match against Real Salt Lake.
The LA Galaxy will celebrate Juneteenth at home and look to continue proving that their system is enough to achieve results. 

PHOTO: Los Angeles Galaxy

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