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RECAP: LA Galaxy vs NYCFC 2-0 – “The Team is Doing The Work”

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The LA Galaxy beat New York City FC 2-0 on Wednesday, June 19th in front of 20,043 of their supporters.

Goals from Dejan Joveljic and Diego Fagundez proved that Greg Vanney’s system works. 

There was a clash of the coasts at Dignity Health Sports Park when New York City FC came down to take on the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Despite not having Riqui Puig, Gaston Brugman, or the recently impressive Jonathan Perez available, Greg Vanney’s team once again showed that their ability to secure results doesn’t rest on any one player. 

Vanney rewarded the team which won 4-2 over Sporting Kansas City last Saturday by fielding an almost identical lineup against NYCFC. The only change was Joseph Paintsil starting over Jonathan Perez, who Vanney reports has picked up a grade 1 hamstring strain which will keep him out for at least 2-3 weeks

With confidence in their coach’s instructions after last weekend’s win, the Galaxy players immediately fell into their roles and began dictating play from the very first minute. Vanney’s structured but fluid system provided the framework for each of his players to thrive. 

Dejan Joveljic has enjoyed one of the most drastic improvements since Vanney-ball has truly come into play.

It wasn’t until the arrival of the supremely talented duo of Gabriel Pec and Joseph Paintsil that the Galaxy had an attacking unit built around Joveljic.

Pec and Paintsil have added verticality and dynamism that was all-too rare in each of Joveljic’s previous seasons. This has truly opened up the game for the Serbian and revealed how for the first time ever he is playing in a system which supports him, rather than one that sets him up to fail.

Prior to Pec and Paintsil, Dejan Joveljic seemed lost trying to integrate himself into the Galaxy’s play and he struggled t0 take the few chances he did get. Poor passes and even worse finishes defined him in the eyes of many supporters as a striker not worthy of the blue, white, and gold.

While this assumption might have seemed apt at times last year, Joveljic and the team’s form this year proves his struggles were a symptom of external factors and not a reflection of his true ability. 

With two pacy and tricky wingers on either side of him, Dejan Joveljic has scored 11 goals and contributed four assists in 2024. He has ended up on the end of square balls, gotten in position to put away rebounds, and has even shown some great awareness to set up his teammates. 

Behind Joveljic and the rest of the front three, the midfield unit has been exceptional without their biggest name.

Mark Delgado, Edwin Cerillo, and Diego Fagundez combined to cover a lot of ground and set the pace for the Galaxy against Sporting Kansas City and New York City FC. 

Delgado and Cerillo have done an excellent job of splitting the defensive duties. Both are dogged defenders who seem all too willing to expend the extra energy to quickly cut out a passing lane or track a runner out wide. At the same time, they’ve put their passing ability on display by cooly slipping out of pressure before slicing defenses with key passes to exploit the space in behind.

Miki Yamane has been the most likely defender to end up on the end of one of these threaded passes. His positioning when the Galaxy are on the ball is often the key to unlocking the opposing defense.

Whether he’s coming into the midfield to offer an option in buildup or combining on the wing with Gabriel Pec, Yamane seems to be involved in a huge percentage of the threat his side generates. 

With Yamane bearing most of the attacking burden, Julian Aude has been free to play slightly more conservatively, helping increase the Galaxy’s defensive solidity in transition. He joins a core made up of captain Maya Yoshida and young starlet Jalen Neal.

Together, the back four managed to keep a clean sheet and made very few mistakes, even as New York increased the pressure during the final 20 minutes. 

There were plenty of sequences where NYCFC had numbers in the Galaxy’s half and pinned the home team all the way back into their own box but their efforts were always in vain. Even at times where a dangerous giveaway seemed inevitable, the Galaxy’s defenders always found a solution and were able to keep a clean sheet. 

As counterintuitive as it might sound, this Puig-less period has shown that the Galaxy might have more than just four clean sheets if it weren’t for their best player.

Riqui Puig is an enigma on the pitch, a trait that not only makes him dangerous to opposing defenders but also makes him difficult to play with. Greg Vanney has mentioned how Puig’s adherence to his own play style leads to breakdowns in other areas of the pitch. 

Without Puig playing as a rogue within the system, every other player can count on their teammates doing what the system requires. In other words, the Galaxy can finally play the way they practice instead of trying to make up for any gaps caused by Puig’s play. 

There is little for Greg Vanney not to like from the performances his side have turned in during the last two games without Riqui Puig. His players have followed his instructions to the letter, which Vanney feels has resulted in increased predictability. The entire team knows what to expect at every moment, allowing them to control phases of the game, rather than trying to react to them. 

For the first time in what feels like ever, the Galaxy put in a professional performance and enjoyed a comfortable win against New York City FC. It is difficult to highlight any one player or area of the pitch which stood out because everyone performed admirably.

This sense of cohesion, built on predictability, is what Greg Vanney feels will help the club achieve their ambitions.

As he put it, “Capacity to win trophies is in collective ability to defend well”. When one player decides not to join the collective, results suffer and the title race ends before it can begin in earnest.

Greg Vanney will look for more cohesion as his squad travels to Utah to take on Real Salt Lake on Saturday, June 22nd. With Riqui Puig potentially available for selection on Saturday, Vanney must begin to figure out how to achieve the same sense of togetherness even with the Spanish enigma on the pitch. 

Regardless of Puig’s availability, the Los Angeles Galaxy have proven that they have what it takes to comfortably beat some of the league’s top sides. If the Galaxy can achieve a win away at the conference leader’s stadium, they will finally win three games in a row under Greg Vanney. To do so for the first time without Riqui Puig would give Vanney some important leverage in getting Puig to submit to his system for the good of the team.

The LA Galaxy are on the way up and Vanney-ball is taking them there. They play again on Saturday, June 22nd at 6:30 PM PST.

PHOTO: LA Galaxy

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