Home Galaxy RECAP: LA Galaxy Takes Down Real Salt Lake, 1-0 

RECAP: LA Galaxy Takes Down Real Salt Lake, 1-0 

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The LA Galaxy made it a nine-point week by beating Real Salt Lake in Utah on Saturday, June 22nd.
Greg Vanney has won three games in a row for the first time since joining in 2021 without star player Riqui Puig, putting question marks on how the Spaniard’s role might change upon his return from injury.

The LA Galaxy continued their perfect second half of the season with a 1-0 win away at Real Salt Lake.

Greg Vanney’s team is showing increased cohesion as apt decisions from the coaching staff combined with professional performances from the players earned the Galaxy maximum points despite sub-optimal circumstances.

A rotated squad started the match in Utah after the team secured home wins against Sporting Kansas City and New York City FC earlier in the week. Workhorse Mark Delgado was given a break as Tucker Lepley came in for his first career MLS start.

In defense, John Nelson stepped in for Julian Aude, who’s been playing a lot of high-quality minutes this season. Martin Cáceres also got to add another start after making way for Jalen Neal to reintegrate into the squad. 

With the changes made, the match got underway as scheduled at 6:39 PM PST.

Real Salt Lake got off to a more aggressive start, creating a couple of chances early on. One of their approximations led to a hard clash of heads between Salt Lake’s Chicho Arango and Martin Cáceres in the 15th minute. Both players were immediately subbed off with bleeding heads per concussion protocol, and each received stitches following the match.  

Considering that the new signing, Carlos Emiro Gárces, may not be quite ready to play 70 minutes against the conference leaders, Jalen Neal was called upon in the 21st minute and looked prepared alongside captain Maya Yoshida.

While the Galaxy were fortunate to have real depth at center back, Real Salt Lake replaced the league’s top goal-scorer with Anderson Julio, who struggled to connect with his teammates. RSL created fourteen shots in this match, but very few of those were quality chances. 

The LA Galaxy were rarely on top in this match, but they never looked very uncomfortable either.

Edwin Cerillo was a big part of that, contributing and helping set the tempo for both the defensive and attacking phases. His efforts led to a stable performance but one that lacked the incisiveness of other midfielders.

It almost felt as if the game plan was to hold the draw until halftime. That’s when Mark Delgado came on for Tucker Lepley after an entire 45 minutes of rest. His reintroduction was like an engine transplant for the Galaxy, and their play had much more edge than in the first half.

The second half opened up significantly, and both sides started exchanging blows. The first 10 minutes after the restart saw each side get some excellent looks at goal that neither could take advantage of. Mark Delgado got on the end of a pass from Diego Fagundez in the 68th minute but blasted his shot into the wrong side of the side netting.

Just five minutes later, in the 73rd, Edwin Cerillo turned on his playmaking and played a direct pass to Dejan Joveljic, who laid it off for Gabriel Pec to drive into space and drive a low shot into the bottom right corner.

Joveljic’s fourth assist and Pec’s sixth goal of the season ended up being the winner as the Galaxy kept a clean sheet for the second game in a row for the first time since 2022. Despite all the significant losses to their squad and the dense schedule of games, the players showed the maturity that Greg Vanney has long been calling for to see the game out.

Greg Vanney has much to be satisfied with after a perfect week. Since the restart, the Galaxy have been without Riqui Puig and Gaston Brugman and have lost Jonathan Perez and Martin Cáceres to injuries, all while some of the league’s best sides. Despite such challenges, the coaching staff managed the team perfectly and navigated a difficult week in the best way, earning all nine of nine possible points.

The Galaxy now have a week to regroup before traveling north to face the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, June 19th. This should be enough time for Riqui Puig to fully recover from the groin strain that has kept him out of the Galaxy’s newest win streak.

It has suddenly become time for Greg Vanney to attempt to reinsert Puig to the predictable machine that the Galaxy have become.

Vanney has made no secret of his admiration of the systematic play style his team has adopted in the second half of the season. He feels the team is at its strongest when players know what to expect from their teammates. Unfortunately, predictable is antonymous to Puig’s style of play.

Riqui Puig dazzles by being unpredictable, which can leave his teammates in vulnerable positions trying to best support the chaos. This leads to situations where the Galaxy find themselves in a gunfight, trying to outscore their opponents while consistently conceding themselves. These scenarios caused the Galaxy to drop points in the past but have become increasingly rare in Puig’s absence.

After the win against SKC, Greg Vanney said that the Galaxy would reach another level if they found a way to stay within the system while maximizing Puig’s best qualities. This might require more positional discipline from Riqui, who would likely be asked to mirror Diego Fagundez’s play in recent matches.

Fagundez has been an excellent stand-in for Riqui Puig, reminding the league why he has been so successful in it for so long. While not nearly as spectacular as Puig, Fagundez has maximized his contribution without destabilizing the team’s defensive structure. If Puig can limit himself to playing in certain areas and playing forward during predetermined moments or otherwise control his moments of magic, it won’t be difficult to imagine the Galaxy fortifying their claim on the top of the Western Conference.

Regardless of how they manage to do it, the LA Galaxy’s front office and coaching staff have proven that they know what they’re doing.
If they can secure the cooperation of their star player and continue improving the squad in the upcoming transfer window, there’s no telling what this team can achieve.

PHOTO: Los Angeles Galaxy

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