LA Galaxy have got off to a decent start to the season while setting some early markers. They won their home opener, but were unconvincing in their performance versus a putrid Chicago Fire team. They then stumbled and lost on the road against a Dallas team that led the Western Conference race for large stretches of the season last year. What followed was two very different but convincing victories that set early marks for this squad.
The victory over Minnesota United was important twofold. 1) It proved to LA Galaxy players that they could win without two of their designated players Romain Alessandrini and more so Zlatan Ibrahimovic. 2) The team not only won, but won with style and provided a preview of the high octane pace they could play at WHEN Zlatan misses games.
Then came the comprehensive victory over reigning MLS Cup finalist Portland Timbers. Fans were quick to criticize the contrast in styles between the performances of LA Galaxy against United and the Timbers. The fans were also not happy that we only won because of two penalties awarded to the team that Ibrahimovic expertly scored. However, fans should see that the performance was an extremely disciplined one. It was a match in which the Galaxy controlled the tempo and dominated field position against one of the better teams in the league. One aspect of the teams performance has stood out above the rest.
The last two performances have allowed Galaxy midfielders Joe Corona, Jonathan dos Santos, and Sebastian Lletget to who off their full array of abilities. Whether its reading passes, closing players down, or tilting the field and forcing the play away from the middle, the trio has been playing well with each other defensively. As they gain more camaraderie they will no doubt be a midfield that will compete with the best of them against teams like LAFC and Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference who have talented midfields themselves.
Offensively the trio have started clicking as they gain more chemistry and get more touches on the ball. For the past few seasons Galaxy center backs have too often led the team in passing. To put it bluntly, they are center backs for a reason and it is not their creativity. Over the past few games our leading players with touches and passes completed have been our center midfielders. It is not surprising that in those games we have also held the majority of possession in the opponents half.
As Corona stated after the Timbers match, “I feel very comfortable playing alongside great players and I’m happy the chemistry has been good.”
These tactics employed by Guillermo Barros Schelotto and employed by the players themselves have pinned back attacking midfielders and forced them to start their attacks in their own half.
If the Galaxy can stay healthy and rotate the midfield trio every so often, the team will have the midfield quality to take the team back to the playoffs and beyond.