Los Angeles have come out of the gate strong with three wins and one loss to start the season. That gives them nine points and 5th place in the West. In comparison, Vancouver is still looking for their first victory starting with three losses and one draw, for one point and 10th in the West.
While the Galaxy have started strong it is worth noting that their three wins have been at home and their only road match ended in a 2-0 defeat at the hands of FC Dallas. In addition, LA have scored seven goals but also given up six. However, the numbers are not any better for the Whitecaps. They have only scored four goals while giving up seven.
New manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto has varied his lineup in the first four matches, playing a 4-2-3-1 (twice), a 4-1-4-1, and a 4-3-3 formation. However, in the two matches that Zlatan has featured, Schelotto has gone with the 4-2-3-1. I would expect the same on Friday evening.
Despite the formation changes there have been some consistency in the starters. The keeper (Bingham) and the defensive four – Feltscher, Polenta, Skjelvik, and Sters – have been the same for all four matches. In the midfield both dos Santos and Antuna have started all four matches, while the other positions have been rotated; likely due to formation changes.
For Marc dos Santos’ Whitecaps, the lineup has been a little more varied, due to injuries and international duty. Only Henry, Godoy, Montero, Erice, and Crepeau have started all four matches. In three of their matches, the Whitecaps have played a 4-3-3, while in Houston they elected to go with a 3-4-3. With most starters healthy for this one I expect the 4-3-3 dos Santos seems to prefer.
In the back Crepeau has been solid and should start again while Godoy and Henry are appearing to form a strong pairing. In fact, Henry had his best game this season (maybe as a Whitecaps?) against Seattle and seems to be in great form. The debut of Adnan at left back was stellar and I fully expect him to get the nod again. Where the questions come is at right back. Nerwinski has had an up and down season so far. It is possible that we see Sutter get an opportunity against a veteran Galaxy squad.
In the midfield three, captain Erice is a lock to start as is, likely, Hwang. The third deep midfield position appears up for grabs. The most likely candidate is Felipe but don’t be surprised if you see Teibert or someone else in that position.
Montero has been less than stellar to begin the season. As a result, many fans are suggesting that Ardaiz get an opportunity to start. However, the coach’s comments about Ardaiz’s work ethic after the Seattle match suggests to me that Montero will get at least one more start to show he can get it going. Lass had a strong start to the previous match but seemed to run out of gas early. Against Houston he started on the bench and then came on in the second half to score a wonderful goal. If he is unable to go the full time don’t be surprised to see him used as a second-half substitute. While Venuto seems the most likely to replace Lass in the Starting XI, MDS has chosen to go with others so far this season. Venuto has only started one match this season, although he has played in all four, for 134 minutes. There might be a work ethic issue with Venuto as well. If Ardaiz and Venuto can work out whatever issues keep them from starting, we could see the pair lighting it up with their pace and skill. Finally, with Reyna getting a rest last match, after his international duty with Peru, expect him to be back in the Starting XI.
Predicted Starting Lineup (4-3-3)
Nerwinski, Godoy, Henry, Adnan
Hwang, Erice, Felipe
Reyna, Montero, Lass
Three Questions with LA Confidential
Finally, we spoke with LA Confidential (@LAGConfidential) about the upcoming match, focusing on the similar, but different, coaching change situation in LA, the offseason moves of Kamara and dos Santos, and of course Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
1. Like in Vancouver, this offseason saw the LA Galaxy hire a new coach. However, it appeared like there was a lot of indecision in the process as several names were touted as the next manager, and then suddenly they were not. Eventually, LA announced the hiring of Guillermo Barros Schelotto on January 2nd. Has the ‘late’ hiring led to some issues with fielding a complete squad and/or filling holes, as has been the case in Vancouver? How has the team adapted to the new manager’s style and expectations?
Indeed, since the offseason began it’s been a race against time for the club. New GM Dennis te Kloese was hired on Dec. 11th, though to give you an idea of his work ethic te Kloese had already been working behind the scenes for weeks. The big move was the last-minute transfer of Ola Kamara to China days before the season opener, throwing a wrench once again in the plans of the coaching staff. That being said, Guillermo Barros Schelotto has done well to implement a structured attacking style that has been sorely missing for years, notably when a LA Galaxy squad missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romain Alessandrini ran circles around Minnesota United FC. The Galaxy are still very much a work in progress however: LA struggled to put away a bunkered in Timbers side and there are plenty of defensive issues to sort out.
2. Outside of LA, a lot was made of the Ola Kamara transfer and the Giovani dos Santos buyout. What were the feelings of Galaxy fans on the two moves and how did the moves change, or not change, the club?
Galaxy fans were heartbroken about Ola, whereas Gio just broke Galaxy fans. That being said, there was definitely a twinge of sadness from a fan base that criticized dos Santos relentlessly but deep down wanted him and his brother to succeed here. Unfortunately Gio didn’t make much of an impact the last few years, but the team has missed Ola Kamara’s lethal finishing. (Kamara is just one of four MLS players to make the Top 10 scoring charts three years running)
3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is certainly a big personality. He started the opener and then sat out the next two. On Sunday he played against LA, scoring both goals in a 2-1 victory. How does Zlatan change the way LA plays? Are there major differences in the squad when he is on the field versus when he is out? Besides Zlatan, who do LA rely on most heavily?
With Zlatan, LA gain a superstar No. 9 but can’t press and team defending suffers. Without Zlatan, the team is more dynamic but lacks a lethal finisher. With or without Zlatan, the central midfield trio of Jonathan dos Santos, Sebastian Lletget and Joe Corona has been instrumental to the Galaxy’s latest wins.
Heading into this one what are your expectations? What strategy do you see Marc dos Santos employing?