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Know the Enemy – LA Galaxy

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The Vancouver Whitecaps travel down to LA to face the Galaxy. We scout the match, looking at their head-to-head results, recent form, and potential strategy.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The seven wins, 15 losses, and 10 draws Vancouver Whitecaps travel to Carson, California to face the 16 wins, 13 losses, and three draws LA Galaxy. Vancouver has avoided finishing dead last in Major League Soccer this season, thanks to expansion club, and nicknamed Vancouver Whitecaps 2 earlier this season, FC Cincinnati. Meanwhile, LA sit third in the West, one point out of second. They won’t catch their city-mate LAFC, and Wednesdays’ victory over Real Salt Lake almost assures them of finishing in the top four, and receiving home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, however, the club will want to finish ahead of Minnesota United FC, to ensure home field for their second round match.

Head to Head

This may come as a surprise to many, but the Vancouver Whitecaps have faired well against the LA Galaxy of late… sort of. Since 2017, the teams have each won two and drawn the other. However, both of LA’s victories have come in their previous two matches – 3-0 on the same September 29th last season, and 2-0 early this season at BC Place.

Even more surprising may be that Vancouver was not largely out-played in those matches; at least when it comes to the statistics. Last season, Vancouver actually had more shots (14-11) and had a respectful, at least for the Caps and on the road, 44% of possession. Their passing accuracy was also close, with LA having an 85% to 80% advantage. This season’s match was very similar. LA outshot Vancouver 15 to 14, had 55% of the possession, and had a passing accuracy advantage of 89% to 83%. In other words, the matches have been closer on the field than one might assume on paper.

While LA Galaxy jumped out to an early lead in last season’s match, with Zlatan scoring in the 4th minute on a penalty kick, they only secured the two-goal advantage in the 58th minute, before closing it out with another penalty kick goal in the 77th. Likewise, this year’s match remained goalless until the 63rd minute, when Daniel Steres opened the scoring, before Zlatan finished it off in the 71st minute.

Recent Form

It is difficult to characterize Vancouver’s recent form. They have very little to play for right now, so it is understandable if motivation is not the highest. However, they did play spoiler in their previous two matches, dashing Houston Dynamo’s playoff hopes, as well as Columbus Crew most recently. Prior to that though, the Whitecaps were losers of three straight. Then again, of the club’s seven victories this season, three have come in their last eight matches. So maybe the club is in good form right now? At least, it is good compared to the rest of their season.

On the other hand, LA Galaxy are a bit easier to describe. They are victorious in their previous three matches, including a 3-1 road victory over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday. Setting aside the 7-2 drubbing of Sporting Kansas City to start that three-match winning streak, and their handling of LAFC, LA Galaxy have not looked very dominant this season. While they sit third in the West, they are, essentially, a .500 team, with 16 wins and a surprising 13 losses. In addition, they only have a +2 goal differential. They have been good at home, but still have four losses. There is not a lot that separates LA Galaxy from the rest of the Western Conference playoff teams.

Strategy

Although Marc Dos Santos has not conveyed the information to players yet, from interviews it seems that he has a pretty good idea of who will be sticking around next season and who will be moving on. Looking at it from the outside, it seems fairly obvious as well. Ardiaz, Erice, PC, Levis, and Bangoura have seen few to no minutes since the middle of the summer, so it is unlikely that we see them next season. There are also a few questions marks around players such as Yordy Reyna and Erik Godoy. Reyna has an option for next season, but we have seen how players can easily get out of those option years (a la Camillo and Larin). Meanwhile, Godoy is on loan. He was awarded the ‘Unsung Hero’ award at the player’s gala on Tuesday but has not featured of late. This was initially because of an injury, but recently it is because Cornelius and Henry have been playing well as a duo. With Khimiri still floating around in the background, a once sure-fire sign-after-loan player is now a question mark. Is it possible that we don’t see Godoy in a Whitecaps uniform again? Then there are players like Montero and Rose, who seem to be fixtures in the lineup, but are not necessarily endeared by fans.

I posed the question earlier this week as to what the game plan is for the final few matches. I suspect that it will be to stay the course and play the same bodies, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to see Simon Colyn, Georges Mukumbilwa, and others get an opportunity. Would it really be such a bad thing to replace Rose with one of these guys?

Ali Adnan picked up a yellow card against Columbus Crew and will miss his second Los Angeles match this season thanks to yellow card accumulation. We could see the sparsely played PC or Levis cover his position, or we might see Sutter switch from the right to play the left. Another potential is for Cornelius to fill in at the position. One final option, which I doubt we see is Vancouver revert to a three-back formation. This could be Henry, Cornelius, and Godoy, or we could see Rose slip in to one of those positions. If we do see three-backs and Godoy does not feature, I think that gives us the answer to the loan question.

With how Marc Dos Santos has lined-up lately, and how he has reported he wants to play next season, expect the familiar 4-3-3. Barring a hopeful youngster getting in there, expect Hwang, Rose, and Teibert to man the midfield, with Reyna and two of Bair, Ricketts, Montero, or Chirinos to join him.