On Sunday, in MLS’s marquee evening game on Fox Sports 1, the LA Galaxy have a chance to prove that they are different this year. There has been plenty of times over the past few years that it seemed like the Galaxy might have found a way to play like the big-market power they theoretically should be, at least based on their top-line talent.
They play the New York Red Bulls, a weaker opponent, but one that will present many problems to a team that is trying to figure out how to reach their potential. Here are some keys to that game.
New York Red Bulls vs LA Galaxy Preview
The Red Bulls’ press
You can’t talk about the Red Bulls without talking about their press. Under new coach Gerhard Struber, they are emphasizing the press more than ever before. They are certainly a product of the worldwide Red Bull ethos — put the system at the center and let the players thrive from there. You won’t find household names on this roster. That’s by design. They want to give opportunities to young players and find diamonds in the rough.
They gave Sporting KC trouble for 60 minutes in Week 1, going up 1-0 in the second half on a Caden Clark goal. (Clark, 17, is a talent to watch.) They ran out of gas and lost 2-1 after two SKC goals in quick succession. But it was in many ways a promising performance. They looked organized and capable of closing down space everywhere on the field.
Additionally, they made the acquisition of midfielder Frankie Amaya official this week. Amaya, who had requested a trade from FC Cincinnati, is a young, smooth-passing center mid who the reports indicate will see more attacking freedom in New Jersey. That will be exciting to see, as Amaya has never really had a great opportunity with struggling Cincinnati, but he’s never been a particularly strong defensive player, so it will be interesting to watch how he performs in the press.
Chicharito’s scoring and the LA attack
After a much-publicized difficult first season in MLS, Chicharito got off to a perfect start in Week 1. He scored twice on two shots as the Galaxy defeated Inter Miami 3-2. The poaching instincts, which never went away, were on full display. It’s clear that even as Greg Vanney has taken over as manager, the Galaxy base their attack on getting their Mexican star chances.
How much will that work, though? They managed to score three times against Miami, but that was not tough competition, and the score doesn’t say everything. The Galaxy lost the expected goals, 2.6 to 1.4, and that was not a product of the game state — all three LA goals came in the second half. The attack was too often one-dimensional, lacking ideas in the final third. Everyone looked like they were waiting for a chance to cross it to Chicharito. That wasn’t even a good strategy when they had Zlatan.
There was a lack of chance creation surrounding Chicharito. Victor Vazquez spent a lot of time dropping deeper, so it’s fair to wonder whether it might suit the Galaxy more if Vazquez played more as a true attacking midfielder. Then again, when the Red Bulls press, Vazquez will be well-suited to pass through it from deeper areas.
It’s unclear whether new signing Kevin Cabral will be available. Cabral, 21, is a speedy winger who could add another dimension to LA’s attack. It’s a lot of ball possession, too little penetration and creativity right now. They’ve felt the loss of Cristian Pavon.
Oh, and also, the Galaxy still can’t really defend. They might end up being heavily reliant on Chicharito.
Red Bulls vs Galaxy Prediction
I’ve got the Galaxy winning this 2-1. The Red Bulls will make things frantic and cause some problems, but they might have trouble sustaining their chance creation for 90 minutes. The Galaxy’s midfielders, including former Red Bull Sacha Kljestan, will know how to deal with the press.
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