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Dos Santos, Gerrard help Galaxy find stride despite absences

Photo by Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports
Photo by Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports

The LA Galaxy appeared to be headed for a rough stretch. Team captain Robbie Keane was in the midst of an extended absence, while much of the discussion surrounding the team regarded the upcoming suspension of Nigel de Jong. Missing two key contributors, and with several more yet to make their impact, the Galaxy had plenty of question marks.

Those questions have been answered over the past two weeks, and it’s been some of the team’s previously-maligned stars leading the charge.

In the two games following De Jong’s suspension, the Galaxy have arguably played their best soccer since last season’s mid-summer spending spree. The process started with a 4-1 thrashing of the Dynamo, but the Galaxy truly shined this past weekend with a 5-2 demolition of previously unbeaten Real Salt Lake.

Giovani dos Santos and Steven Gerrard have stepped up with their best back-to-back performances in a Galaxy uniform. Previously criticized for their performances since moving stateside last summer, the past two weeks have offered glimpses into what the two stars can do if put in the correct situation.

Let’s start with Dos Santos, whose audacious SBI MLS Goal of the Week-winning chip shot served as a true signature moment of the recent run. Against the Dynamo, the Mexican international was lethal, netting two goals while adding a secondary assist for good measure. Saturday’s contest saw another goal and another secondary assist, as Dos Santos continued to have his biggest effect on the club level in some time.

For the Mexican playmaker, it starts with positioning. Due to the presence of other forward options, Dos Santos was commonly played on the right last season, a position he could never quite play to his strengths. In the season opener, Dos Santos was tucked inside, but performed poorly and was unceremoniously yanked at halftime before several weeks of injury absences.

In the weeks since his return, Dos Santos has shined. Playing in a central playmaking role, Dos Santos is not burdened by his lack of defensive acumen while given room to do what he does best: create. The Mexican forward has done so in spades while given the freedom to drift where necessary to lead the attack. The move centrally has Dos Santos finally looking like the player the Galaxy expected when they offered him a Designated Player deal last summer.

With the Copa America Centenario around the corner, Dos Santos has plenty of motivation to succeed. The 26-year-old forward has no guarantees from El Tri, and hasn’t appeared for Mexico since the crucial CONCACAF Cup against the U.S. Men’s National Team. With a major international tournament set for the summer, Dos Santos needs to be healthy and on a roll to ensure playing time.

Gerrard has no such concerns, having ended his international career several years ago. However, the former England and Liverpool star has also seen a recent upswing in performances.

The 35-year-old midfielder finally looks like his old self. Gerrard has flourished in the 4-2-3-1 look the Galaxy have used in recent weeks alongside midfield partner Baggio Husidic. Gerrard bagged a late goal last time out while adding an assist in the week prior, but his impact has been much more than seen on the scoresheet.

A more attack-minded midfielder in his early career, Gerrard settled into a deeper role late in his Liverpool tenure, and his ability to boss a midfield has been on display over the past two weeks. Defensively, Gerrard has done his share of the dirty work. Against the Dynamo alone, Gerrard made eight interceptions, as the Galaxy won the game by dominating the middle of the field. Add in Gerrard’s signature passing range, and the midfielder’s contributions have been paramount in the team’s upswing.

With players like Gyasi Zardes and Emmanuel Boateng stepping up alongside them, Gerrard and Dos Santos have each played vital roles in the Galaxy’s recent successes. Add in the contributions of veteran Mike Magee and a rapidly-improving back line, and the Galaxy have certainly made a statement of intent out West.

With Keane and De Jong still out of the fold, the Galaxy will have reintroductions to make as the two return in the coming weeks. However, the absences of the two stars may have proven to be a blessing in disguise. Now in-tune and in-form, the Galaxy appear to have found their feet in what has proven to be an ultra-competitive Western Conference race.


  1. SG is increasingly doing more subtle things, more like the things Beckham did but with better defensive acumen. He uses his wide players really well and changes the point of attack with Paul Scholes like precision. One way to measure it is to look at the amount of time and space on the ball for players that receive his passes in attacking areas. He has been able to advance the ball, switch the point of attack and put 2-4 defenders on the back foot with a single pass. His pass to Dos Santos for the goal last week was every bit as special as Gio’s chip this week.

    • Not to mention the demolition of RSL in the midfield that led to the ridiculous pass to Boateng that led to the Gio chip.

  2. I didn’t think SG looked that great really. Didn’t see last week, just two weeks ago.
    He has worked his way up to mediocre maybe? Maybe that is all anyone is expecting now.

    Am I alone?

    • He was very good the last game. Much more active and influential than at any time last season and his best game this season. He looked to be very similar to the Stevie G of several years ago..


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