Early chemistry issues were always going to be an issue for the 2018 LA Galaxy and, by and large, the club felt prepared to overcome them. What they weren’t prepared to for, though, were several early absences and a slow start that doomed the team to a frustrating road defeat on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
The Galaxy entered Sunday’s clash without star Romain Alessandrini, but first half injuries to Giovani dos Santos and Michael Ciani headlined what ended as a 2-1 road defeat against NYCFC. It wasn’t just the injuries that doomed the Galaxy on Sunday, though. There were a myriad of reasons for the team’s defeat against a NYCFC side that was certainly far better on the day.
Injuries took a toll, but a poor first half was about much more. The Galaxy emerged a step slow and in a system that didn’t work as intended, leading to a dominant NYCFC first half that, ultimately, proved enough to doom the Galaxy to defeat.
“I thought we were a little bit too narrow,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought our wide players, in the first half, weren’t wide enough. I thought Ema (Boateng) came inside a little bit, (Sebastian) Lletget came inside. We lost a lot of players, a lot of players in the same position. (Chris) Pontius wasn’t available. (Ariel) Lassiter, something happened in warm-ups so he wasn’t available as well. Alessandrini is out and so was Gio.
“You have a lot of people that play the same position and our width wasn’t good enough. They’re a good team. and the nucleus of that team was the same as it was last year. There’s a better cohesion than there is for us, and that’s something that will come.”
Even before dos Santos’ evening ended early, Sunday’s performance was far from a standout effort. The Mexican attacker attempted just six passes in the opening 45 minutes, an apathetic performance from a player that’s still pushing for a World Cup spot.
With dos Santos out, his brother, Jonathan, pushed into a more forward role, taking on responsibility as a No. 10 rather than more of a No. 8. By and large, it worked, as the midfielder scored the Galaxy’s lone goal, his first of the season and second since joining from Villarreal late last year.
“We played (Jonathan) in Gio’s role and he played really well in the second half in that role,” Schmid said. “He’s active and he’s busy and he makes those final runs as well. That might be a role that we look at him for going forward.
“I thought he was great. He’s more of a six for us and wants to get the ball off the back four and be a playmaker in that sense,” added Lletget. “I thought he was fantastic and brought something else. You never like to see a guy go down or a player such as Gio get injured, but he had to play the role and I thought he did it well.”
The push for chemistry will take time. Schmid says the team is not fully sure of the extent of Giovani dos Santos’ injury, while it also remains up in the air when Alessandrini and Cianni will return to the lineup. You can add an impending suspension for captain Ashley Cole as well after the veteran defender was issued a second yellow card late in Sunday’s loss.
With new faces like Perry Kitchen, Jorgen Skjelvik, Rolf Feltscher and Ola Kamara playing prominent roles, the Galaxy will need games to develop the chemistry displayed by teams like NYCFC.
“I thought we started off slowly. I think that’s my fault that we started off slowly a little bit,” Schmid said. “In terms of preparation, I felt we had our press wrong. In the second half, we talked about that and squared that away.
“For us, it’s just understanding each other,” he added. “Jorgen had been playing a lot with Cianni and ended up with a new partner in (Daniel) Steres. It’s about understanding each other and what they can all do for each other.”