LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles Galaxy are used to being contenders in MLS. The franchise owns the most league championships since its inception in 1996 with five. But, they’ve been searching for that sixth title since beating the New England Revolution in 2014 to capture the MLS Cup.
Last season saw international star Zlatan Ibrahimovic make his mark on the league during the regular season, scoring 30 goals and adding seven assists. But, in the postseason, the Galaxy bowed out to crosstown rival LAFC 5-3. Ibrahimovic moved on after the season but the Galaxy brought in Javier “Chicharrito” Hernandez, Alexsandar Katai and Sebastian Lletget to help fill the void.
Those additions didn’t exactly mesh with the returnees in the first two matches of the year, a 1-1 tie against Houston Dynamo and 1-0 defeat at the hands of Vancouver Whitecaps. Since then, while the season was paused, the Galaxy parted ways with Katai following his wife’s racist Instagram posts. All of this leads to questions of what to expect from this team in Orlando next week with the start of the MLS Is Back tournament.
“If you had asked me this question in February before the season started, particularly when everything is on paper, you’re able to look and see and say, okay I could see how this will work. But, in their first two games, and they didn’t play anybody that frankly that are going to be playoff teams, they were just flat out bad,” said MLSSoccer.com writer Tom Bogert. “They didn’t figure out central defense over the winter and that’s going to be a problem because it was a huge problem last year. Their starting winger who they picked up this offseason, Alexander Katai, was cut from the team due to his wife’s racist Instagram posts. They’re honestly a team in disarray. Not really too much would be surprising here, but I honestly can’t see them being better than LAFC and Portland is clearly better than them. Small sample size, but the first two games of the year were really not encouraging.”
While Bogert points out that Chicharrito will likely be just fine and get into the rhythm of his normal scoring ways, the Galaxy are left in the awkward position now of filling the void they though Katai would be filling. All signs point to Sebastian Lletget stepping into that role, but there isn’t much depth on the wings for the team.
“He was supposed to be one of their key players so it’s a pretty big loss because they don’t have a ton of depth on the wings. They’ll probably put U.S. international attacking midfielder Sebastian Lletget on the wing but even that’s not perfect even though Lletget is a very good player. A lot of us who get very excited about young rising talents will be very excited to see Efrain Alvarez, who is still only 17, but he’s a huge talent,” said Bogert. “But, he’s just not ready to be relied on to be a starting wing on a team that is always supposed to have championship aspirations. That’s not a knock on him. But, the fact that he’s in the first team and such a hyped player, such a good player, his best role right now would be coming off the bench and dictating the game as an impact sub.”
Add in the news that broke last night that midfielder Jonathan dos Santos will miss the tournament due to surgery to repair a hernia, and the outlook isn’t great. Considering that pre-tournament favorite LAFC and another top-tier contender in Portland Timbers reside in the same group, it’s looking like a difficult road for the Galaxy to the knockout stage. If they get there, things could get interesting, but that relies upon pulling out at least one result against either of LAFC or Portland.
The journey begins on Monday, July 13, against Portland Timbers at 7:30 pm PST.