Match Preview: Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Minnesota United FC

by on 13 October 2017

If any Minnesota United fans are feeling down after a less-than-stellar year, they need look no further than the Los Angeles Galaxy for a bit of relaxing schadenfreude. The Galaxy entered the season not having missed the playoffs since 2008. Now, ahead of Sunday’s clash, they sit seven points below “Worst Team In MLS History™” Minnesota United, and two goals worse on goal differential. Will Sunday be the Galaxy’s chance to wrap up their season with some positivity, or will Minnesota continue its end-of-year hot streak and win in the City of Angels, a place the Galaxy have struggled this season?

Recent form

Los Angeles D D L L L -9
Minnesota D W L W W +4

Previous meetings

Minnesota lost its only match against the Galaxy in mid-May, a heartbreaking home defeat in which it owned 65% of possession. The Loons fielded a lineup very similar to what was deployed last week against Sporting Kansas City, including pairing Christian Ramirez and Abu Danladi up top and starting Miguel Ibarra on the left. Other than being memorable as a tough loss, the match stands out for an early injury to Baggio Husidic, who broke his leg in an injury the Galaxy would blame on the poor turf at TCF Bank Stadium.


Referee Alex Chilowicz
Assistant Apolinar Mariscal
Assistant Jeremy Kieso
Fourth Baldomero Toledo
VAR Juan Guzman Jr.

Roster report

Los Angeles Galaxy
D Robbie Rogers (ankle injury) – Out
M Sebastian Lletget (foot surgery) – Out
M Baggio Husidic (fractured fibula) – Out
D Pele van Anholt (torn ACL) – Out
D Daniel Steres (transverse process fracture) – Out
D Bradley Diallo (right hamstring injury) – Questionable

Minnesota United
M Bernardo Añor (hamstring injury) – Out
D Thomas de Villardi (left Achilles) – Out
M Sam Cronin (head injury) – Out
D Joseph Greenspan (red card suspension) – Out

Tactical outlook

Last week, we reflected on the loss to Houston wherein Minnesota United dominated possession in the first half but was still outshot ten shots to two. It’s a theme I’ve been harping on for several weeks now: if Minnesota is owning possession, it is playing too patiently. There is no playmaker, no No. 10 with laser vision and magic touch who is setting free roaming wingers with perfectly weighted through balls. There are no twinkle-toed artists taking defenders on one-on-one, breaking ankles and dribbling around them to find acres of space. Instead there is a team full of competent, but not game changing, players from top to bottom who can make the most of the talents they do possess by putting opponents on the back foot and chasing.

The first game of the year against Los Angeles is just another data point in that argument. Minnesota was the better team that day, by conventional reckoning, anyway. Some missed chances and an unlucky own goal by Christian Ramirez were the difference. But against a team as thoroughly poor as Los Angeles, at home, two inches wide or two inches in shouldn’t have been the difference.

The Loons almost literally doubled up Los Angeles in passes, completed 80% of those passes to LA’s 65%, and outshot them 22 to 8 (at least in this case, they actually did win the shots battle). But for all that performance, the Loons barely edged the Galaxy in shots on goal, seven to five. It’s not about how big your possession is, it’s what you do with it.

Other than Sam Cronin, Minnesota will be able to pick its roster without compromise. The most unsettled position will be that defensive midfield role (hint: Collen Warner is a better fit than Collin Martin, so long as Warner is staying at home and not streaking in on goal). Any other deviations from the roster that was rolled out against Houston is Adrian Heath experimenting with the pieces he has to play with ahead of next year. That would hardly be the end of the world, with playoffs out of reach and only the future to play for.

How does that kind of lineup stack against Los Angeles? Tough to say, because the Galaxy are A) the classic example of a whole being less than the sum of its parts, and B) the club plays at home worse than most clubs play on the road. To look at this lineup, one would expect a striker like Giovanni dos Santos to perform: he has six goals this year. Emmanuel Boateng is a young, speedy guy whose career was supposed to be blossoming right now: he has scored four goals, actually the most he’s ever scored anywhere, and he’s split time with a rotating cast of wingers. Jermaine Jones is a Designated Player who is on death’s doorstep. Gyasi Zardes is a name that should stand out in the minds of many American soccer fans, but if you don’t follow the Galaxy you will be surprised to see him playing right back a la Graham Zusi; Zardes has not flourished in his new home. The only consistent bright spot on this roster is Romain Alessandrini, who left Marseille in the prime of his career for…this.

How will it play out?

Los Angeles at least have speed to burn out wide. Expect Galaxy forwards to push up field and try to stretch Minnesota’s back line to create seams. Minnesota should enjoy space to work with on the attack, then, with opposing fullbacks working end to end and a Los Angeles center back pairing that has not performed well this year. A wide open game should be on tap.

Los Angeles will win if…

Jermaine Jones is a midfielder for whom every pass is a do or die hero ball. Either he will land the impossible and break someone on goal from fifty yards out, or he will look like a fool. If the ploy to pull the Minnesota back line wider is successful, midfielders like Jones and Alessandrini will have that much wider spaces to land those miracle passes. That could be enough.

Minnesota will win if…

Against a team who will use width to pull a defense wide, the defensive midfielder role becomes essential to cover exposed gaps and not give opponents the time to exploit them. Whoever fills that role on Sunday – Warner, Martin, or the ghost of Cronin – needs to stay at home and know when to drop back and when to apply pressure. Keep the opponents to a goal or fewer, and Minnesota knows it has at least two goals in it against opposition like this.

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  • nomadic loon

    In 1967 there were two major pro leagues in the United states; the NPSL had the Los Angeles Toros, and th USA had the Los Angeles Wolves. When it became known that these leagues would merge to become the NASL it was decided that having two teams in LA was not a good idea. So the Toros moved to San Diego and the LA Wolves were the sole LA representative in NASL’s inaugural year. Unfortunately, they soon folded. In 1974, the LA Aztecs joined NASL – perhaps one of the most talent-gifted teams in US pro history. They had superstars George Best, Johan Cruyff and Brazilian Luis Fernando (who scored 28 goals in 28 games); and were coached by former Dutch Ajax legend Rinus Michels. Yet in their 5-year co-existence with the Minnesota Kicks had three different home stadiums (El Camino College, Los Angeles Coliseum, Rose Bowl) and never drew more than 9,000 fans. In those 5 years, they faced our Kicks 9 times with Minnesota taking 6 of the 9. In the 1978 game at Met Stadium, Alan Willey scored a hat trick – the 5th of his Minnesota career. There was also an NASL team in Anaheim, but I’ll save those stories if we ever play the new Orange County team.
    The Minnesota Thunder co-existed with the Los Angeles Cobras in 1994 and met in the USISL “sizzling nine” playoff format losing 3-2 in a shootout. The Cobras became the Los Angeles U-23 Salsa the following year but never met the Thunder. Going against the wisdom of 1967, MLS put two teams in LA with the Galaxy and Chivas. Chivas eventually folded and I don’t think they ever played a Minnesota team. The Galaxy, on the other hand, has a 4-game history with the Thunder highlighted by three US Open Cup meetings. In 2002, the Thunder got thumped 4-0 at NSC; beat the Galaxy 1-0 in 2004, the year they made it to the quarterfinals; and lost to the Galaxy in the glorious semifinal run of 2005. The fourth Thunder game was a friendly draw in 2007.
    With the earlier Loons loss this year, the overall record against LA is dead even 7-7-1. Go Loons!