LA Galaxy Post-Match Talking Points, February 4; New Season, Same Galaxy

La Galaxy Center-Back Jalen Neal Is the Future for the Galaxy and USMNT Defense.
LA Galaxy Center-Back Jalen Neal is the future for the Galaxy and USMNT defense.
Los Angeles Galaxy Center-back Jalen Neal started and played 90 minutes in the Galaxy’s 2-1 loss against NYCFC Saturday night at Dignity Health Sports Park. (Photo Credit: Los Angeles Galaxy on February 4, 2023)

Los Angeles – The Los Angeles Galaxy made their 2023 home preseason debut on Saturday night with a 2-1 loss to New York City FC. Douglas Costa had a chance to tie the score with a stoppage-time penalty after a brilliant run by Efrain Alvarez but had his tame effort saved. And so, the 2023 campaign starts as last year’s ended, in LA Galaxy’s post-match disappointment. 

It’s preseason, so the Galaxy won’t be too worried about the result. More importantly, not many fans were there to see it. Most fans in Galaxy supporters groups chose to join a protest outside Dignity Health Sports Park rather than attend the match. Had they been there, they would have seen a team as unstable on the pitch as it seems off of it. It was a Galaxy team lacking sharpness and not too much-attacking threat, which can be attributed to preseason. But, they also would have seen a team lacking wingers and ideas and this should have been addressed in the off-season.

LA Galaxy Post-Match

Wings Anyone?

Head Coach Greg Vanney assured fans in an LA Galaxy post-match presser that wing help was on the way in the “next week to a couple of weeks.” He’s basically forced into it. The Galaxy started the game in a 3-5-2 with Raheem Edwards and Daniel Aguirre on the wings. And while Edwards made a few fine runs forward, he seems best deployed as a left-back. The lack of width made for few chances, and the Galaxy didn’t have a shot on goal until the 32nd minute. Most of the action went New York’s way, and LA went into the half trailing thanks to a lovely chipped goal scored by NYCFC’s Thiago Andrade.

Ironically, both wingers Vanney introduced in the second half were at the heart of the action. New midfield signing Memo Rodriguez was deployed on the left flank as a fill-in left-winger. And then Memo made magic happen. The ex-Houston man sent in a whipped cross over the NYCFC defense. The ball found Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, for the Galaxy captain to slot home easily and tie the game in the 51-minute.

Douglas Costa looked dangerous and had a few good moments on the opposite wing. He tested the City goal on at least three occasions. His scoring the stoppage-time penalty would have been a fine reward for an encouraging cameo. Instead, the Brazilian could not convert to rescue the draw. It would ensure Johnny Denis’ tap-in goal for New York in the 83-minute would be the game-winner. 

A Reason to Smile

Galaxy fans are going through it right now. But there is reason to smile thanks to the recent performances of the 19-year-old center-back, Jalen Neal. The young USMNT defender made his first national team start before his MLS Galaxy debut last month. It’s only a matter of time before he starts for the Galaxy, too. His assured showing during national team duty bodes well for both the U.S. and Los Angeles.

The Galaxy academy product has been mentioned by Vanney multiple times this off-season. This is why it was no surprise to see him get the start on Saturday night. Playing in a back three with experienced veterans like Martín Cáceres and Séga Coulibaly, it was encouraging to see Neal direct his backline partners. It was the type of performance that was crucial for the future of the Galaxy defense. Vanney certainly approved of Neal’s evening.

“I think Jalen has had a great preseason, just between his national team call-ups and the two games he played with the national team and tonight. I think he showed his maturity and quality. You know, he’ll continue to get comfortable with more repetitions, but I think he’s proving that he’s a young man that’s ready for this level,” Vanney said of Neal’s development.

In a tumultuous season that promises to get even more uncertain before it gets stable, Neal is one reason for Galaxy fans to take heart.

The Galaxy Has a Cold

The incomparable writer Gay Talese’s signature piece, “Frank Sinatra has a cold,” describes a world in which the legendary American crooner loses that which makes him special, his essence, and “uninsurable jewel,” his voice. Talese describes Sinatra without a voice as “Picasso without paint, Ferrari without fuel — only worse.”

Saturday night was evidence of a club taking the field without its uninsurable jewel. 

The Los Angeles Galaxy supporters were at the Digz, just not at the game. Members from different groups came together to protest the continued employment of Chris Klein and the lack of change in the Galaxy front office. It made for an entirely unrecognizable experience, preseason or not. 

The vibrant drums normally being pounded on that usually makes the heartbeat of the stadium were nowhere to be seen. Gone too were the flags that supporters use to whip up the fan base into a frenzy and send hearts fluttering. The songs that spur the team on, went unsung. The atmosphere felt more akin to watching tennis or golf live than being at a soccer match.

As the season draws nearer to starting, one thing is starting to become clear. The Galaxy without its supporters is just like Picasso lacking paint or a Ferrari with no gas. 

They need to find a resolution with their supporters, or risk having the stands in Victoria Block and section 138 be silent indefinitely. A prolonged boycott threatens to become a distraction.

By any means necessary, the Galaxy needs its “voice” back.