Los Angeles – Los Angeles Galaxy fans can finally celebrate. An announced 18,000-plus were on hand at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday, April 22, 2023, to watch the Galaxy finally win a match. Galaxy fans should be encouraged by what they saw. The Galaxy was able to convincingly handle a normally excellent Austin team 2-0. Better still, they were able to build on the dominant, but ultimately a futile home loss to LAFC by controlling this match from start to finish. The cherry on top? Getting Captain Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and his DP mate, Riqui Puig on the scoresheet and having fun again.
LA Galaxy Post Match
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) April 23, 2023
More First-Half Struggles
The match started as most have for the Galaxy this season. LA dominated the opening exchanges, but could not make the pressure pay off. Chicharito was spared from having to explain to a first-half one-on-one miss after he was judged offside. The captain would’ve been relieved to see the offside flag come up as he should’ve done better to put the chance away.
But in truth, no one on the Galaxy was sharp. The team could be seen learning in real-time to a 3-5-2 formation change. The introduction of Dejan Joveljić into the starting lineup as a winger had a learning curve as well. And LA was almost made to pay a harsh lesson, as Austin ended the half the brighter side. A Sebastian Driussi goal was waved off after Austin was judged to have fouled a Galaxy defender in the build-up to the goal. An extremely tight call, it allowed the Galaxy to go into the half tied 0-0 and all to play for.
Here are the receipts!!!! Look at the lines on the grass and hire me to do VAR!!!!!! #AustinFC #MLS #MLSSeasonPass LA Galaxy has been robbing the rest of the league for years on rigged calls like this!!!!! pic.twitter.com/FTJMTFGfsu
— Ribbinator (@adamribbeck) April 23, 2023
Chicharito Gets Going
It wouldn’t take long for the Galaxy to get going in the second half. And they finally got a bit of luck to go with it. After a Mark Delgado pass was misplayed by Puig, the Catalan was able to poke the 50-50 ball into the path of Joveljić. He gathered the ball just outside the Austin 18-yard box and played a quick shovel pass into the path of Chicharito. The captain would not make the mistakes he made against LAFC and in the first half here. He would catch up to the pass and take a first-time right-footed shot that blasted into the center of the net. The relief was palpable as Chicharito got his first goal of the year and the Galaxy jumped out to the 1-0 lead.
There was still more to come from the Galaxy. Just 10 minutes later, LA showed off its devastating counterattack. After a Mark Delgado pickup in the middle of the park, the Galaxy was off to the races. The midfielder would carry the ball the length of the field with Joveljić and Puig to his left. Delgado waited just enough to slide the ball into Puig’s path on the left wing. Riqui Rocket would take two touches before firing a low, driven strike into Brad Stuver’s net for the 2-0 Galaxy lead. Up by two goals and cruising, a weight seemed to come off the club. Chicharito admitted as much post game.
“It’s more of a release because I think when you are in these types of clubs, and when I say type, I mean very, very successful clubs… The pressure of responsibility and the standards are very high. It’s not the same to be in another club and you don’t win six games. [If you don’t win] Six games in LA… As you can see, we don’t even have fans in our stands,” Chicharito said of the win and the goal.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 23, 2023
A Defense for Now and the Future
While the Galaxy attack came alive, the defense was busy shutting down a normally potent Austin offense. And they couldn’t get a sniff. Galaxy season MVP so far, Jalen Neal, recorded a game-high seven clearances, completed 67 passes (95.7% pass accuracy), and finished the match with four duels won and six possessions won. As impressive as the center back has been, it’s easy to forget he is just 19. Neal’s defensive partners on the day, aren’t much older.
Lucas Calegari is just 21 himself. The Brazilian has been a constant attacking threat on the right side of the defense for the Galaxy. He has also been a dependable replacement for former Galaxy defender and current Barcelona FC star Julian Araujo. While not as pacey as Araujo, Calegari offers a more defined offensive presence as a right back. And indeed the Galaxy usually looks more dangerous when Calegari gets forward.
On the opposite flank, new arrival Julian Aude made his first start against Austin FC. And he didn’t look out of his depth once. On the contrary, Aude played like he’s been with the team for some time, such was his contribution.
“I think one of the things that you see as we continue to build this team, is we’re trying to build the team that can compete right away, which, we’re working on and tonight is the first step in showing you that, but also a team that has a really bright future. And so, you know, you see that in those three guys and others that are out there,” Vanney said of his young defenders.
Together, these three should form the bedrock of the Galaxy defense for years to come.
Just the beginning 🇦🇷
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) April 23, 2023
Defending the Badge – Riqui Puig
This one is easy. Puig put the team on his back for the second game running. Everything good seems to flow through him. His goal was a just reward for his good performance. The only notch against him is his yellow card which will keep him out of LA’s next game. They’ll certainly miss him as the Galaxy plays Orlando City on the road next Saturday while looking for a second straight win.
🍿 @RiquiPuig vs. Austin FC:
• 8,5 Match-rating (MOTM) 🌟
• 1 Goal scored ⚽️
• 2 Chances created
• 64/73 Successful passes
• 88% Passing accuracy
• 5 Shots taken
• 2 Shots blocked
• 102 Touches
• 2 Interceptions
• 6 Recoveries
• 3 Fouls won
• 3 Duels won pic.twitter.com/yhXiWPiY7c
— Michael (@MichaelEmilio_) April 23, 2023