CARSON, CA – New York City FC travels to the City of Angels to take on LA Galaxy Saturday night at StubHub. Let’s take a look:
Tale of the Tape
LA Galaxy sits in 9th place in the West with 23 points from 22 matches. Their six wins this season have come almost exclusively on the road; they are not-so-proud owners of the league’s worst home record (1-6-4). Their attack is not wholly incompetent, with 32 goals they are around the middle of the league. The LA defense, however, has given up the fourth-most goals in the league (40). They are 0-4-1 in their last five matches.
NYCFC are in third place in the East with 40 points from 23 matches. As poor as the Galaxy have been at home, City have been quality on the road, where they are 4-6-1. The Boys in Blue are now second in the league in scoring (43), thanks to David Villa‘s first NYCFC hat-trick. NYCFC’s defense has allowed 33 goals.
Who’s the man in LA?
The main story coming into this one is unquestionably LA’s historically-bad home form in 2017. The Galaxy’s lone win at StubHub came in April against Montreal – a game which saw Marco Donadel get a straight red in the 44′, handing LA a man advantage for the entire second half. Since losing Robbie Keane, LA have been without a true goal-scoring standout. Despite the presence of talents like Jelle Van Damme on the back line, he can’t get it done all on his own. And so, the Galaxy find themselves without a consistent, standout threat for the first time in many years.
The additions of Gio and Jonathan Dos Santos, as well as the emergence of Romain Alessandrini as a capable scorer have the Galaxy at least pointed in the right direction. While Jonathan hasn’t gotten an opportunity for LA yet, his presence changes the look of their midfield. New York City could see that new look this weekend. With JDS at the 8, Jermaine Jones can drop back to pair with Van Damme in the center of the Galaxy defense. That combination of size and physicality could prove difficult to deal with for the undersized front three for NYC.
Consistency is Key
New York City have been very Jekyll & Hyde this season when it comes to opponents. The criticism has been made that the club plays to their opponent – leading to interesting games against opposition City should easily defeat.
The Galaxy match has all the makings of a trap game. An out-of-form team struggling to win at home against one of the top three teams in the entire league. A once-great club making changes and deploying them for the first time in a promise to their fans that they are still relevant.
It is of paramount importance that City ride the high of their come-from-behind victory against their rivals. Coming out complacent and without any hunger to make a statement – to say “We are the best” – would set an unsettling pattern of following raucous highs with head-scratching disappointments.
Battles to Watch
City front three vs. Jelle Van Damme/Jermaine Jones: I said on our podcast this week that our two-thirds of our attacking front have played nearly every minute this season. Villa and Jack Harrison have hustled every step of the way. While the two of them could certainly create success against JVD+JJ not matter who rounds out the left wing, the opportunity to insert some size up front should not go unnoticed. A starting front of Rodney Wallace, Ugo Okoli & Khiry Shelton would be interesting to watch.
Giovanni Dos Santos vs. Alex Ring: Alessandrini is listed as Questionable on the Galaxy injury report with a “knee irritation,” so Dos Santos will likely end up being Ring’s mark. Even if Alessandrini does play, cutting off his service will be vital to an NYCFC win. Gyasi Zardes has been largely ineffective this season.
Ben Sweat vs. Emmanuel Boateng: Boateng has been in good form of late. He’s extremely agile and can get himself into good position to take advantage of mistakes. Sweat has been everything City fans could have asked for in a backup for Ronald Matarrita, but he is still a backup. Galaxy likes to loft crosses from the edge, and Sweat has given up too much space in those scenarios in the past.