Can LA Galaxy March On To MLS Cup Glory?

LA Galaxy is arguably the most famous Major League Soccer (MLS) team in the competition. The franchise became world-famous when former Manchester United and England midfielder David Beckham signed for LA Galaxy from Spanish giants Real Madrid. LA Galaxy has reached more MLS Cup finals (9) than any other team and has won more (5), too. The team has been a disappointment for the past few seasons but seems to be enjoying a renaissance right now. Can they reach their tenth MLS Cup final?

There was a time when LA Galaxy dominated the MLS. Every team feared them, and every opposition fan was in awe of the team in white. Anyone enjoying MLS betting in California placed their wagers on LA Galaxy winning because they won the MLS Cup in 2011, 2012, and again in 2014. However, since then, Galaxy has flattered to deceive. 

“Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Brent Kallman” by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP is licensed under CC BY 3.0

A Bitterly Disappointing 2020 Season

Galaxy’s 2020 campaign was nothing short of abysmal. They finished 10th in the Western Conference, having won only six of their 22 fixtures, drawing four, and losing 12. The season was, of course, curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was still bitterly disappointing.LA Galaxy ended the 2020 season 20th overall, missing out on the MLS Cup playoffs for the second time in three years.

The franchise’s owners relieved Guillermo Barros Schelotto of his duties as head coach and instilled Greg Vanney in the role. Vanney played 25 times for Galaxy during the 2008 season before turning his hand to coaching. Vanney guided Toronto FC to the domestic treble in 2017, so he came with big expectations on his shoulders.

Former Toronto Head Coach Shuffles The Pack

Vanney spent a lot of time on the training ground getting his roster of players fitter and accustomed to playing the style of soccer he wanted them to play. All the hard work seems to be paying off because LA Galaxy looks competitive and currently occupies third place in the Western Conference (4th overall) through the first 15 games of the 2021 season.

The addition of goalkeeper Jonathan Bond from then-Premier League side West Bromwich Albion added some much-needed steel and organization to the Galaxy defense. Vanney also gave Mexico international forward Javier Hernandez a more prominent role, resulting in the diminutive Mexican shining brightly.

Galaxy won eight of their opening 11 fixtures, including some hard-fought victories. They defeated Inter Miami CF 3-2 on the road on the season’s opening day before beating New York Red Bulls 3-2 on home soil. Hernandez was magical in the Red Bulls victory, bagging himself his first MLS hattrick.

A disappointed 3-0 loss on the road to Seattle Sounders, the overwhelming favorites for MLS Cup glory, showed Galaxy where they need to improve. Back-to-back victories over city rivals Los Angeles FC and new side Austin FC were expected, but another heavy 3-0 defeat followed. Galaxy had Derrick Williams sent off one minute before the break, and the Portland Timbers put their extra man advantage to good use.

“Greg Vanney” by LA Galaxy is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Vanney Needs To Halt The July Slide

July has not been kind to Galaxy. One win, one draw, and three defeats have resulted in them sliding down the standings. This is where Vanney will earn his salary, picking his stars up from the floor, dusting them off, and sending them back out to do the job Galaxy fans know they can do.

Vanney needs to tighten up his porous defense, which has conceded 26 goals in 15 games and only kept two clean sheets. Those shutouts came against San Jose Earthquakes and Austin FC, two MLS sides who are toothless in attack.

He also needs to keep supplying Hernandez with ammunition because the Mexican is full of confidence right now. Hernandez only found the back of the net twice in 12 games in 2020 but has 10 in 10 this season and has looked unplayable at times.

Perhaps it is a little too early to tout Galaxy for MLS Cup glory, especially with their recent run of poor form. However, Vanney has a proven track record, Galaxy has plenty of firepower, and you feel the best is yet to come from the roster. There are still 19 games to play, and that means 57 points are up for grabs. Something tells us LA Galaxy will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.

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