Kansas City, Kansas – The Los Angeles Galaxy scraped out a gutsy, but nervy scoreless draw away at Sporting KC Saturday night. Their defense was tested early and often, like in the away loss in Dallas. But unlike that night, they did not bend, even though SKC put 30 shots on Galaxy Goalkeeper Jonathan Bond’s net. Center Back Jalen Neal, who was making his first MLS start, and Bond had a big hand in the result. The duo made sure that their club could escape Kansas City with a point. These LA Galaxy, SKC post match talking points will explain how it happened.
LA Galaxy, SKC Post Match
Scoreless in Kansas City after 90 minutes. pic.twitter.com/j2FoQytixL
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 12, 2023
Galaxy Giving Gifts
It’s hard to win when one give the ball away as much as the Galaxy did against SKC. Despite having an 88% pass rating, LA passes were intercepted 13 times. It was the players you wouldn’t expect. Gaston Brugman misplaced a few passes, Riqui Puig was wasteful on occasion, and Efraín Álvarez is just as guilty. For a team that values possession as much as the Galaxy, it is a blueprint for failure. When LA’s attacking players give the ball away high up the pitch, it invites the team to get caught out.
Head Coach Greg Vanney admitted as much in the LA Galaxy post-match presser. “We weren’t great with the ball tonight by any stretch – so many transitions to have to defend because we lost possession too easily at times in the first half. Structurally, we were kind of all over the place, which led to transitions where you spend a lot of energy on the defensive side and a lot of energy protecting your goal and defending the box,” Vanney explained.
Bond was called on time and again to bail the Galaxy out. His 11 saves against SKC were one short of his personal best save record. His performance Saturday was reminiscent of his best moments last year, which should assure all G’s. The amount of shots he had to face, however, is worrying.
The Goalkeeper called on his teammates to react while answering questions about whether he was satisfied with a draw. “No, I think we need to definitely bring those numbers down. I think the reality is that we grinded, and we got a point, but we can’t play like that every week because eventually, the opposition is going to put one or two away,” he shared in the LA Galaxy, SKC post-match presser.
Galaxy keep giving the ball away in dangerous spots. St Louis is gonna love playing against them. #LAGalaxy
— LAisOurHouse (@LAisOurHouse) March 12, 2023
Dejan Joveljic Not Doing It
Bond is right, of course. The Galaxy can’t play like that every week. Except, for two weeks in a row, we’ve had very similar performances from Dejan Joveljic. The Serbian Striker only had two touches in the opposing box against FC Dallas even though he scored with one. On Saturday, it was worse. Joveljić was brought off in the 67-minute after not having a single touch in the box.
Vanney defended Joveljić, citing lack of service and width as the main culprits for robbing the Serbian of goal-scoring chances. “I think we missed a little bit of the speed and the stretch and the players who put the back line on notice because if they get tight or get high, you’re going to go in behind them… And the guy who suffers the most sometimes is the striker because you don’t have players who are getting in behind and moving center backs, forcing center backs to have to track different runs through the back line.”
It is true that Joveljić hasn’t had many of the best chances at goal due to a lack of good service, but it is telling that Preston Judd has come on in both matches and looked dangerous. Two games into the season and Vanney might be forced into a forward rethink if Joveljić can’t find the goal somehow.
— Alex Ruiz (@AlxRuiz15) March 12, 2023
Jalen Neal Makes His Bow
It finally happened. Vanney rewarded Jalen Neal for his good form in pre-season and gave him his first MLS start. The 19-year-old center-back did not look out of place for a second. The former Galaxy academy player went the full 90, made a game-high five blocks, completed 58 of 60 passes attempted (96.7% pass accuracy), and logged his first MLS shutout. Not bad for your first night at work.
As a young player, Neal will undoubtedly mess up at some point. But so far, he hasn’t put a foot wrong. In fact, it was Neal trying to pick his teammates up after the match ended in a scoreless draw. On the night when he should have been celebrating his biggest achievement thus far, Neal was making sure his teammates held their heads high for their efforts. He shared what he told them after the draw.
“It wasn’t the best that we could have played tonight, and we all know that. And I could sense that people were a little down. And after last week’s loss, we just can’t have that mindset. Coming out of here with a point and a shutout, it’s huge. And we have to be proud of ourselves for that. We have a lot of things to take away from this game and improve on, for sure.”
After a tough first few weeks, Galaxy fans can at least take solace in Neal. He is not only LA’s future, but already displays the traits that will make him a great leader in the future as well.
The Galaxy will need Neal to be at his best again when they face the Vancouver Whitecaps next Saturday, March 18 at 7:30 in their home opener.
Greg Vanney on Jalen Neal’s first start:
“One of the greatest qualities I think he has is his capacity on the ball.. he showed something different, which is again, that defensive side and his game reading and winning some duels and making some great defensive plays.” #LAGalaxy pic.twitter.com/CJyLdSkJ9T
— Galaxy Fan Talk (@LAGalaxyFanTalk) March 12, 2023
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