PREVIEW: LA Galaxy Fly North to Face Vancouver Whitecaps

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK - March 11: Daniel Steres #5 of Los Angeles Galaxy challenged by Maximiliano Moralez #10 of New York City during the New York City FC Vs LA Galaxy regular season MLS game at Yankee Stadium on March 11, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Vancouver, British Columbia (March 23, 2018) – The LA Galaxy return to the field this Saturday to face their intra-continental foes, Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Following an extended break, the Galaxy look to return to winning ways despite battling injuries and a seemingly unjust MLS schedule.

PREVIEW: LA Galaxy Fly North to Meet Vancouver

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy
2018 MLS Regular Season
BC Place Stadium
March 24, 2018 – 7 pm PT
Stream: MLS Live

What to watch for:

ZLATAN!

After nearly two years of known courtship, the LA Galaxy seem to have finally caught their white whale. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a member of the LA Galaxy. Unfortunately, fans shouldn’t expect to see Moby Zlatan this weekend. The 36-year-old Swedish international is not likely to play in Vancouver, but the safe assumption is to debut him ahead of the Los Angeles FC matchup in front of a sold-out StubHub Center on March 31, 2018.

Missing in Action:

The LA Galaxy are suffering through a 2017-like spell of missing players. According to the official MLS injury report, eight LA Galaxy players are currently injured. This includes five starters and all three designated players (Romain Alessandrini, Giovani dos Santos, and Jonathan dos Santos).

The Galaxy will also be missing Captain Ashley Cole, who is suspended after receiving two yellow-cards in the Galaxy’s 2-1 loss at NYCFC.

Compounding the injuries and suspension, Ola Kamara and Emrah Klimenta have been called in for international duty.

Ola Kamara plays in Oslo against Australia on March 23, before traveling to Elbasan, Albania for the match on Monday, March 26. The center-forward looks to add his tenth cap for Norway, and the Galaxy wouldn’t mind if he added to his senior tally of one international goal.

Klimenta, on the other hand, will represent Montenegro in Cyprus on Friday, March 23 and in Montenegro against Turkey on Tuesday, March 27. The former USL defender, who has yet to play with the Galaxy, can use the games to build form before returning to Los Angeles.

This game is yet another frustration with the MLS schedule, which frequently fails to honor FIFA international windows, and creates a further handicap for the Galaxy in Vancouver. As the league continues to evolve and challenge for global respect, it should begin to reconsider its stubborn calendar and align with the rest of the footballing world.

Who Actually Plays

A short-handed LA Galaxy side will need to be resourceful if they plan on surviving the trip north. Expect a conservative lineup that focuses on building a solid defense. As it currently stands, the Galaxy head to Vancouver with four opening day starters expected to play.

On the backline, the Galaxy will see Daniel Steres return to the starting lineup after broken back ended his 2017 campaign. Joining Steres in his return is Dave Romney who replaces the suspended Cole.

The midfield should see Servando Carrasco join Galaxy mainstay midfielder Baggio Husidic in the center midfield to replace the injured duo of Perry Kitchen and Jonathan dos Santos. Starting Carrasco and Husidic makes sense seeing as how the Galaxy will need to rely on experience if they plan on overcoming the injuries.

Where the LA Galaxy find themselves in the most trouble is the attack. With starters Kamara, Giovani dos Santos, and Romain Alessandrini missing the contest, the Galaxy will look to two players who are returning from injury to fill those roles. Chris Pontius, who recently signed from D.C. United, will likely play as a target striker alone up top while youngster Ariel Lassiter will replace Alessandrini on the right side. The two are interchangeable and should be expected to swap throughout the game.

Previous Meetings:

The LA Galaxy lead the all-time series with a record of 9 wins, 4 draws, and 5 losses. In 2017, the Galaxy lost both matches to Vancouver by a combined score of 5-2.

In the first meeting, former Galaxy goalkeeper Clement Diop plagued the Galaxy with two howlers as the Whitecaps raced to a 4-2 victory in Vancouver. The meeting saw eventual Galaxy team MVP, Romain Alessandrini, get off the mark with a brace to bag his first two goals as a member of the club.

In the return meeting, Vancouver ventured south to the StubHub center and beat the Galaxy in a game that many fans have likely forgotten. The game was a contentious affair resulting in a total of 22 fouls and 29 total shots. Despite the numbers, the game produced one lone goal by Vancouver’s Tony Tchani.

Final Prediction: Vancouver 1, LA Galaxy 1

The LA Galaxy will fly to Vancouver with the realistic ambition to return with one point. If they stumble upon a Vancouver mistake or two, or if the MLS officials act like MLS officials, returning with three points is possible.

Due to the club’s excessive injuries, expect them to sit deep and invite pressure while springing counter-attacks through the wide players. Both Lassiter and Boateng have the pace to frighten Vancouver’s back line if they can continuously get in behind. However, neither have the requisite technique to maintain possession for long stretches.

By and large, the key to the game will be whether or not the Galaxy can maintain their defensive shape. The backline was working through cohesiveness issues prior to missing two starters; losing Ciani and Cole exacerbates that problem. In addition, Kitchen’s knee injury means the Galaxy lose their anchor man for Vancouver, and Vancouver’s new Kamara, of the Kei variety, will look to expose the Galaxy defense with pacey winger Alphonso Davies.

Ultimately, the LA Galaxy have conceded possession to their during the season’s first two contests. They have been out-possessed 56%-44%. Furthermore, traveling 1,200 miles and missing six potential starters makes that task even more difficult. All things considered, if the Galaxy muster the resolve to grind out a pragmatic 90-minute game, they can return home with a point and a showdown against LAFC on the horizon.

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