Things looked rather bleak for the LA Galaxy just a few weeks ago. The home match against the Philadelphia Union on April 30 offered them with something of a crossroads. Defeat to the then bottom side in the Eastern Conference would have surely meant the end for head coach Curt Onalfo. Instead, they drew, giving them the platform for a streak they still find themselves on.
The Carson club have now gone five games without suffering defeat, winning three in a row. Wins over the New York Red Bulls and Minnesota United hinted at the turning of a corner, suggesting the difficult start to the season was only the result of a natural transition at StubHub Center. But Sunday’s 4-2 away triumph over the San Jose Earthquakes underlined the recovery the Galaxy have made.
It was undoubtedly their best performance of the year so far, turning over their closest rivals in front of their own fans. The attacking duo of Romain Alessandrini and Giovani dos Santos were the star men, driving the LA Galaxy forward from start to finish.
The former has been a highlight in what was a dull season for weeks now, becoming the Galaxy’s main threat to opposition sides since joining from Marseille in the off season. But it is the rise of the latter that gives Onalfo most encouragement.
Dos Santos started 2017 sluggishly, struggling to make an impression on a team in desperate need of leaders. After the departureS of Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan at the end of last season, the Mexican was expected was to become the main man at the LA Galaxy. He had disappointed up until that point, but this season was supposed to be his season.
It took a little longer than predicted, but that is now finally materialising. Dos Santos has now netted five times in his last four outings, including two in the win over the Earthquakes at the weekend.
Against San Jose, the former anyone else, making himself an individual hub of attacking activity.
In terms of sheer individual ability, dos Santos is among the very best in Major League Soccer. But that hasn’t always been evident. It’s only now that is coming to the surface.
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It could be argued that dos Santos struggled earlier in the season thanks to a lack of service, due to the lack of a settled support team behind him. Onalfo now appears to have stumbled across a side that works not just for the LA Galaxy in general, but for dos Santos.
“It’s a new group,” Onalfo said after the weekend win in the Cali Clasico, highlighting the changes undergone at the club a very short space of time. “It’s a new coach, a lot of new players, a lot of change. It takes time to adapt to that. Plus, it was just a weird start to the season for us. A lot of suspensions, injuries, so it was hard to really have any continuity. And I think that had a lot to do with it.”
Injuries may well have helped the Galaxy find their stride, though. Without Jermaine Jones, the Galaxy appear a far more productive side in the final third. They have found the net 11 times in three and a half games since the US international was withdrawn at half time of the 2-2 draw against the Chicago Fire. Questions were raised against Jones as soon as he arrived in Carson in the off-season, and still no answers have been provided.
A concern for Onalfo, however, is that Alessandrini might have picked up a knock against San Jose. The Frenchman was spotted limping towards the end of the match, also admitting afterwards that playing 12 games in a row has taken its toll. “It was a long time since I’ve played like that, so I need to get used to it.”
Onalfo still hasn’t imposed an identity on this LA Galaxy, instead relying on the individual quality of the players at his disposal. I’ve never wavered; I’ve said the same thing from the beginning,” he reiterated on Sunday.
“We’re still not where we want to be, but we’re moving in the right direction. We’ve just got to keep building on this. I feel like we’re starting to play good soccer, exciting soccer, soccer that our fans should be proud of.”
While it is true that Onalfo must build a unit that works together as a team, that will be a lot easier if he can continue to get the best out of dos Santos. The Mexican is finally proving his worth.