The Houston Dynamo are hoping to rebound after a disappointing result on the road against Minnesota United FC. This week they’ll host the visiting LA Galaxy with all eyes on Zlatan Ibrahimović. The Dynamo have not been consistent at home, but when they’ve won, they’ve done it by at least four goals.
In our match preview we discussed the Dynamo’s strategy to blackout BBVA Compass Stadium with the players wearing black kits and they’ve encouraged the fans to wear black. The move is a nod to the 2009 Conference Finals between the Dynamo and the Galaxy which saw the lights mysteriously go out and then the momentum shifted from the Dynamo to the home LA Galaxy. However, we wanted to know more about our opponents so we spoke with Mike Gray at LAG Confidential to see what’s going on with his club this season.
Dynamo Theory: Last year was not the LA Galaxy’s year as they finished league bottom with just 32 points. What are some expectations for this year’s side and are they living up to or exceeding those early on in the season?
LAG Confidential: LA’s stop-start season thus far has been defined by three major events: The offseason rebuilding job, a mini-injury crisis and ZlatanMania.
Sigi has a lot to work with despite the unbalanced roster, but without the services of key players for long stretches the Galaxy boss has been forced to shuffle the lineup game by game, robbing the squad of any ability to build cohesion or even an identity.
DT: The Galaxy now have a rival in the same city with LAFC arriving on the MLS scene this season. Has the rivalry seemed forced in any way or has it grown naturally with people picking sides? Has that helped make Galaxy fans more engaged?
LAG C: Definitely not forced. You already had an existing fanbase with the Chivas USA supporters ready to rock and roll, then a brief tagging war kicked things off before El Trafico cemented the rivalry for good.
There’s a perception among Galaxy fans that LAFC supporters are of the hipster bandwagon variety. The argument has some weight: LA have been the standard bearers of the league for two decades and Angelenos are just now discovering soccer?
Honest question for LAFC supporters: How did the team get you to become a fan in a city that already had the most successful MLS team ever and had already been here for over 20 years? This is a question that other "No. 2" teams in Los Angeles have struggled to find an answer to.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 27, 2018
It all came to a boil when LAFC fans invaded the StubHub Center for El Trafico. LA fans got mad, let their voices be heard and what unfolded was easily the greatest atmosphere I’ve ever seen at a Galaxy game, period.
DT: Obligatory Zlatan question: Obviously Zlatan Ibrahimović is a big deal. How has he acclimated to the MLS culture and how has he fit in with LA’s squad?
LAG C: It’s interesting how LA’s galacticos have adjusted to life in MLS over the years. David Beckham was used to the circus, but needed an adjustment period to figure out the grind. Robbie Keane was all about the football and hated the circus. Steven Gerrard never looked comfortable in a Galaxy shirt.
In comparison to the others, Ibra’s has a seamless transition. Zlatan is both here for the football and comfortable with the circus. Growing up idoling American sports, he has an appreciation for the unglamorous aspects, the mundane press conferences, the travel, etc. He might not like doing these things, but he gets them.
DT Bonus Question: Going back to the Conference Finals in 2009, the Dynamo and Galaxy were at the then Home Depot Center. Things seemed to be going well for the Dynamo early on with momentum in their favor before the lights went out twice and things began to swing the other way.
The Dynamo are hoping to blackout BBVA Compass tonight in their black kits, but do you know what REALLY happened that November evening when the lights went out in Los Angeles? REALLY?
LAG C: David Beckham is a living soccer god and asked one of his soccer god buddies for a solid. That’s what happened, The StubHub Center is America’s soccer cathedral, its a holy venue, crazy things happen here. Did you see Zlatan’s goal? (Another soccer god btw)
For my answers to Mike’s excellent questions, please check them out at LAG Confidential!