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Behind Enemy Lines: LA Galaxy’s west coast bias

The 2020 season is finally upon us! Alicia Rodriguez of LAG Confidential fills us in to what we should look for in the season opener.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Houston Dynamo Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

After a long winter hiatus, the Houston Dynamo are finally ready to start bringing joy to all the orange fans. First team up? The LA Galaxy.

Last season, the Galaxy made the playoffs as the five seed in the Western Conference. Unfortunately for them, their season ended at the hands of their newfound crosstown rival, LAFC. The Galaxy’s offseason started with big news as their braggadocious star Zlatan Ibrahimovic left the squad to join AC Milan. How did the most storied franchise in MLS follow that up? By signing the biggest Mexican soccer star of his generation: Javier Hernandez AKA Chicharito.

With a full offseason layoff for both of these teams, I went behind enemy lines and talked to Alicia Rodriguez of LAG Confidential to see what more we can expect from the Galaxy this Saturday.

Dynamo Theory: With Chicharito replacing Ibrahimovic as the star of the Galaxy, how will the Mexican star replace the self-proclaimed “Soccer God” this year?

LAG Confidential: That remains to be seen, but all things considered one of the few players in world soccer who could even hope to replace Zlatan is Chicharito, who is considerably different in his disposition and even style of playing forward, but who has greater marketing power locally, is substantially younger and seems to be a more team-oriented player.

Zlatan set the bar extremely high for goals for his successor, with a staggering 52 in two seasons, and while I think there’s a chance Chicharito could approach that mark too, he probably won’t. However, if he’s posting more than 20 goals and the team plays better around him, with the supporting pieces scoring more goals, then in the long run it could turn out to be better for the team. But as far as fan interest, Chicharito is the man, and they’re extremely happy to see him wearing a Galaxy kit.

Dynamo Theory: Other than that previously mentioned swap, what offseason changes do you foresee making a positive impact?

LAG Confidential: Sacha Kljestan joined up after a poor run with Orlando City, but having seen him in preseason I think he’s capable of bouncing back and playing well for LA, as his versatile skillset in midfield is exactly what the Galaxy need. He likely won’t play 34 games, but if he can be a regular part of a midfield rotation, I wouldn’t be shocked if he turns some heads this year after folks had pretty much written him off.

The other big area is defense: The Galaxy are rumored to be pursuing an Argentine center back, Alan Franco, but that deal is not done at this point and LA remain thin in the back. Add to that, Daniel Steres may not be ready to go, and a guy who was playing forward in MLS a few years ago, Nick DePuy, may line up at CB against the Dynamo. DePuy hasn’t looked bad, but heading into the season defense is still a major concern for the Galaxy.

Dynamo Theory: The Galaxy are 3-1-1 in the preseason, all against MLS teams, what leads you to believe this will continue in the regular season?

LAG Confidential: I don’t know that I would put much stock in preseason results, but Cristian Pavon, back after a good start to life in MLS last year, has been very impressive in preseason, and if Chicharito needs any kind of time to acclimate to his new team or league, then Pavon will be counted upon to pick up the slack. Given the bombs he’s been scoring in preseason, that could be a sensible plan, honestly.

Dynamo Theory: The Dynamo are 12-11-7 in 30 regular season MLS games against the Galaxy & have met LAG twice in the MLS Cup, what does this close rivalry mean to the Galaxy & their fans?

LAG Confidential: I think the MLS Cup meetings are less fresh in the minds than the end-of-season meetings between the teams the last two years. Given the rivalries with the Earthquakes and LAFC, I’m not sure most fans would consider the Dynamo a rival, but their propensity to be a pest to recent Galaxy ambitions is probably the freshest image and the Galaxy would obviously love to exit their annual trip to Houston (in February, no less) with three quick points.

Dynamo Theory: Prediction?

LAG Confidential: Even with the Galaxy slowly building depth and a coherent roster, one big concern heading into the season is how well they actually play together as a unit. I won’t be shocked if there’s some hiccups in the opening weeks, and I think this will probably be a somewhat frustrating 1-1 draw.