Orlando City has just two days between Thursday’s 2-0 loss to New York City FC, as the Lions travel all the way out to the California to take on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy. Major League Soccer’s most historically successful club has a new look up top this season with the Swedish superstar combining with Ola Kamara, formerly of the Columbus Crew.
It’s been over 15 months since these teams last met. What have been the biggest changes for the Galaxy since last year?
Mike Gray: This LA Galaxy team and last year’s iteration have nothing in common. Sigi Schmid replaced manager Curt Onalfo midway through the train wreck that was the 2017 season and immediately got to work diagnosing the problem. Right away Sigi was vocal about numerous issues on and off the field: The fitness was poor, the goalkeeping was poor, the backroom staff needed improvement.
This off-season Schmid threw out the youth movement plans, jettisoning five Homegrown Players and gutting the roster while hiring physical trainer Pierre Barrieu and strengthening the sports science department. The front office signed a mix of European and MLS veterans in Ola Kamara, Jorgen Skjelvic, Chris Pontius and David Bingham.
Then Zlatan happened.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the latest major Galaxy signing. How has the Swede adapted to MLS?
MG: With 12 goals and 5 assists in 16 appearances, Zlatan has adapted to MLS just fine. The Swedish target striker has benefitted from improved fitness and a selfless attitude which has served him and the team well. (By all accounts, Ibra’s just one of the guys in the locker room.)
With an important LA derby behind the team, is Sigi Schmid expected to rotate personnel for Sunday’s match or should we expect a full strength squad?
MG: Normally you would expect rotation with LA playing for the third time in eight days but Ashley Cole and Perry Kitchen were unavailable last Saturday in Philadelphia (as well as Zlatan at New England) so Sigi Schmid should feature a full-strength side.
What injuries/suspensions will keep players out this weekend and what is your projected lineup and predicted final score?
MG: Romain Alessandrini is out due to yellow card accumulation so expect Chris Pontius to slide into the right wingback position. On paper it’s a 4-3-1-2 but Sigi describes it as a “cockeyed” 3-5-2.
Final score: 3-1 LA.
Thanks again to Mike for taking the time to give us some insight into the Galaxy.