- When? Saturday, August 11, 2018, 9:30 CT (7:30 PT)
- Where? StubHub Center, Carson, CA
- Broadcast? Fox Sports North Plus
There’s no way around it: this game is going to be weird and sad. Following Monday’s blockbuster trade, Minnesota United start life after Christian Ramirez on Saturday night. We’ve gone through a number of stages of grief about what he meant on and off the field, but from a playing perspective it means that some combination of minutes from Angelo Rodriguez and Abu Danladi will lead the line. The new era will start just south of Superman’s landing spot in suburban Los Angeles, taking on a Galaxy side also reeling from a very late 2-1 defeat last week against Colorado. Loons legend Sam Nicholson scored in the 90th minute to propel the Rapids to victory, giving the Galaxy their first loss in the league since May.
The big difference for the Galaxy will be the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was suspended for the trip to Colorado after declining to play in the MLS All-Star Game. Naturally, he had some opinions on that:
Zlatan shares his thoughts on the one-game suspension given to him for missing the MLS All-Star Game last week. pic.twitter.com/rod9KzSvp5— Adam Serrano (@AdamSerrano) August 9, 2018
Given that Zlatan has been a transformative figure for the Galaxy—15 goals and six assists in 17 games will do that for a side—Minnesota can only hope the league comes up with a similarly convoluted reason to suspend him again. That said, the home side boasts a number of other solid options. Ola Kamara has been a great second fiddle, getting nine goals this year and, as head coach Adrian Heath puts it, getting “a nice understanding going” with Ibrahimovic. Heath also zeroed in focus in comments this week on the team’s Designated Players, Giovanni and Jonathan Dos Santos in the middle of the park.
While the depth of the team rests almost entirely on the selection choices between DP Romain Alessandrini and Emmanuel Boateng, the big question mark for the Galaxy has been at the back. Despite significant investment—no other team spends more on their four highest paid defenders—the Galaxy ranks in the bottom ten in the league in goals allowed, and is third-worst among the twelve teams currently above the playoff line. A long-term injury to winter signing Rolf Feltscher certainly hasn’t helped matters, but the slow development of chemistry between center backs Jorgen Skelvik and Michael Ciani has been the killer for the team, forcing David Bingham into facing the second-highest shots on goal this year among MLS goalkeepers.
High scores are the name of the game for Los Angeles, which works well if you get production from Zlatan, but there’s a silver lining. With Ibrahimovic in the lineup, Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid has tended toward playing a 3-4-1-2 with Gio Dos Santos in the hole as almost a withdrawn striker. It’s a similar formation to the 3-5-2 that Toronto wheeled out last month, with offense-first wing backs and a focal point star striker. As you may recall, Darwin Quintero had a field day in that one:
The opportunities for chips might be lessened with David Bingham, but Quintero should have a good chance to get in between the midfield and back line, so long as their defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen stays occupied. That should allow for Miguel Ibarra to run Ashley Cole ragged on the flank and provide service for Angelo Rodriguez. This might be a good opportunity as well to get Romario Ibarra his first start, though the potential threat of Alessandrini could necessitate Eric Miller.
Our sibling site, LAG Confidential, seems to be savvy to this, and predicts a curveball: a diamond 4-4-2. Should this happen, it could be a chance for Adrian Heath to revert back to a 4-2-3-1, putting Quintero as a #10 with Rodriguez leading the line solo and the dueling Ibarras wide. If that happens, the key will be to balance Francisco Calvo’s willingness to get forward with the dire necessity to cover Zlatan and Kamara. I wouldn’t flinch too much at this being an opportunity to move Calvo to left back, though with the personnel available it’s hard to suggest moving out of the 3-5-2.
Predictions? Make them public in the comments section below!