Scouting Toronto FC’s Next Opponent: LA Galaxy

Toronto FC’s MLS campaign starts up again with a home date against an offensive juggernaut in the LA Galaxy.

Even with the Copa America Centenario and Euro 2016 going on, it’s hard not to think about Toronto FC’s next few games. After all, they are facing against their toughest stretch of the season, harder than their eight-game road trip since there’s a Cup on the line, and it’s sandwiched in between a murderers’ row of opponents in the MLS.

It all starts against the LA Galaxy, who are by far the best offensive team in the league. They have the most goal scored with 27, and the best goal differential too having only conceded 16 goals. And yet they’re still fifth in the league – that just speaks to how good the Western Conference is. With Toronto’s excellent defensive play, this game should make for a great clash of styles.

The Galaxy have three games in hand on co-league leaders FC Dallas, and will look to gain some ground with a win. Despite the three-week break in the MLS schedule, the Galaxy kept themselves busy when their US Open Cup campaign began with a 4-1 win over La Maquina FC.

They fielded a largely reserve lineup, but they went down to 10 men and still required extra time. However, Galaxy fans still took some positives away from their teams’ performance:

As for LA’s MLS stretch, they have exploded into form. Their season has been characterized by goals, goals, and more goals, but they went on a nine-game unbeaten run that was only recently ended by the Montreal Impact, which required a very late goal by Didier Drogba. That being said, they still only have three points in their last four MLS games, and were just shut out by Sporting Kansas City.

The biggest talking point surrounding the LA Galaxy during this frenzy of international tournaments is Giovani dos Santos. With Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes out on international duty, it feels like the best time to take on the Galaxy, but one impact player that they will have is dos Santos.

It came as a shock when he was left off of Mexico’s Copa America roster, and that was only further compounded when it was revealed that he himself rejected the call-up. He currently has five goals in seven games for LA, and if he stayed behind to help them during the international break, then they will remain a very formidable side with a fully focused dos Santos.

When talking to reporters after Tuesday’s training session, Greg Vanney spoke highly of Toronto FC’s defensive depth. Behind Drew Moor and Damien Perquis, he highlighted Eriq [Zavaleta], Nick [Hagglund], and Josh [Williams] for stepping up when given the opportunity to play. Defensive depth will surely play a big role in Toronto’s upcoming stretch in which they have four days or less in between their next five games. While he’ll surely go with Moor-Perquis against LA, it’ll be interesting to see if Williams gets a start in leg 1 of the Canadian Championship.

When the focus shifted to the Galaxy, Vanney showered praise on them stating that it’s always a game to circle on your calendar, and that they’re a standard setter that you want to have a good day against. He believes that LA vs. Toronto always has the potential to be a showcase for the best the MLS has to offer, but given that one team has won three Cups in the last five years while the other has made the playoffs just once in 10 seasons, he can hardly suggest that TFC holds a candle to the Galaxy.

He believes the best way to stop Giovani dos Santos is to cut off the space and take away the passing lanes, which is something that Toronto FC has done very well so far. When comparing him to Sebastian Giovinco, he said that Giovinco has a better attacking mind, and is more of an out-and-out forward. While Seba has played more games this season, he looks to distribute the ball while dos Santos, who has one assist on the year, is more of a poacher.

Nonetheless, their styles are very similar, and the best way to truly stop dos Santos is to have Giovinco cancel him out. Shaking off rust will be a real concern for Giovinco since it’s been 10 days since he last played, and he came off the bench for a 15 minute cameo. But the longer he gets to recover from his injury, the better.

Being a long-time veteran of the LA Galaxy, and a teammate of Bruce Arena, it’s easy to see why Vanney always gets up for games against his former team. But they’re a very tough outfit, who are good defensively in addition to being outstanding offensively.

To beat them, Toronto will have to play the perfect game, and provide more offensive support for Giovinco. In addition, staying healthy and not getting fatigued before the first leg of the Canadian Championship Final will be a real concern. Let’s hope we see a good game from the Reds.