A "special" team: LA Galaxy soar into Western Conference lead

Gabriel Pec goal celebration

CARSON, Calif. – With Gabriel Pec’s first MLS goal and his team’s first clean sheet of the season, LA Galaxy secured a 1-0 win over Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday evening – exiting Matchday 7 atop the early Supporters’ Shield race and continuing momentum before next weekend's marquee El Tráfico matchup.

Seemingly shot out of a cannon to begin the game, LA hit the woodwork through Joseph Paintsil within two minutes of kickoff. Within four minutes, Pec opened the scoring off an assist from his opposite winger with a shot too powerful for Stefan Frei to handle at his near post.

“I was waiting for a game like this where I could play more time on the field and that came out today with the goal,” Pec said postgame.

Adding on to his first goal, the Brazilian winger finished his first full 90 minutes in a Galaxy uniform. The offseason DP signing contributed until the last minute by recording the most ball recoveries in the match, the most chances created for LA, and drawing each of the Sounders’ three yellow cards in the second half.

“I thought he was excellent,” head coach Greg Vanney said of Pec. “Some of the time you just need a guy to be able to carry forward, protect the ball … but also just to be strong enough to hold [the ball] and spin out and get us some territory.”

Seattle found their footing as the game progressed, dominating the ball at times in the second half, but the visitors remained stifled by LA’s stout defensive performance. Ultimately, the hosts recorded their first 1-0 win since their Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs opener against Nashville SC.

In new ways each week, the Galaxy continue showing they’re a different team than the one that missed out on the playoffs last season. And it goes beyond their 12 points through six matches (3W-0L-3D).

“I feel like just the energy around the club in the offseason with the additions of the guys that we got and the injection of some pace and just some individual quality, there brings some excitement,” Vanney said. “Every time we touch the ball something can happen.”

Even more, LA earned their first win over the Sounders since Sept. 23, 2018 to set the Western Conference pace. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t predict this high-flying start to Galaxy’s season, though. Vanney didn’t either.

“When I looked at our schedule, to be honest with you, at the start of the season I thought, ‘S**t this is going to be a really difficult start to the season’,” Vanney said. “In our own way, we’ve managed each of these [games] to get something out of them, which has been special.”

Boasting a stronger mentality and a newfound ability to grind out results, next Saturday LA will travel cross-city for an El Tráfico derby against bitter rivals LAFC (7:30 pm ET | Apple TV - Free, FOX).

The Black & Gold may be defending Western Conference champions, but their underwhelming start leaves the Galaxy as the in-form team at BMO Stadium.

“We want to stay there, so that's the challenge,” Vanney said of the Galaxy's spot atop the Western Conference table. "We want to stay unbeaten. We want to stay at the top. We’re going and playing our rivals [in] a highly emotional contest and we look forward to these challenges.”