For Orlando City SC players or fans hoping to catch the LA Galaxy overlooking the Lions, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has a message: Don’t count on it.
The Galaxy host Orlando Saturday (3:30 pm ET | Univision, TUDN, Twitter) after a high-profile trip to Seattle Sounders FC, before the upcoming international break and then more pivotal Western Conference games against the Portland Timbers and LAFC in early April.
Even so, the Lions should expect only the Galaxy’s best coming off their frustrating 3-2 defeat in Seattle.
“Right now our heads and everything, our hearts and emotions, our mindset is to focus on Orlando, to get back from a very difficult loss because we played pretty well,” Chicharito told reporters on Wednesday. “So yeah, that’s the only thing we have in our mind.”
The Galaxy arguably out-created the Sounders in open play but were done in by set-pieces, conceding their three goals on a corner kick, a penalty and then a free kick.
That was tough for LA manager Greg Vanney to swallow after his defense’s promising start to the 2022 season with two clean sheets, seemingly overcoming their struggles in 2021.
“It’s frustrating for me when you control a game on the road, against a very good team and you create the better chances and you lose the game on set pieces where you can organize and you can deal with the situations and you don’t deal with them,” Vanney said.
Fixing those issues has been a focus this week, he added.
“I think it’s a little bit sometimes a mentality,” Vanney said. “But as we talked about today, it’s making sure when the ball is being served that we’re in the right starting position, and then we’re aggressive and our mentality is to attack the ball, be first and deal with some of those situations.”
Although LA have scored only four goals on 5.8 expected goals created, per Opta, Vanney says being better and more consistent defensively remains the top priority early this season.
That’s fine with Chicharito, even if it means fewer goals for Mexico’s all-time leading international scorer, who currently has two so far this season after producing 17 in 2021.
“Last season I scored 17 goals in 21 games and I was on my couch watching playoffs,” Chicharito said bluntly. "It doesn’t matter. Win points is the most important thing.”
Still, Vanney doesn’t expect chances to come easy against an Orlando side that can be one of the thornier sides to play against. The Lions have recorded two clean sheets and have just a 2.7 expected goals against rating so far this season (third-lowest in MLS).
“I think if they can press us and have any success then they’ll try to stay high,” Vanney said. “But the second we play through them a few times, I think they’ll fall in and play us on the counter-attack. So we have to manage the game based on what the game looks like.”
Saturday will also serve as a Brazilian reunion of sorts, with LA winger Douglas Costa and Orlando forward Alexandre Pato both likely to start.
Costa was the more consistent member of Brazil’s national team during their international careers. But as he approaches his fourth MLS match, he’s looking forward to seeing a familiar face.
“I've known Pato for a long time," Costa said through an interpreter. “He's a friend, we've played on the youth and senior national team a couple of times."
He added, jokingly: “I hope everything goes well for him here. Except on Saturday.”