Through two games of their 2022 MLS campaign, it's been an encouraging start for the LA Galaxy.
After enduring a late-season collapse and falling out of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs race on Decision Day in 2021, the Galaxy have started off this season with back-to-back 1-0 victories over defending MLS Cup champions NYCFC and expansion side Charlotte FC. On Saturday, they should get a solid early-season measuring stick, with a trip to Lumen Field to take on Seattle Sounders FC in Week 3 (3:30 pm ET | FOX, FOX Deportes).
Seattle are winless through their first two league matches of the season. But as head coach Greg Vanney pointed out on his Thursday video call, those defeats have come as the Sounders juggle Concacaf Champions League obligations and don't necessarily reflect their true quality.
"It doesn't [mean anything]," Vanney said of Seattle's record. "It's an experienced team. I know they're also trying to manage the amount of games they have in the early part of the season, so they've mixed their group, they've rotated some guys, they've played a couple different systems."
"When you're in Champions League and having a run, going through that time period isn't easy. They're dealing with some injuries as well, but they're always a dangerous team," he added. "It's a team that we have to respect regardless of their record because it won't be like that at the end of the season. We all know that."
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of LA's strong start is the back-to-back clean sheets, a welcome sight given the club's propensity for defensive lapses in recent seasons. Vanney has also been pleased with the amount of chances his team has generated so far, particularly in the Week 2 win over Charlotte, though he pointed out that finishing those chances with more efficiency is the next step.
"We probably needed to get more out of our opportunities than we did, but I thought there were some good aggressive moments for us," Vanney said. "We've got to continue with our formula, which is we've got to continue to defend together as a group and make sure we choose our moments when we can be higher up the field and opposing them in their half and choose when we need stay together as a group and make it difficult to close off spaces."
Goalkeeper Jonathan Bond agreed that his team's collective defending has been a notable bright spot early in the season, but cautioned that it's too early to say that the club has truly turned the corner on that side of the ball. Saturday's matchup against a perennial Western Conference contender should provide clearer answers as the Galaxy look to build on a strong foundation.
"We've kept two clean sheets in two games, which is great, but we are literally two games into the season," Bond said. "There's so much for us to work on. I think whether we keep clean sheets for the next, say, eight games and let's say we keep 3-4 clean sheets or we only concede one goal in a few of the games and we establish ourselves as a strong defensive team, that's when you start to really build pride."
"If we get to that point and built some momentum and establish ourselves defensively as a solid team moving forward throughout the whole season, then we'll definitely be in a good spot to go far in the playoffs."
The Sounders have lost only one of their last 14 matches against the Galaxy (W7 D6), going unbeaten in the last seven (W4 D3). LA, five-time MLS Cup champions, have also made the playoffs just once (2017) in the last five seasons.