In the weeks and months ahead, is a two-forward system with Dejan Joveljic and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez the move for the LA Galaxy?
That’s a resounding ‘yes’ from Joveljic, who scored an 88th-minute equalizer for the Gs on Saturday afternoon at Dignity Health Sports Park to salvage a 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers, heading home Julian Araujo’s near-post cross.
“When we have played together in every game, we have scored,” the Serbian said postgame. “So, I think that works.”
GOAL: Dejan Joveljic, LA Galaxy - 88th minute
The question’s again front and center after Joveljic was the difference-maker for LA, much like when he earned Continental Player of the Week honors for Week 14 just before the June international break. In that game, a 4-1 win over Austin FC, he became the first player in MLS history to contribute to four goals (2g/2a) as a substitute in a single match.
Doing so means LA would shift away from their usual three-man frontline, which has lacked production from wingers Samuel Grandsir, Kevin Cabral and Douglas Costa – the latter two of whom are Designated Players. But when the attacking spear becomes Joveljic and Chicharito, LA’s third DP, the goals have arrived as of late.
“It's my pleasure to play with Chicharito,” said Joveljic, who subbed in the 32nd minute vs. Portland after veteran midfielder Victor Vazquez got injured. “I have no problem to run to him, to cover him, to play more defense and then we are in a higher position. We can score against every team in the league.”
Now, is LA head coach Greg Vanney convinced the tactical change is here to stay? Not so fast, it appears.
“There’s a tradeoff when you play with two forwards,” Vanney stated. “And what do you lose, and what do you gain from doing something like that? For us, this was maybe a little bit of a sample of what that might look like.
“I still think that’s something that we can use, but I don’t know that it’s something that I can say is going to be primary for us. But it’s something that we can certainly look at in the right moments or the right scenarios are there for us.”
That doesn’t mean Vanney is unimpressed by Joveljic, their U22 Initiative striker who signed last August from German Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt. He’s full of praise for Joveljic, who ranks first in MLS in goals scored per 90 minutes among all players who have played at least 275 minutes in the 2022 campaign.
“I think because of the sharpness of some of his movements – he’s a very good finisher – he’s able to find these little windows to get things on goal,” Vanney said of Joveljic. “He has a lot of similar forward qualities to Javier, in that he’s not going to dribble by a bunch of guys. He’s not going to create a lot of chances just kind of on his own through plays. He’s going to get his chances through collective play, through timed movements, through good balls into good spots, through the way we’ve seen him score goals over the last few weeks.”
Joveljic scored for a third consecutive match across all competitions and has combined with Chicharito to contribute 10g/2a this season. That duo has directly contributed to two-thirds of LA's 18 goals scored.
That quality is hard to ignore, Araujo feels.
“Anything you give to [Joveljic], he’s going to put away,” said the Mexican international and World Cup hopeful. “Even in training, he is finishing. He is doing what he does, that’s why he’s getting his time.”
Joveljic, naturally, is eyeing more runway. The Galaxy, guaranteed to end Week 15 no lower than sixth in the Western Conference standings, return next Saturday with a Cali Clasico visit to the San Jose Earthquakes (10 pm ET | UniMas, TUDN, Twitter).
“I think that fans recognize my efforts, my fighting for this team, but that's nothing,” Joveljic said. “That's not the time to think about that. I mean, I just want to work hard, to keep pushing, to keep working hard and my chance will come.”
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