LA Galaxy head coach and sporting director Greg Vanney got straight to the point during his post-match press conference following their 3-0 loss Saturday evening at Houston Dynamo FC, their third defeat of a still-winless season.
With a 0W-3L-3D record, LA are 13th in the Western Conference table and have a negative-6 goal differential through MLS Matchday 7. Ahead of the 2023 campaign, LA spoke aspirationally about being in the league's top tier.
"To our fans who show up and fight for us every single game: They won't see that again. That was unacceptable, and it was disrespectful to our brand and to who we want to be," said Vanney, who addressed the media after what he described as a "good discussion" post-match with his team, in which he had "a lot" to say.
Chief among his frustrations were the two second-half red cards taken by World Cup veterans Martín Cáceres and Douglas Costa, which rule both out of next Sunday’s El Trafico derby against LAFC (4:30 pm ET | FOX, MLS Season Pass). The Black & Gold, in contrast to their cross-town rivals, are still undefeated in MLS play with a 4W-0L-2D record and have a bonafide Landon Donovan MLS MVP candidate in Dénis Bouanga.
Both Galaxy red cards came from non-soccer plays: Cáceres’ (a second yellow) for entering the Video Review area and touching referee Alex Chilowicz in the middle of a penalty check, and Costa’s (a straight red) for grabbing Houston’s Brooklyn Raines from behind and pulling him to the ground after the ball had gone out for a throw-in.
"Yeah, it's unacceptable. They know it's unacceptable," said Vanney. "They apologized to the group, but it's not acceptable. It can't happen. These guys are veterans in our team. They're supposed to be leaders in our team. They need to set examples. They need to, again, control their emotions, and we need them available always, and they understand that, and it's not acceptable."
Vanney was no more impressed with his team's performance in the run of play, citing a lack of discipline in their rotations both on and off the ball that forced them to chase the match: "Discipline inside of our structure is important. Discipline inside of the game, which we saw with two red cards, is important. So those things need to – will, they don't 'need to' – will change and guys are very clear on that."
Asked whether he had considered switching from his traditional 4-3-3 formation to the 3-5-2 look that had given his team momentum in the second half of last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Seattle Sounders FC, Vanney said he didn’t think the squad was prepared enough defensively to try it from the start of a match, particularly on the road.
Ultimately, though, he saw that tactical battle as a secondary issue, noting: "It doesn't even matter, really, to talk about tactics or anything. There were too many gaps inside of the competitive side of it."
A slight bright spot may have come from the 55th-minute return of superstar Chicharito – his first appearance of the season due to a hamstring injury – but since the Galaxy went down a man shortly after the substitution, Vanney described the outing as little more than a fitness run-out for the Mexican striker.
With next week’s derby looming, the MLS Cup 2017-winning coach is now challenging his team to find the right mentality to compete.
"There's no other shortcuts to getting results in this league. You don't get to show up on Saturday and say you're a talented team and win games in MLS. Every game is hard. Every game is a challenge. That's what I told these guys. That's the beauty of this league," said Vanney.
"... You have to show up and perform and play at your level every single week, or else you lose. And if you make silly decisions over the course of the game and you leave the group vulnerable or yourself vulnerable, then you lose."
Moving forward, Vanney cited the club’s winning tradition as the raison d'etre: "It has to just be better now. The motivation is everybody's here to win. Everybody is here at the LA Galaxy to win."