CARSON, Calif. – A thick schedule and injuries spurred Guillermo Barros Schelotto's switch to a three-center back formation, and it couldn't have gone much worse.
The LA Galaxy more or less conceded possession to New York City FC in the first half on Saturday afternoon, failed to create even one legitimate scoring opportunity and conceded twice just before the break.
It added up to a 2-0 defeat, LA's third successive loss, denying them a club record-tying seventh straight home victory to start the season and an opportunity to climb into the No. 1 spot – if only for a couple of hours – in the MLS Supporters’ Shield standings.
With LA coming off their second midweek outing in three weeks, the congested schedule certainly didn't help. NYCFC were in Los Angeles before the Galaxy returned from Wednesday's loss in Columbus.
Even with changing to three central defenders at the back, what it could not do was adequately make up for Jonathan dos Santos' absence. Overwhelmed in midfield during the first half, the Galaxy clearly missed their midfield general, who for all the buzz continually surrounding Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the team's most important player. His bite in the holding role and his ability to regulate pace and link the attack was sorely missing.
“Jona is an important player for us,” said Ibrahimovic, who scored a first-half goal that didn't count after a video review confirmed Uriel Antuna was offside, was unhappy he wasn't awarded a penalty kick in the 55th minute and hit the crossbar during the Galaxy's late flurry. “I think he's the engine for our team. He keeps the game going.
“With Jona on the field, you play a different game, because he wants the ball all the time. He's that kind of player that drives the game, and he likes to have the ball on his feet. And he gets the game going. So when you don't have a player like that, obviously you change a little bit.”
Joe Corona agreed.
“I think the whole formation, it's a little bit more defensive,” he said. “We all know Jona is a very important player for us. He gives is a lot of balance in the midfield. Today we really missed him.”
NYCFC head coach Domenec Torrent worked with dos Santos at FC Barcelona, and saw his absence as an advantage.
“Jona's one of the best midfielders in the league, and without him ... they show in midfield he's a creative guy,” Cityzens captain Alex Ring, who had nearly unfettered command of the middle with Dos Santos absent, told MLSsoccer.com. “Of course, he's a special player. So probably good for us he didn't play.”
Dos Santos left the Columbus game just before halftime with a left hamstring strain but was feeling no pain on Friday. He had a pregame test Saturday, “and he say he had a bit of pain on the muscle,” Schelotto reported. He ought to be ready to go when the Galaxy take on the Colorado Rapids on Sunday, also at Dignity Health Sports Park (8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada).