Longshore: What the Five Stripes can expect from LA Galaxy

Jason Longshore
April 20, 2018 - 3:26 pm
Los Angeles Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic

© Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

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Atlanta United makes its first trip to Los Angeles Saturday night as they travel west to face the Galaxy. The match will kickoff just after 10:30 p.m. with the 5 Stripes Countdown starting at 10 p.m. ET Mike Conti and I will be with you for an hour of post-match coverage on the Full Time Report following the final whistle. 

When looking at the Galaxy, the first player on the roster that grabs your attention is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedish superstar has been everywhere since announcing his presence in Major League Soccer with authority on March 31, scoring twice to lead a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over crosstown rivals LAFC. Ibrahimovic started his first match for the Galaxy last weekend, scoring and going 80 minutes in LA's 1-0 win in Chicago. 

Perry Kitchen is one of the more important players to consider in Saturday's match when it comes to the Galaxy. The offseason signing has a very important role as the defensive midfielder in front of an often-exposed back line. With LA's tendency to get their outside backs forward as frequently as possible, Kitchen has to stay at home to protect center backs Jorgen Skjelvik and Daniel Steres. Prior to spending the last two years in Europe, Kitchen played in over 150 career matches with D.C. United. 

Atlanta United will need to take advantage of the opportunities when Kitchen is left solo by his defensive midfield partner Jonathan dos Santos. Sigi Schmid asked dos Santos to sit deeper in Chicago and it had some success in forcing the Fire to attack down the flanks rather than centrally. From an Atlanta perspective, that can play to their strengths. Attacking down the flanks will limit the opportunities for Ashley Cole and Rolf Feltscher to get forward themselves. Cole has assisted on both of Ibrahimovic's headed goals this season. Also, Darlington Nagbe will have opportunities to drift wide and create overloads against the Galaxy's outside backs. 

On the Atlanta lineup front, don't be surprised to see Tata Martino return to the 4-2-3-1 formation we primarily saw in 2017. His post-match comments in recent week have hinted at bringing that back to make it easier for his Five Stripes to put pressure on the opposition. Against a Galaxy team that struggles when pressed (first half against LAFC, recently in a 2-0 loss at home to Sporting Kansas City, on the road in a 3-1 loss to NYCFC), the Peachtree Press could have a big hand in deciding this match. 

Tito Villalba is the biggest question this week, with his return looking very unlikely. However, Franco Escobar has returned to training this week and could return to the lineup at right back. If that is the case, Julian Gressel can return to his role on the right wing and things fall into place rather comfortably. Will Ezequiel Barco start? He is still regaining his overall fitness and likely will not start until he is able to comfortably play at least 60 minutes from the opening whistle. It's unclear if that will be this weekend. 

Looking forward to Saturday night's call from the StubHub Center in Carson, California!