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Massive Scouting Report: Going back to Cali

For the second time in three weeks the Black & Gold head to the City of Angels.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Los Angeles Galaxy Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a wild week for Columbus Crew SC. The Black & Gold claimed a 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Saturday night and then welcomed Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissa to MAPFRE Stadium on Tuesday for a 2-0 victory following a major weather dealy.

Crew SC now head to Los Angeles, California, for the second time in three weeks. This time to take on the LAGalaxy. The Black & Gold’s first trip out west didn’t go as expected, conceding two goals to Los Angeles Football Club in the first 10 minutes and dropping the inaugural match with the expansion club 2-0. Head coach Gregg Berhalter and his side hope for a better result in The Golden State this time out.

The Galaxy are somewhat of an enigma recently. The MLS original club has all the star power and the big names, but has walked away with six of a possible 12 points in its last four matches.

One man who hasn’t been inconsistent is Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Since coming to Major League Soccer from Manchester United, the striker has collected 10 goals and is already in the discussion for the Golden Boot. Despite his own promotion, Zlatan can’t do it all. Let’s take a look at what Crew SC can expect on Saturday night in Carson, California.

Galaxy at a glance

Form: D-W-D-D

Leading Scorer: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (10)

Assists Leader: Emmanuel Boateng (5)

The Zlatan Show

It’s no secret that the aforementioned Galaxy forward steals most of the headlines for MLS’s original California. According to MLS, Ibrahimovic has two games with eight or more shots this season. Those types of marks haven’t been achieved since LA had another prolific striker on its roster by the name of Robbie Keane.

Zlatan is one of the strongest and most physically imposing forwards this league has seen. MLS defenders haven’t seen strikers that look like him and the 36 year old is yielding results. But how long can he continue to perform at such a tremendous clip?

Let’s talk about defense

The Galaxy defense has been inconsistent throughout the the 2018 campaign. LA come off a period in which the defense performed at a high level, conceding just four goals in its last five matches. However, head coach Sigi Schmid and his men find themselves in a defensive funk.

LA has conceded five goals in its last two league games and this can be attributed to a variety of different reasons. Namely, weak center back play and poor positional play by right back Dave Romney. Los Angeles’ center backs Michael Ciani and Jorgen Skjelvik are talented defenders but demonstrate questionable decision making at times.

In the June 2 match against the Portland Timbers, midfielder Diego Valeri began sending long balls over the center backs. This caused immediate issues for the Galaxy defense as Timbers forward Samuel Armenteros turned both defenders around and forced them into tough challenges. These challenges created quality shots on target for the Timbers, but earned Portland a penalty kick that brought them level to split the points with LA.

Another struggle for the Galaxy is Romney. While the 25 year old is talented, he makes a lot silly decisions at the back. Romney occasionally gets caught by the opposition pinching in and playing too far forward up the pitch. This allows the opposition to counter with a speedy winger who frequently forces Romney into a difficult decision in which he either has to foul or get beat.

How Crew SC win

To be successful on Saturday night, Crew SC will need to withstand a barrage of offensive chances from Ibrahimovic. Expect the Swede to challenge the Columbus backline frequently on Saturday. It will take a miraculous effort from all 11 players on the field to keep the big guy off the score sheet.

Expect to see Berhalter and his staff run at Romney frequently. The outside back has shown he isn’t afraid to push up the field, but he has a proven track record of being caught out of position. Expect to see Mike Grella or Luis Argudo plugged into the left midfield spot to give Romney all he can handle.

Don’t be shocked to see midfielder Eduardo Sosa hit long balls over the top to spring Gyasi Zardes into a foot race with the Galaxy center backs. Given the poor defensive record of the LA defenders, Crew SC can work on set pieces from dead ball opportunities and may earn a penalty kick or two.

If Columbus sticks to the script, there is no reason why the Black & Gold can’t claim victory on the road for the first time since May 19.