After a new logo, new faces in the locker room and a weeks of preparation, the regular season is finally here. Storied rivals, LA Galaxy and United face off for the 43rd time in their 21 year history. Both teams underwent an offseason rebuilding of sorts, United redesigning their midfield and attack after several major offseason transactions, and LA Galaxy could start as many as seven new faces. Each team also competed this week in the quarterfinals of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, and walked away disappointed in the results. Both teams have high expectations and a lot to prove.
Some of the best preparation for this match came from the 180 minutes played in SCCL. At altitude, on the road in a foreign country, in front of a rowdy opposing fanbase and against a midseason team, a (barely out of preseason) United squad played 75 minutes of fast paced, solid soccer. In only six preseason games (with limited minutes for many starters), United found an early and promising chemistry that continued to build during the two CCL Matches.
United proved that they can compete on an international stage and for the majority of 75 minutes, United created opportune chances, defended as a unit and found a rhythm.
“I put out the strongest team that I could these last two games,” United Head Coach Ben Olsen said. “We certainly went after this to move forward and advance, because it puts you in a spot to be in a great competition and ultimately hold another trophy.” United have a strong history of competing on the prestigious stage of the CONCACAF regional tournament, winning its predecessor the Champions’ Cup in 1998. Even after exiting the tournament, there are still positives to take away from the two games. “Taking a team down to Mexico, playing in CONCACAF, going through the aggregate system, they're all great experiences and that’s how we learn,” Olsen said.
United now prepare for their main objective: beginning a campaign to hoist their fifth MLS Cup. “Now since we haven’t advanced, I see these [SCCL] games as two very good preseason games to prepare for the MLS season,” Olsen said.
Those pieces have become evident and some still remain to be seen. Lucho Acosta has awed fans in preseason. His technical ability and creativity on the ball has clearly jolted an offense that is quickly gathering a rhythm in the attacking third. These two games, in addition to preseason matches, have allowed Lucho to slowly start to develop partnerships on the field in real action, something that can only be beneficial long term. In a similar circumstance, Nick DeLeon has now had two games to adapt to his new role in the midfield. A chance for him to gain confidence and a comfort early in the campaign is important.
This competition also gives young guys a chance to prove themselves on a much larger scale, and some certainly did. Rob Vincent worked his way into the starting lineup and earned some hugely important minutes on an international stage early in his career. So did Julian Buscher. And then he did this….
A goal like that, a moment like that, can do wonders for Julian’s confidence early in his MLS career. “I’m happy for Julian [Büscher]. The kid can play. He’s fearless and I’m happy he got his goal,” Olsen said about his first round draft pick.
United now turn the page. MLS Regular Season begins today and the team is better off now after garnering this experience. “The good thing is, we're ready for the season to start and these games will serve us pretty well moving forward… I think it is going to give us momentum going into the start of the season,” defender Taylor Kemp said.
The Regular Season is here and it’s time to start the campaign to a 5th MLS Cup on the right foot, or left if you’re Fabian Espindola.