Galaxy aiming for consistency in Cali Clásico

Henry Tran - The Sporting Tribune
After a dramatic start to the season, the LA Galaxy prepare to meet rival San Jose Earthquakes in the latest Cali Clásico.

Following a thrilling 1-1 draw against Inter Miami to open the season, the LA Galaxy head north to face rival San Jose Earthquakes at PayPal Park.

Saturday will be the 99th edition of the Cali Clásico between the Galaxy and the Earthquakes. Following the result against Miami, Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney had one question about his club.

“When you play against Miami, they require you to set a standard or else you’re gonna get blown off the field,” Vanney said after the season opener. “Now the question is: Can we do this week in and week out?”

The Earthquakes enter the latest Cali Clásico with more questions than answers following a disappointing 2-1 loss to FC Dallas, which saw the Earthquakes surrender a lead and concede in stoppage time.

While rumors swirl about former LAFC forward Carlos Vela potentially joining the Earthquakes after LAFC did not renew Vela’s contract this season, San Jose’s offense can still provide firepower.

Now the question is: Can we do this week in and week out?

Greg Vanney, following Galaxy’s 1-1 draw with Inter Miami

Amahl Pellegrino, a key offseason addition for the Earthquakes following the departure of winger Cade Cowell to Liga MX’s Chivas, is a 33-year-old forward came on as a second half substitute against Dallas. The Norwegian national arrives to MLS with back-to-back Golden Boots in Norway and was named the 2023 Eliteserien Player of the Year.

Pellegrino along with Cristian Espinoza provide a 1-2 punch up top for the Earthquakes that could test the Galaxy’s backline, which had its fair share of tests against Miami.

In the opener, LA was moments away from victory before a late goal from none other than Lionel Messi allowed Miami to escape with a point in the standings.

Conceding late was a recurring theme last season, something that Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney believes wouldn’t have been an issue had he finished the match with a full squad.

“We worked on being in a little bit of a lower block and having to protect our goal at times because we were down a man,” Vanney said after the draw with Miami. “It’s definitely something that we know we need to be better at than last year. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem, but I think it’s something that we definitely have talked about and focused on,” Vanney added. 

Mark Delgado, who was sent off in the closing moments against Miami due to card accumulation, will be eligible to play against San Jose after the MLS rescinded his second yellow card earlier this week.

Delgado was given a second yellow card after a questionable foul on Sergio Busquets, a call Busquets himself pondered about after the match.

“Much more is needed for an expulsion, because perhaps it was not even a card,” Busquets said about the call, before MLS’ decision.

LA Galaxy forward Dejan Joveljić, who scored the lone goal against Miami, has tallied four goals in six career Cali Clásico appearances, per Galaxy PR.

Joveljić is still getting his conditioning up to par but Vanney expects more production from his No. 9 as Joveljić continues to play alongside the duo of Joseph Paintsil and Gabriel Pec on the wings.

“With our wingers and with the way we’re playing and the speed we’re playing at, opportunities are going to are going to show up,” Vanney said. “(Jovelic) didn’t have much of a preseason because he missed a fair number of the minutes. So getting up to maximum speed and sharpness is something he’s still working through.”

Speaking of the new wingers, Saturday could mark the first instance where each of the Designated Players for the Galaxy, Puig, Paintsil and Pec are featured in the Starting XI.

Paintsil provided many scoring opportunities, he even won the penalty that set up Riqui Puig’s blocked penalty kick, yet Paintsil couldn’t finish against Miami. In his second outing of the season he should be more composed and likely able to net his first goal as a G.

With the new signings on the wings and Joveljić blossoming into the team’s No. 9, Puig can orchestrate from the middle and play more freely, which should give him plenty of opportunities to score. Whether Puig is still the club’s first option to take penalty kicks or not after his recent miss from the spot last week, is to be determined.

The 99th edition of the Cali Clásico is set for 7:30 p.m. in San Jose at Paypal Park and on Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass.