LA Galaxy's key to success in MLS 2024 home opener vs. Inter Miami: Match preview

The LA Galaxy are looking ready to compete again after adding quality players and trimming the fat. With Joseph Paintsil and Gabriel Pec both ready to face Inter Miami, it’s time to review the keys to the Galaxy’s success on opening day.
Greg Vanney during the Galaxy's first match vs Inter Miami
Greg Vanney during the Galaxy's first match vs Inter Miami / Cliff Hawkins/GettyImages

The LA Galaxy has been busy preparing for the opening day under the stewardship of General Manager Will Kuntz.

Their first fixture of the 2024 season sees the Galaxy squaring up against Inter Miami and the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Jordi Alba. Galaxy supporters have awaited this fixture with bated breath as the prospect of facing FC Barcelona legends would reasonably strike fear in most MLS sides. 

However, as Kuntz has worked his magic on the roster the feeling surrounding this match and the Galaxy’s prospects for success has grown more and more optimistic as Sunday approaches.

New designated players Gabriel Pec and Joseph Paintsil are both in Los Angeles and available for Sunday’s match against Inter Miami. This is the culmination of Kuntz’s efforts to build a roster ready to compete from Day One. In an impressive feat of administrative efficiency, Kuntz has succeeded, even if just by the skin of his teeth.

Inter Miami

Inter Miami is coming off of an incredibly strenuous world tour that saw Tata Martino’s side travel to El Salvador,  Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, and Japan. During their preseason tour, Miami lost key players Facundo Farias and Benjamin Cremaschi to significant injuries. 

The Pink Herons began their MLS campaign in a 2-0 win against Real Salt Lake on February 21st. To nobody’s surprise, Lionel Messi had a massive impact on this match as he orchestrated both of Miami’s goals. His assist to Robert Taylor in the 39th minute opened the scoring in the 2024 MLS season. Much later, Messi would be lethal on the counter as his trademark run at Salt Lake’s backline created a chance for substitute Diego Gomez to score in the 83rd.

Tata Martino is continuing to play a possession-based brand of football that allows the star quality on his team to shine through. Inter Miami played a dominant first half where Messi was able to pull the strings and attempt to create chances by combining with Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba. Their vice grip on the ball would loosen as the match progressed but even then RSL failed to impact the match enough to threaten Drake Callender’s goal. 

Galaxy keys to success

With most of Inter Miami’s play going through Messi and Suarez centrally and through Jordi Alba on the left, LA Galaxy Head Coach Greg Vanney will be glad to have his best defenders positioned to control those lanes. 

Captain Maya Yoshida and 2022 World Cup teammate Miki Yamane have already formed a formidable partnership. When the pair were on the pitch together during preseason they made it almost impossible for opponents to find joy coming from the left, forcing them to play on the right instead. If Yoshida and Yamane can continue locking down their half of the pitch Miami will have to play towards Julian Gressel on the right and away from their most dangerous players. 

The center of the pitch is another crucial zone that Miami likes to control. With Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi especially active in those areas, the Galaxy’s central midfielders will need to come up with an impressive effort throughout the 90 minutes.

In the second half of their opening game, Inter Miami seemed to run out of gas and looked extremely vulnerable. When this happens, the selected combination of Mark Delgado, Gaston Brugman, Edwin Cerillo, and Daniel Aguirre must be careful not to disregard the threat that is Messi.

The Argentine has made a legend of himself often by going ghost in moments like these, lulling opponents into a false sense of security while conserving energy to launch counterattacks, such as the one that created the second goal against Real Salt Lake. 

With Pablo Mastroeni’s men chasing the game and smelling blood in the water as Miami’s older players tired, they committed too many men forward without leaving adequate coverage on Messi. Given the opportunity to rush at an overexposed backline, he obliged and created the game-defining goal while his team was seemingly down and out.

If the Galaxy’s workhorses can prevent Messi from enjoying too many of those breakaways they will stand a chance at leaving this match with a positive goal differential. This is a task that requires the utmost concentration throughout the entire 90 minutes, but together the entire midfield unit should have enough to rise to the occasion. 

On the other side of the ball, Greg Vanney has some brand-new toys. New designated players Gabriel Pec and Joseph Paintsil are fully fit, and thanks to a masterclass in visa acquisition, they are both available for selection starting from day one. The Galaxy's new widemen join the squad after being hugely important contributors for their clubs and national teams at the very highest level and shouldn't need too long to warm up to MLS.

Where Inter Miami struggled most was with long balls over the top of their defense and midfield, a scenario where Pec and Paintsil both thrive. Both will cause problems for Miami’s backline with their blistering pace and unrelenting work rate. When working in tandem with Riqui Puig and his ability to find a lethal pass, it isn’t difficult to imagine the Galaxy being much more of a headache for Miami than Real Salt Lake was.

dark. Next. LA Galaxy & Inter Miami's projected lineups for Sunday's game. LA Galaxy & Inter Miami's projected lineups for Sunday's game

Despite their unfortunate run in recent years, the new-look Los Angeles Galaxy has the tools needed to reintroduce themselves to the league in the best way possible. In the end, this match against Lionel Messi and Inter Miami is no different from any other. Fate will favor whoever is best able to capitalize on their chances and stifle their opponents.