Galaxy on-field chemistry progressing after CCL draw

AP Photo

AP Photo

For the first time in his professional career, A.J. DeLaGarza is without Omar Gonzalez. The old college teammates made for a lockdown defensive pairing when they played together for the Galaxy at central defense.

DeLaGarza has a new partner in the backline this season in Jelle Van Damme, who was impressive in his official Galaxy debut. Van Damme was an imposing physical presence on defense for L.A. against Santos, clearing crosses and winning balls with his head. The Belgian defender even got possibly the Galaxy’s best shot of the night as his first-minute header was saved by a diving Santos goalkeeper.

“His physicality and his ability to win balls,” DeLaGarza said of what impresses him most about Van Damme. “And he’s dangerous on the attacking side of the ball. You hate to compare them, but somewhat of an Omar, I guess.”

Considering the relationship DeLaGarza had with Gonzalez both on and off the field, saying Van Damme is like Omar is extremely high praise from DeLaGarza. Wednesday was their first time playing next to each other, and both players said the communication was good and were impressed with their running mate.

Steven Gerrard and Nigel de Jong

Steven Gerrard and Nigel de Jong were also pleased with their partnership in the midfield Wednesday. Like how DeLaGarza and Van Damme complement each other, de Jong said he and Gerrard play to each other’s strengths well.

“His quality is going forward and mine is sitting back to protect the defense,” the Dutch midfielder said. “I think we feed off quite well to each other and I hope we can dominate this season with each other. We’re starting to gel and he’s a terrific player and you could see that today.”

Said Gerrard: “He’s a top player. He’s been very vocal since he came in and I think our relationship will improve. But it is clicking and I’m very pleased with that relationship.”

Rockier relationships

The attack was weak on the right side where Robbie Rodgers, Gyasi Zardes and Giovani dos Santos played. Zardes was announced as a starter up top, but played much of the game on the wing, where he struggled at times last year. Rodgers had a great defensive game, but didn’t get up in the attack as well as he did last year on the left side.

Rodgers and dos Santos did however connect on a great chance late with this beautiful back heel pass.

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