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Resurgent Galaxy continue their strong start with victory over Austin FC

Galaxy defender Jorge Villafaña, left, heads the ball in front of Austin FC forward Cecilio Dominguez.
Galaxy defender Jorge Villafaña, left, heads the ball in front of Austin FC forward Cecilio Dominguez during the Galaxy’s 2-0 win Saturday.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

When the Galaxy brought Greg Vanney back to be their coach this past winter, it was with the hope he could recapture the success the team enjoyed when he played for it.

Five games into that reunion, everything seems to be going according to plan. With Saturday’s 2-0 win over Austin FC at Dignity Health Sports Park, the Galaxy (4-1-0) matched their second-best start in 15 years and took a big step toward rediscovering a culture that has gone missing as well.

But the road ahead, the coach warned, might be a long one.

”These are just the early stages. They’re building blocks,” Vanney said. “But when I arrived at the Galaxy in 1996, that’s what the club was started on. It was the foundation of what was being built with the Galaxy.

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“So that’s what I believe that this is about. As you get results, it just adds to the momentum of what you’re trying to do.”

The Dodgers agreed to a contract with Albert Pujols for the rest of the season and then beat Miami 7-0, but Corey Seager is headed to the injured list after he was hit in the hand by a pitch.

Speaking of momentum, the Galaxy were winless after five games last season. And Sebastian Lletget, one of just two players remaining from the last Galaxy team to reach the playoff quarterfinals, credits Vanney for changing the atmosphere as well as the results.

“When you get a new management, you see all the ideas they come in with,” said Lletget, whose goal put the Galaxy ahead to stay over Austin FC (2-3-0) in the 35th minute. “It changed the energy around here. You hope for a great start, and we all felt like, ‘Wow, it could be a special year.’ We don’t want to jinx it in any sort of way, but I think we all felt the shift.

“I’ve experienced tough times with this club. Good times and bad times. This is definitely the best I’ve felt with the culture. So it’s definitely a breath of fresh air and I’m just going to keep enjoying it.”

So is Javier “Chicharito” Hernández. He suffered though a dismal season last year, scoring just twice. But his second-half goal Saturday gave him an MLS-best seven this year, matching his most in a season since 2017-18, when he scored eight times for West Ham.

It also made the rest of the afternoon easier for goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, who posted his first MLS shutout.

“Greg and his coaching staff told us that the way that we train and the way that we prepare, to not relax. To don’t stop doing what we want to show,” Hernández said of the team’s new direction. “We have our style, as well as our mentality, where the attitude needs to be 100, 110% every single game.”

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Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget celebrates with teammates Samuel Grandsir and forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernández.
Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, top center, celebrates with teammates Samuel Grandsir, bottom center, and forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernández after scoring in the first half against Austin FC.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Lletget’s goal, his first of the season, came after a long through ball from Daniel Steres launched him up the center of the field. Lletget and Austin defender Hector Jiménez got tangled going after the ball, with Jiménez taking himself out of the play when he went down, allowing Lletget to regain his balance in the center of the box and lift a right-footed shot over goalkeeper Brad Stuver.

Hernández doubled the lead in the 77th minute, splitting Austin center backs Matt Besler and Jhohan Romana to deflect in Julian Araujo’s bending, one-hop cross from the edge of the six-yard box.

The Galaxy also got their first look at newly acquired winger Kévin Cabral, who became the sixth player to make his MLS debut under Vanney when he came on for the Lletget in the 62nd minute, briefly bringing the crowd of 7,193 to its feet when he found the back of the net in the 85th minute.

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But the goal was erased on an offside call, one of the few disappointing moments of the day for the Galaxy.

“You can feel the excitement building,” Vanney said afterward. “Results obviously help. But I think a lot of our wins early on, it’s really been built on the back of some of the culture and just some of that hard work that the guys have been committed to.”

Just like in the old days.


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