Voices: Kevin Egan

360 View: LA Galaxy's Golden Boot contender, Red Bulls face litmus test

360 View - Matchday 5 - Egan LA

Hello there, beautiful people!

Welcome back to 360 View with yours truly, Kevin Egan. This week’s MLS 360 show is live from 7:30 pm ET to 10:30 pm ET, and eight games will take us on a wild and wonderful journey! Here’s the best part… EVERYTHING ON MLS SEASON PASS IS FREE THIS WEEKEND, INCLUDING MLS 360! Tell a friend, get involved and join the fun!

As always, I’ll share some of my thoughts and questions heading into this weekend’s show, and I’m going to spend a little time here spotlighting an under-the-radar player I believe could win the Golden Boot presented by Audi this season.

Is Joveljic the Golden Boot winner nobody picked?

Only one player in MLS has scored for their team in each of the three matchweeks so far: Dejan Joveljic. LA Galaxy’s No. 9 wasn’t on the radar for anyone when it came to Golden Boot picks (if I’m wrong on this, tweet your proof to @kev_egan), and understandably so. But I think there’s enough evidence to suggest Joveljic will (and should) be right up there.

At 24 years old, there has never been a better time for the Serbian to prove his class in Los Angeles. In his first couple of seasons, Joveljic was considered a prospect, a super-sub, and the backup to Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. During those years, the Galaxy were a rudderless organization, seemingly unsure of their identity, and massively falling short on the pitch. Now? It seems the tide has turned. The points, the vibes and the many exhilarating moments throughout their three games tell me this 2024 Galaxy team is going to be so much fun this season. With that comes goals, and their frontman has three of their six thus far.

Joveljic has the perfect profile for this attack. He actually reminds me a lot of his former mentor in Chicharito, in that he doesn’t need to be involved in the build-up to have a massive say. Riqui Puig is a masterful conductor. Rapid in his movements, piercing through pressure, and with the ability to spray new, exciting signings Joseph Paintsil and Gabriel Pec free on the flanks, Joveljic can focus on what he’s best at: intelligent, savvy movements and being a predator inside the area.

Joveljic leads MLS in xG (expected goals) this season, and it’s not even close. He’s also missed three big chances. Now consider this attacking quartet is brand new, and nowhere close to what I expect we’ll see. Once fully in sync with Triple P (Puig, Pec and Paintsil – I’ll get my coat!), this can be a ridiculously exciting and devastating attack. Joveljic is poised to reap the greatest rewards.

Let’s look at the Golden Boot favorites for a second, and reasons Joveljic can leapfrog them.

Lionel Messi – (my preseason pick!) Messi will score for fun, but he will likely miss a significant amount of games due to internationals, and the need for rest. Tata Martino will need to be clever in how he manages the GOAT’s minutes. Inter Miami are also in the Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinals, pursuing MLS Cup presented by Audi, and as the inaugural champions, they’ll be defending their Leagues Cup crown.

Cucho Hernández – Last season Cucho hit double-digit goals and assists. As BWP told us on #MLS360 last week, Cucho is the modern No. 9 who can do it all. Cucho is a generous, team-first striker, one who perfectly slots into Wilfried Nancy’s style of play in Columbus. Watch the way he drifts, intelligently creating space for the likes of Diego Rossi. I just wonder will one of his biggest qualities come at a cost to his Golden Boot chase?

Giorgos Giakoumakis – Fitness. Plain and simple. Even if Thiago Almada takes most of the penalties, GG will still rack up massive numbers, provided he can stay healthy. Last season, Giakoumakis scored 17 goals in just 1,791 minutes. It was a remarkable return in a debut season, but the time on the sidelines is Atlanta’s biggest reason for concern. A Golden Boot winner in Holland and Scotland, Giakoumakis could also miss time if Greece make it to this summer’s European Championships.

Dénis Bouanga – The 2023 MLS Golden Boot winner has yet to score this season. Is that a huge concern? No, I don’t think so, but he’s already playing catchup! Bouanga scores in bundles; at least that’s what brought him atop the charts last season. Eight goals from April 6 to May 6. Nine goals from October 5 to November 5. Bouanga hit 38 goals in 2023 for LAFC in all competitions, and fresh off penning a new deal, I think we’ll see another burst of Bouanga goals soon.

To conclude: Everything is falling into place for Joveljic to have a 20-plus goal season. Whether the LA Galaxy turn that into a trophy push or not is another thing entirely. This team could leak goals, but it’s going to be masked by their celebrations up the other end. The Galaxy rank third in xG this season, behind Miami (played an extra game), and D.C. United (numbers padded when they played a man up against Revolution for 65 minutes).

Two of my colleagues have both won the Golden Boot twice: Taylor Twellman and Bradley Wright-Phillips. They both had excellent chance creators around them, like Steve Ralston and Sacha Kljestan. I’m lucky that I’ve got the expertise of Sacha and BWP next to me on MLS 360, and I can’t wait to get their thoughts on how Joveljic’s odds for the Golden Boot are shrinking every week. Sacha played with Joveljic at the Galaxy, so watch out for his insights ahead of our Saturday nightcap between the Galaxy and St. Louis CITY SC.

Is it a blessing or a curse Eric Ramsay inherits MNUFC in full flight?

Cameron Knowles will always be a cult hero in Minnesota.

Minnesota United’s offseason was turbulent, to put it kindly. A ship without its captain, Knowles stepped up and produced wonders, all without the team's brightest star, Emanuel Reynoso. Seven points from three games sees the Loons at the summit of Major League Soccer. And now, just as the discontent and frustration from the fans has turned into jubilation, here comes a massive change.

Eric Ramsay is the new man in charge. Most recently a first-team assistant at Manchester United, Ramsay brings a wealth of experience for such a young coach, at just 32 years of age. But nothing will have prepared him for this transition. After a transatlantic move from Manchester to Minneapolis, Ramsay must ensure his introduction doesn’t coincide with a dip in form. It’s an incredibly tough spot for a first-time head coach to deal with.

Oh, and it’s the best the Western Conference has to offer, LAFC, arriving for Ramsay’s debut!

Are the Red Bulls the real deal?

As the 2024 season rapidly approached, I was asked by our MLS social media team who I thought would be the biggest surprise. My pick was the New York Red Bulls. Even with my high hopes, they’ve already surpassed my expectations. We’re in for a treat on MLS 360, when champions Columbus Crew welcome the Red Bulls, in what will be a true test to see where exactly this RBNY team is at.

For me, they’re close to being a complete team. An outstanding international caliber goalkeeper in Carlos Coronel. A back four that’s been boosted by the excellent addition of Noah Eile. Frankie Amaya and Daniel Edelman complement each other so well in midfield. And then you look at the sensational return of Lewis Morgan and the blockbuster signing of Emil Forsberg. I say “close to being a complete team,” because this team needs a striker to become not only a top-four playoff team, but an MLS Cup contender.

I talked a little Golden Boot above, and the Red Bulls don’t have a single player that would enter that realm. Can Dante Vanzeir live up to the billing? He scored 70 goals in Belgium before arriving at Red Bull Arena. If he doesn’t step up, and if Elias Manoel or even teenager Serge Ngoma don’t grab that spotlight, this club must use that one remaining DP slot as soon as possible. The time is now, so don’t waste it.

With a genuinely world-class player pulling the strings in Forsberg, this is the best the Red Bulls have looked since winning the Supporters’ Shield in 2018. Back then, Bradley Wright-Phillips was banging in the goals. And I’m sorry Red Bulls fans: He’s not coming out of retirement any time soon. I need him in studio!

See you for MLS 360 on Saturday evening at 7:30 pm ET!