Carson, CA – The LA Galaxy kicked off their 2014 preseason training and were in front of the media for the first time in 2014. With sixty minutes of drills and scrimmages, they seemed focused and engaged. Most importantly, it seems the addition of new blood into the team has really kicked up the competition.
During the full field scrimmages players could be heard yelling and “chirping” at each other. There was a hunger for the ball and the need to compete and win was already evident on quite a few faces.
Robbie Rogers was particularly vocal and seemed sharp on the ball. He created some opportunities and would drive ahead in the attack. He looked fluid and dynamic with only three days in camp so far, but he says he feels great. “I felt like the off-season was too long” Rogers commented. “I felt, especially towards the last few weeks, I was really eager to get back and just start playing…”
Rogers also made it a priority to get healthy and get fit before starting the long MLS Season. And perhaps that hard work is already paying off. “Robbie’s had an outstanding pre-season to date; four outstanding days” according to General Manager and Head Coach Bruce Arena. Rogers is confident “I’ve actually never felt so sharp coming into the pre-season,” and if he can stay healthy he may be in competition for what may be a crowded midfield. Regardless, Robbie needs to show some serious improvement. Fairly, or unfairly, he is going to be judged by his success when compared to last years’ MLS MVP, Mike Magee.
On the striker front it was good to see both target forwards getting some playing time at the top of the formation. Samuel is a good sized target man with a keen eye for the ball. Although he won’t tower over people he will be able to use his physical strength to muscle defenders away from him. And at just over six feet tall he’ll still be able to get his head equaled to the majority of MLS defenses.
Rob Friend, on the other hand, is six feet five inches and sticks out on the playing field. He definitely has the physical presence and the height danger. It would be difficult to defend a set piece that included Friend, Gonzalez and Leonardo. And Perhaps that’s exactly what Bruce Arena has in mind.
“I’m a different type of player than I think this team’s had in awhile. I’m a big target man. They know what they are getting. I’m not going to take the ball at the half and dribble ten guys, but I play with my size and I think that the teams needed that in the past few years.” – Rob Friend, LA Galaxy Striker
And while there seems to be a ton of competition at the striker position, with Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, Rob Friend, Samuel, Gyasi Zardes, Jack McBean and others, the real lack of depth becomes apparent at right midfield and right back. Dan Gargan may be a short term solution for the right back role. Having played with a myriad of MLS teams over the years, the thirty one year-old is currently on trial with the LA Galaxy. In the scrimmage he looked engaged and quick on his feet but will probably face an uphill battle to make the team despite the fact that the only signed backup to AJ DeLaGarza is the young Oscar Sorto. But Bruce does like his veterans and Gargan has definitely seen his share of MLS action.
Finally we turn to Robbie Keane. The Irish International, LA Galaxy Captain just arrived to training camp for his first day with the club. Having both achilles tendons operated on in the off-season he’s happy to report that he will be ready to play when the season starts.
But with only weeks before the LA Galaxy face off against Tijuana in the CONCACAF Champions’ League, it will be interesting to see how much pre-season training time he’ll actually get.
“For the last 6 weeks I’ve doing a lot of rehab with the Irish trainer. A lot of running in the swimming pool. And Strength work on the Achilles. So I did a jog last week – a few jogs last week, and one today and so far so go.” – Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy Striker
The lack of any real playing time in this pre-season may be a real factor headed into the CCL. It’s the most pressing issue and the one thing that could make or brake the LA Galaxy’s chances in that tournament.
Overall, each of the players think the depth of this team has increased. A lot of that could be that younger players are a bit older, and new pieces to the puzzle may have added some firepower to the seemingly lackluster attack from last year. And yes, Bruce, I do realize the LA Galaxy were near the top of the league in goals scored. I just never felt that was the case at all in 2013.