Game notes from the LA Galaxy’s second public preseason game and a complete injury update.
Carson, CA – Another preseason game is in the books which leaves us in the unenviable position of trying to make something of a game that probably means very little in the long term. But there are a few observations that could and should be made. So lets take a look at what stood out in the LA Galaxy’s match against Club Tijuana (Xolos).
Gyasi Zardes is finally in camp for the LA Galaxy. After spending most of his January with the USMNT he got the start up top with Robbie Keane in this game. Zardes looks like he’s put on some muscle over the break and he made one or two strong runs through the Xolos defense.
His one real chance on goal came from a set piece provided by Steven Gerrard. Zardes pulled out of a possible collision with the Xolos goalkeeper. While some will criticize him for not making the challenge I’m of the opinion that the last thing you want is your starting forward getting a head injury in a preseason game. If that happens in a real game I’ll be the first to criticize him.
Ashley Cole played some great football. He is calm on the left hand side and I even made the comment in the press box that he brings a certain confidence to that position. He may struggle for pace on occasion and by his own admission he’s not 100%. But it was a good start.
He found Steve Gerrard, and Robbie Keane in the attack and even provided for some nice highlights with a great nutmeg on the sideline. He wasn’t perfect but it was a step in a positive direction and he seems to be in much better shape than I would’ve guessed. He tracked back well on his advanced position during the attack and seems to have a pretty good understanding with Van Damme in the middle.
Side Note: Cole and Van Damme already have a friendship going. During post game quotes Van Damme was jokingly harassing Cole. In terms of locker rooms this early in the season, this LA Galaxy is ahead of the curve. Winning makes everything better and losing makes it worse. But I’m of the opinion this is a very good group of guys. They may actually like each other.
This may be the signing that surprises everyone and makes Bruce Arena look like a genius. It may also be the signing that never reaches above this level of optimism again and will be widely criticized for the rest of the year. It could go either way. But this performance at least has me feeling positive towards his inclusion in the starting XI.
“I think he (Ashley Cole) did well. He’s a good player. He’s going to help us. We’ve got to be smart about his minutes. He hasn’t played much over the past six months or so, but we’ll build him up. You can see he’s a player with a lot of experience and quality.” Bruce Arena, LA Galaxy Head Coach & General Manager
“It was okay. I haven’t played a competitive match in a long time so I thought it went alright. I’m not a 100 percent fit yet, so hopefully in the next game I can play some more minutes and get ready for the start of the season.” Ashley Cole, LA Galaxy Defender
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) February 10, 2016
JELLE VAN DAMME
See the Van Damme article here, but it goes without saying that he was very impressive in his LA Galaxy preseason debut. He’s a physical beast and he’s going to scare the crap out of opponents. In person, he’s even bigger than his 6’3″ 198 lbs. frame. He’s also a really nice guy. He jokes with the reporters and seems to enjoy being a professional soccer player. If you wanted someone to replace Omar Gonzalez I think you found your man. Except he’s bigger, meaner, and probably more skilled with both of his feet.
“I think he (Van Damme) did well. He has good experience, he’s comfortable on the ball, he communicates well; he’s a leader back there. The more games he gets in that position the better he’s going to get. I think he’s obviously a good addition to our team.” Bruce Arena, Head Coach & General Manager
“It’s good. We understand each other. As defenders you need to speak a lot and help each other out, and with Ashley as well. You need to talk a lot and I like to talk. It’s always a good feeling for the fans to have a clean sheet.” Jelle Van Damme, LA Galaxy Defender
Dan wasn’t asked to do much in this game and that’s okay. The defense was actually pretty solid in front of him. I’m not sold on Kennedy yet. I know his reputation so that has me feeling comfortable and not worried. But he played just 16 games last year before being overtaken by the 20 year-old, Jesse Gonzalez. And he’s still looking a little rusty. He knocked one pass out of bounds away from one of his own players while under pressure. But I still want to see him challenged. Maybe the closed door TFC game sheds more light on his but that was the first meeting of the LA Galaxy defense so it’s hard to take anything away from them allowing three goals. I want to believe in Kennedy, I’m just not sold on him yet.
For everyone who was worried about Rogers making the switch to right back, you can take a deep breath. Rogers was very much tested last night as Xolos attacked at him almost exclusively. Did he win every challenge? No. But he did look good in spurts with only his passing going forward that really left much to be desired. But he’s fluid on the attack and is strong coming back on defense. Most of his mistakes in this game probably mean it’s still preseason. I like him on the right side and I like him paired with Giovani dos Santos.
“He (Rogers) did well. He probably played 85 minutes which is probably a few too many for him right now. But we kept him in there and he seems to be doing fine. I think he did well. He had a good night and number 23 for Tijuana is a pretty good player and was a good challenge for him tonight and I think he did well.” Bruce Arena, Head Coach & General Manager
This one is simple. Boateng is fast and because he’s fast he’s usually open. He was the driving and attacking force for the LA Galaxy and he likes to run down the sideline. For Bruce Arena, who has always wanted a real left midfielder, he may be just the answer. His only downside is his crossing. He’s got to get better providing service. Many of the LA Galaxy attacks were opened up on the left side and died on the left side when Boateng couldn’t provide service to the attacking forwards. If he gets better at that LA will be in good position.
“He obviously has the speed effect. I think his work rate was real good tonight. I thought he did good defensively which was a bit of a shift for him, but I think he’s done well. However his role plays out remains to be seen but he and [Sebastian] Lletget in that position there, I think we have a good 90 minutes there and have players that can come off the bench and help us in the last 20-30 minutes of games as well. I think that position has definitely been upgraded for us.” Bruce Arena, Head Coach & General Manager
Baggio is not the sexy choice in central midfield and with the arrival of Nigel De Jong (supposedly coming to camp today, Wednesday) it might be his last start in midfield for a while. But I’ll be damned if Baggio doesn’t work his butt off on both sides of the ball. Especially tracking back on defense. He ran more than 50 yards on couple of plays where bad turnovers in the middle of the field left LA open to counter attacks. Bulletproof Baggio somehow always finds a way onto the field and for LA Galaxy supporters, that’s probably a good thing.
STEVEN GERRARD, GIOVANI DOS SANTOS, ROBBIE KEANE
I didn’t mean to group all three designated players into one group, but that’s where they belong. They neither impressed me nor disappointed. It’s always the attack that is the last to come together and I think these guys are just a few steps from being on the same page.
Gerrard was serviceable and looks like he’s in good shape to start the season. He tracked back on defense and did his part on offense. But I wish he would find his shots on target. He had a great chance in the first half that he skied over the bar. He hits a heavy ball, so he needs to force some saves.
Giovani dos Santos was average. But I like him attacking from the right side and I like his possible combination with Robbie Rogers. But he wasn’t much of a factor int he game tonight. He put Gerrard in several tough situations and the ball was lost several times. But he does provide a boost of speed when it’s warranted and that’s a nice change of pace with a couple of 35 year olds surrounding him.
Keano was fine and I’m never going to worry about him in a preseason game. But I felt like his teammates had trouble finding him and his combinations weren’t great. Could this be the year Keano starts to drop off? He loves to prove me wrong, so I’m sure he’ll be fine.
AJ DeLaGarza (right foot) – DeLaGarza was walking around in a soft boot after he got stomped on in the Toronto FC closed door scrimmage. He commented as he passed by the press that it was his last day in the soft boot and that he was feeling okay. Minor setback. No one should be worried. Bruce expects him to train with the team on Thursday.
Sebastian Lletget (Groin) – Lletget is still recovering from groin soreness. He wanted to play in the game on Tuesday night but Bruce stated in training that he wasn’t going to let that happen. Expect Lletget to play on Saturday in the preseason game vs San Jose
Alan Gordon (Ribs) – Gordon is recovering from some bruised ribs he suffered against Shirak FC. Again, nothing major. Expect him to also see some time vs San Jose.
Jeff Larentowicz (Hernia Surgery) – Larentowicz is recovering from an off-season hernia operation. His return is unknown but he’s working towards training. I’m sure more updates will be coming.
Dave Romney (Hamstring) – Romney is suffering from a hamstring injury. Nothing major. Just expect the Galaxy to bring him back slowly, just like the rest of the guys above.