Carson, CA. — The LA Galaxy trained Saturday on the main field at StubHub Center, a change from the usual training grounds that surround the complex, just 33 hours before their season opener with the Portland Timbers on Sunday at 7 p.m. (Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes).
The weather alternated between overcast and sunny skies as cloud cover rapidly dissipated after a winter storm.
Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid, donning an “LA Galaxy” beanie similar to one David Beckham once made famous, watched over the final training session of the preseason as players readied themselves for Sunday’s match.
“Obviously, the team is confident,” Schmid told CoG. “We know what lays in front of us. We know we’ve got to come out and we’ve got to work hard.”
He currently stands as the architect of a team that axed 15 players from last season’s roster and brought in at least 12 newcomers. In his opinion, training on the stadium pitch before Sunday’s match was more about getting them comfortable than any bigger statement.
“We haven’t really been able to get on the field because there was something that happened to the field so we couldn’t get on it for a few days,” he said. “I always feel it’s important because we have so many new players that before they play their first home game on here, that they get some reps on the field.
“So we’ve had the couple of practice games we’ve played out here. We had one training … two trainings before each of those games. So just getting on the field again it just gives you spatial recognition and makes you feel a little more comfortable.”
The Galaxy will need to feel very comfortable at home this year in order to avenge last season’s disastrous home record. The club went 3-9-5 at StubHub Center en route to an 8-18-8 overall record that saw the club finish at the bottom of the MLS standings for the first time in franchise history – a dubious record every player and coach was well aware of.
“The guys who were here last year have a very high motivation to change things,” Schmid said. “And the new guys came here because the expectation is that we’re going to be the Galaxy of old.”
They’re also acutely aware the Timbers are a formidable opponent and should provide a difficult test right out of the gate.
“Obviously a very good side,” Galaxy midfielder Perry Kitchen explained. “I’ve played them a few times when I was in D.C. Very good side. A lot of talent. A lot of quality, especially in the final third.
“(Fanendo) Adi, obviously, (Diego) Valerie, there’s a lot of talent, a lot of quality. So we just have to keep tabs on them the whole game. And if we do that then I think we’ll be all right.”
No one on the Galaxy is questioning the defense will have its hands full. Especially Rolf Feltscher, one of the new additions to the club. The Galaxy right back has struggled at times during the preseason to link up with Romain Alessandrini and provide protection for center back Michael Ciani.
When asked if there’s any additional pressure on him to perform because he’s one of the team’s new players, he smiled and shook his head.
“Like everywhere, when you arrive in a new team, you want to do everything good,” he said. “Here it’s the same. I came to help the team, to give a good performance and hopefully the team wins. It’s the most important thing to us.
“I feel good. Everybody is positive. We trained very hard, so we are prepared.”
Schmid was confident the Galaxy could handle the Timbers, who feature impressive attacking talent and sport a new head coach in Giovanni Savarese, late of the New York Cosmos. If that left the Galaxy guessing about what they need to do, the coaching staff wasn’t letting on.
“We’ve got to be aware of Valeri and (Sebastián) Blanco,” Schmid warned. “You know most of what they do is created from them.
“We’ve got to make sure that we do a good job with Adi up front and (Samuel) Armenteros because he’s had some good moments for them in the preseason.
“And then we have got to exploit the advantages we think we have on the other end of the field in terms of attacking them,” he went on. “Ola’s (Kamara’s) speed, Ola’s ability to get behind the defense, Romain’s ability to take people on one on one and Gio’s (dos Santos’) ability to find the passes to them is something we have to take to our advantage.”
The biggest question mark headed into the season opener has been the availability of midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, who suffered an unspecified injury during the preseason. But he trained with the club on Friday and Saturday and told CoG he was “feeling good” as he headed to the locker room.
Midfielders Joao Pedro (strained left hamstring) and Bradford Jamieson IV (concussion), however, will be unavailable Sunday.
There appears to be a genuine feeling of confidence on the club, and on Sunday the Galaxy will take their first step in putting a forgettable 2017 season behind them.
Players know it’s about to get interesting.
“We’re 100 percent ready to go for (Sunday),” Kitchen said. “And now it’s just about putting it all together and getting the result.”