Carson, CA. – The LA Galaxy (1-1-0) could be missing at least six starters in Saturday’s match in Vancouver against the Whitecaps, but the five-time MLS Cup champions are far from ready to push the panic button.
The Western Conference matchup is, after all, just the third game of the regular season for the Galaxy and head coach Sigi Schmid doesn’t appear overly concerned with having to field a decimated roster in which his three designated players (Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini) are recovering from hamstring injuries. Forward Ola Kamara is gone because of Norwegian national-team duty and defender Michael Ciani has been unable to train this week because of an abdominal injury. Another defender, Ashley Cole, will miss Saturday’s game because of a red-card suspension.
A revamped roster loaded with experience appears to have helped ease his pain.
“The depth is important,” Schmid acknowledged after training Wednesday. “Injuries when you have depth it works out all right, except when you have injuries in one particular area of the field. You have a lot of injuries there, it makes it a little bit worse.
“One of the key guys we’ve been missing all season is Bradford Jamieson (concussion protocol), who played really well at the end of last season and was an alternative for us up front. From not having that alternative, that’s hurt us a little bit.”
Jamieson, however, participated in limited training Wednesday. Also practicing were midfielders Perry Kitchen (knee), João Pedro (hamstring) and Chris Pontius (gluteal muscle). All three could play this weekend, although Kitchen figured to be listed as questionable.
Midfielder Baggio Husidic, the Galaxy’s longest-tenured player despite being in only his fifth season with the club, said this year’s depth following an off-season roster overhaul will make a big difference from a year ago, when the forced appearances of so many young, untested players led to the worst-ever finish in franchise history.
“It’s hard to win when you have two or three Los Dos players starting,” he said, referring to last season’s 8-18-8 record. “It’s hard to get odds in your favor with that inexperienced group.
“Obviously this year is different. Every single guy that’s come in has lots of MLS experience.”
Husidic said he hasn’t been surprised with the rash of injuries and absences.
“No, because you know it would happen,” he said. “It happens every year. That’s one thing I’ve learned over the years of playing, is no matter where you’re stacked somehow you get an opportunity.
“No matter who the coaches favor in the first 11, it always changes and can change quickly.”
Added Pontius, “It’s why you build a deep roster. We’re getting tested early on here, but I’ve always said I’d rather have this happen early in the year than later on. It’s unfortunate timing with all the injuries, but it’s next man up and making an impact on the field.
“I like our squad and where we’re at in terms of personnel, the options we have. I’m not worried at all.”
READY TO GO
Speaking of Pontius, the 30-year-old has been rehabbing a sore gluteal muscle, but he was optimistic about his availability Saturday.
The former MLS Comeback Player of the Year (in 2016, with the Philadelphia Union) who signed with the Galaxy as a free agent in January said his main concern was regaining his comfort level after he missed the Galaxy’s last match against New York City FC.
“Fitness-wise,” Pontius said, “I’d like to think one week is not going to throw me back that much. For me it’s just sharpness and getting confidence back on the ball. I don’t think fitness-wise I lost all that much.”
Pontius smiled when asked if he could go 90 minutes this weekend.
“You can go 90 any day you want,” he said. “Quality is a different situation. I’ll leave that up to Sigi and the coaches to make that call.”
One player in particular who could benefit from a makeshift Galaxy lineup in Vancouver is Ariel Lassiter.
The native of Turrialba, Costa Rica joined the Galaxy after leading Galaxy II in goals (15) in 2015 and could start up top in place of Kamara.
He said he’ll be ready if he does get the nod from Schmid and the coaching staff.
“It’s a possibility for sure,” he said. “There’s a lot of time until Saturday, so I’m going to make sure I’m ready to go. I know I have the ability to contribute and I’ll just wait for my number to be called.
“Opportunities come and they go, but they definitely come. Here’s another one.”