Carson, CA. – Ashley Cole’s love for the game of soccer hasn’t diminished despite having 20 demanding years under his belt while playing in England, Italy and now for Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy.
He turns 38 in December, but the stalwart left back couldn’t be happier as the five-time MLS Cup champions prepare to take on visiting Atlanta United on Saturday at StubHub Center (7:30 p.m, Spectrum SportsNet, Spectrum Deportes).
Cole was just voted to mlssoccer.com’s team of the week for his performance in the Galaxy’s hard-earned, 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire last Saturday in cold, blustery conditions in Bridgeview, Ill. Cole, told the award was voted on by members of the media, smiled and said, “Oh. They must have been watching the wrong game.”
“Of course,” he went on, “it’s always nice, but as long as we’re winning it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t a great game (in Chicago), but we came away with a good three points.”
Cole, who began his professional career when he signed with English powerhouse Arsenal in 1998, arguably has been the Galaxy’s steadiest performer this season.
Not only has he been a rock defensively but he assisted on two game-winning goals by recent acquisition Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the first one in a stunning, come-from-behind 4-3 victory over Los Angeles FC on March 31 and the other in last Saturday’s win over the Fire.
Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid said he sensed Cole really is enjoying himself.
“Ashley loves to play. He loves to compete,” Schmid said after training Wednesday. “It doesn’t surprise me from the standpoint he loves to play the game.
“He’s the kind of guy you would call at six in the morning and say we’re playing a pickup game under a streetlight and he’d show up.”
Cole, who returned to the club for a third season after signing a one-year contract in January, said he takes no particular pleasure in proving wrong those skeptics who maintained his best days were behind him.
He has stayed extremely fit and feels he’s now playing his best since he’s been with the Galaxy.
“Hopefully me playing well, everyone else plays well and we end up winning,” he said. “I’m just enjoying it. I’m not the same as when I was 25 or 23, but I just want to keep playing as long as I can and keep enjoying it.
“Last season” – when the Galaxy stumbled to an embarrassing 8-18-8 record – “I didn’t enjoy as much, but when you’re winning there’s a lot to enjoy.
“I’m going to keep playing as long as I can until my body says stop.”
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
Last Saturday’s win over the Fire was not for the timid, and especially for Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham.
He finished with four saves in the 1-0 win and said he’s never seen anything like the cold, rain and wind that plagued Toyota Park.
“They were the hardest conditions I’ve ever played in,” he said. “The only game that comes close was in New England a few years ago when it was snowy and windy. That was second to what we faced in Chicago.
“It was a good effort by the guys to kind of hunker down and get through the second half.”
Bingham said he and his Galaxy teammates weren’t surprised by the poor weather – “We knew the conditions before we even flew out there; we saw the reports,” he said – and their worst fears came to fruition when he looked out his hotel room window that morning.
“We knew it was going to be a hard day and probably not going to be the prettiest game,” he said, “but we were going to get through it.”
Bingham said he learned a great deal about this year’s edition of the Galaxy in that victory.
“I think people are seeing our commitment and our grit to kind of get through games,” he said. “You saw in that LAFC game going down 3-0 and coming back. Then obviously in Chicago, with battling the elements, sticking together and fighting through it as a team.”
The Galaxy’s offense has featured Ibrahimovic and not much else in the early going this season, but Schmid said he wasn’t concerned with the lack of secondary scoring.
Ibrahimovic has three goals, but no one else has more than one. Ola Kamara, who recently signed a three-year contract reportedly worth $1 million a year, hasn’t scored since a season-opening, 2-1 win over Portland on March 4. Jonathan dos Santos, Sebastian Lletget, Chris Pontius and Romain Alessandrini, last year’s leading goal scorer with 13, have the other goals.
“It’s all about creating chances or not creating chances,” Schmid said. “I think we’re creating chances.
“Even in the game in Chicago obviously Zlatan had a couple of chances besides the one where he scored the goal. Kamara had a really good look on that one play … had a nice goal that probably was not offside had the linesman been in a good position.
“If we’re not creating chances then I would worry. But as long as we’re creating chances I’m OK.”