CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid admitted he is as old-school as they come in terms of preserving the traditions of soccer, but he’s also quick to recognize the need for the game to undergo some updating.
Specifically, Video Assistant Referee (VAR). If not for that system, the five-time MLS Cup champions might have suffered a crushing defeat instead of earning a 1-1 draw with crosstown rival Los Angeles FC last Friday at StubHub Center.
It was in the 15th minute of the first half when the Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic appeared to score the 499th goal of his career, only to have his attempt cleared off the line by LAFC’s Danilo Silva. But VAR determined the ball had crossed the goal line and the Galaxy had a 1-0 lead.
The only reason VAR was useful in this situation was because the game was nationally televised by ESPN. If Spectrum Sports had shown the game, goal post cameras – specifically installed by ESPN – would not have been there, replays would not have indicated a goal, and the Galaxy might have lost.
“I was very thankful it (VAR) was there that night,” Schmid said with a straight face.
Goal-line technology, currently used in top European leagues such as Italy’s Serie A, France’s Ligue 1 and England’s Premier League, is not currently used in MLS. As of earlier this year, FIFA listed 144 stadiums as having the system in place. Costs, however, are prohibitive and reportedly run as much as $300,000, not to mention almost $4,000 per game.
Schmid said he was in favor of it being installed throughout Major League Soccer.
“Yeah, I think we need goal-line technology,” he said. “I know when you look at the (UEFA) Champions League they have the referee there or the assistant referee. The camera is better, I think. Other countries do it different ways, but I think goal line technology would be good.”
Schmid said he understood the opposition to its introduction, which might be traced to the controversial use of VAR.
“Those guys are going to be against VAR, whether it’s consistent or inconsistent, or against any technology,” he said. “I’m as much of a purist as they come in terms of the game. I don’t like to see the game change that much, but I think those are things that don’t alter the game but make it better.
“It’s not impacting how you play the game. It’s not impacting the ebb and flow of the game. It’s just making sure you get those calls right. I think from the standpoint of the fans and the result, that’s an important element.”
The injury front appears to be improving considerably as the Galaxy prepare for Saturday’s important clash with Real Salt Lake in Sandy, Utah.
Midfielder Roman Alessandrini (knee), center back Michael Ciani (hamstring), Giovani dos Santos (strained quad), Jonathan dos Santos (groin) and defender Dave Romney (ankle) all returned to training this week and final decisions on their availability will be made Friday, Schmid said.
Alessandrini said he is ready to play despite lingering soreness in his right knee. A recent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed no structural damage and Alessandrini said there’s “nothing serious,” although he admitted he feared the worst when he was hurt on a non-contact play in a recent match against Minnesota United.
He even was brought to tears because of the discomfort.
“Yeah, because it was the same feeling as my previous injury,” he said, referring to ligament damage in 2014. “That’s why I was a little bit scared. And when you know this feeling you think the worst.
“After that, the MRI gave me some good news. That’s why I’m more confident right now, even if it’s a little bit painful. The ligament and meniscus (cartilage) are good, that’s the important thing.”
Alessandrini has eight goals and five assists and has missed the last three matches after a run in which he had five goals and four assists in six games. His presence would be welcome, to say the least, for a team trying desperately to make the MLS Cup playoffs. The Galaxy currently are seventh in the Western Conference; only the top six teams qualify.
“It’s the last seven games, so I have to give everything for my team,” he said. “I try to give the best I can. Step by step I need to come back and help the team get in the playoffs.”
STERES FOR THE DEFENSE
Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham made one of his biggest saves of the season when he knocked the ball away from a fast-closing Benny Feilhaber of LAFC during last Friday’s game, but he wasn’t the only player to come up with a big stop.
Defender Dan Steres had come in for an injured Dave Romney (ankle) just before the end of regulation when LAFC’s Diego Rossi took a pass from Latif Blessing at the penalty spot and prepared to shoot. Steres, however, dove to the ground and re-directed Rossi’s attempt out of danger.
“For me I was trying to get up to the speed of the game,” he said. “I was just trying to get my hat in it. He (Rossi) was probably more open than he should have been in the first place, but to make up for it without conceding a goal was good.
“I was fresh and I just tried to get out there as quickly as possible. Once he was about to shoot it, I had to get down there to block it. I was just happy to do my part.”
The game-saving play, however, did little to ease his season-long frustration. He has appeared in just 15 games, with nine starts.
“It’s been a tough year,” he said. “I’m just trying to grind and find my role and do what’s needed at this point. I’m obviously not happy being on the bench; I want to be playing.
“It’s a grind and hopefully we can push into the playoffs. And if I’m needed then, that would be great.”
Schmid had nothing but praise for Clint Dempsey, one of his former players who announced his immediate retirement Wednesday.
Dempsey had some of his best years under Schmid, who coached him in Seattle.
“Clint’s had a phenomenal career,” Schmid said. “I think what he achieved for the (U.S.) national team, he was a guy who was very consistent. Obviously, it was a privilege to coach him.
“Clint thought the game ahead. I thought he was a fantastic player and deserves all the accolades he’s getting.”
Schmid was asked what Dempsey meant to U.S. soccer in general.
“He was iconic in the sense that he was the one guy who really had broken through,” he said. “Claudio Reyna sort of broke through in Europe. There’s guys like (Carlos) Bocanegra and guys like that who also broke through. He was the one forward along with (Brian) McBride who sort of broke through in Europe.
“I think that was important because that helped establish that, ‘Hey, Americans can play.’ That opened the door for some other players to get over there later. When you look at the goals he scored in World Cups and Confederation Cups, obviously, sometimes we wouldn’t have achieved what we did as a country without his goals.”