CARSON, Calif. – First impressions appeared to be positive ones for the LA Galaxy in Tuesday’s scrimmage against Japanese side Vissel Kobe at Dignity Health Sports Park.
The five-time MLS Cup champions, utilizing a 4-4-2 formation featuring Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ola Kamara as strikers, won 4-1 on a rain-soaked field at the track and field stadium. The final score against a side featuring the likes of former World Cup standouts Andres Iniesta, David Villa,
But what did matter was the Galaxy looked to be well on their way to being in top form for their regular-season opener on March 2 against the Chicago Fire at Dignity Health Sports Park. Goalkeeper David Bingham made at least two excellent saves – including one on a Iniesta penalty kick — Kamara scored twice (on assists from Ibrahimovic, no less) and the 4-4-2 alignment, in particular the dangerous tandem up top, indicated it could be quite effective this season.
“I think if we have that good defensive shape it’s a very good formation,” Kamara said. “I think last year we weren’t strong enough defensively, and I think if we have a clear idea of what we can do offensively and defensively it can be a dangerous duo.”
He also said it almost was a relief to take part in an actual competition after all of the fitness work Galaxy players have been subjected to in training camp.
“It felt good,” he said. “It felt good to score two goals as well. Heavy legs and it’s a heavy field as well, but we did some good things, especially in the first half.
“We had good ball movement, good possession. It was fun, to be honest.”
LEANING TO THE LEFT
Among the more notable developments in Tuesday’s scrimmage was the appearance of Jorgen Skjelvik at left back.
The 27-year-old played last season at center back, where he formed a disappointing twosome with the since-departed Michael Ciani, but playing outside might not be a stretch of the imagination.
The Norwegian said he has at “three or four seasons” playing professionally at that position under his belt, and with the off-season departure of veteran left back Ashley Cole for English side Derby County the Galaxy definitely have a need there.
“It felt pretty good,” he said of his performance. “I think the biggest difference is positioning, of course. But we played three in the back last year, so I was kind of on the left then.
“It will be fine.”
Skjelvik said he didn’t know if left back is where he might start the regular season, but if he’s called to do so he’ll be ready.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I’ll just have to learn to play left back again. I don’t know what the coach (Guillermo Barros Schelotto) is thinking right now, but it was nice to get a game in and take it from there.
“I enjoy it. There’s a lot more running, but (fitness coach) Javier (Valdecantos) has been prepping us for a lot more running” – he went on with a laugh – “so it should be fine.”
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
Kamara said he is looking forward to this week of training, if for no other reason that the Galaxy coaching staff, in particular Valdecantos (nicknamed the Assassin), likely won’t be putting such a heavy emphasis on fitness.
“We’re going to start on formations this week,” he said. “The fundamentals of the game, to be honest. He (Valdecantos) has just been killing us the first two weeks.
“This is one of the hardest camps I’ve been in, for sure. There’s a reason why they call him the assassin. People are sore … a lot of pains everywhere. People have enjoyed it because we know we’re fit and you know you get something back from it.”
Center back Dan Steres said Valdecantos has lived up to his fearsome reputation.
“I didn’t know much about him,” Steres said, “but he’s good. I was fit coming into camp and my body was in the right shape. I’ve gotten through this; I think the guys who came in prepared were ready to go.
“The fitness work was a shock to the system, but we pushed through it and came together as a team.”
Steres said the soreness from two-a-day practices is starting to subside.
“I feel much better now,” he said with a laugh. “This was almost a light day for us today, compared to what we’ve been doing.”