CARSON, Calif. – It has been business as usual for LA Galaxy general manager Dennis te Kloese as the regular-season opener against the Chicago Fire on March 2 at Dignity Health Sports Park approaches.
What that means is there still is no solution to the nagging problem of four designated players on the roster. Major League Soccer rules allow only three, but te Kloese said the situation will be rectified “for sure before the (roster) compliance date” of March 1.
“Next week it will be done and in the best way possible,” he told reporters after training Thursday.
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Te Kloese would not reveal what the club will do, but he did say his intention was to keep all four players. The ongoing drama, he added, has not been as frustrating as one might think.
“I think we want to be as respectful as we can toward all of the players,” he said. “The players here are very important to us … DP players, obviously, both nationally and internationally renowned … and we have to go about it the right way.”
Te Kloese also said abiding by the various MLS roster restrictions has been challenging, to say the least.
“I think it’s an interesting process to go through the rules and regulations in this league,” he said. “And it’s fine, to be honest. It’s something we need to attend to but it’s also very important to take care of obviously the best interests of the club and the players.
“It is what it is. I think it’s also something for me to adapt to very, very quickly and be part of MLS in a good way.”
SLOWLY BUT SURELY
The status of Sebastian Lletget remains unclear, but it isn’t a sore subject with him. Not yet, anyway.
Lletget suffered what he called a minor tear of his right hamstring after he recently returned from U.S. men’s national team duties and said Thursday he was “not far off” from getting back on the field.
“I’m progressing well,” he said, “but maybe it was a little bit worse than what we had anticipated. If not Chicago, I think it will be Dallas (March 9 in Frisco, Texas).
“It’s not that bad, but I hate to miss the opener. We can’t accelerate too fast and regress.”
Lletget, who definitely will miss Saturday’s preseason finale against the Colorado Rapids (8 p.m., Dignity Health Sports Park), said he has been surprised by the lengthy recovery.
“It’s taken a little longer to heal, I guess,” he said. “I did go pretty hard for a month before these guys. I think I did too much too soon when I got back and I got a little excited.
“It’s OK. These things happen.”
The popular midfielder, entering his fifth season with the club, admitted he probably pushed things a little too quickly when he rejoined the five-time MLS Cup champions following the U.S. men’s team’s 2-0 victory over Costa Rica earlier this month.
“Maybe I should have taken a couple of days off,” he said. “I literally got off the flight and went to training. And then we had a friendly game (against Japanese side Vissel Kobe) the next day. It was an intense part of the preseason and I didn’t take any breaks.
“Maybe it was like an amateur mistake, but you live and you learn.”
BINGHAM FOR THE DEFENSE
The Galaxy gave up 64 goals in 2018 – only Minnesota (71), San Jose (71) and Vancouver (67) allowed more in the Western Conference – and goalkeeper David Bingham said it was no surprise to see what new coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto made a priority during his first training camp.
“I think the majority of the work we’ve done in preseason has been on the defense,” he said. “And rightly so. Last year we know it wasn’t good enough, and this year we have to improve off that.”
To say last season was frustrating would be an understatement. Bingham finished with a pedestrian 13-12-9 record, eight shutouts and a goals-against average of 1.88. The Galaxy allowed either a game-tying or game-winning goal later than the 70th minute 10 times. And six of those occurred in the 80th minute and beyond.
“We’d fight our way back in games, only to make silly mistakes,” he said. “And that’s not saying one person made a mistake here or there. It’s collectively as a group we just weren’t good enough.
“This year we know if we can button down the defense we’re going to be hard to handle.”
Two new wrinkles to the back line have left him optimistic for a turnaround. One is Jorgen Skjelvik, who appears to have seamlessly made the switch from center back to left back, and recent arrival Diego Polenta in the center of the defense.
There are some who doubt Skjelvik can handle his new responsibilities, but Bingham begged to differ.
“That’s his position,” he said. “He’s never been a center back; he’s always been an outside back. So he definitely looks comfortable there.
“He’s always been more of a wing back, and you can see his comfort level is a lot more out there.”
Polenta, who recently joined the club from Uruguayan side Club Nacional de Football, has made a positive, early impression.
“He’s a big guy and aggressive,” Bingham said. “He’s still coming into fitness, so he needs a little more time to get fit. Once he gets fit he’s going to be a good piece.”
Bingham said he was certain the defense will be much more formidable this season.
“Yes, it has to be,” he said with a laugh. “It’s got to be improved. We’ve done well so far this preseason, but we have to keep building off that and get ready.”