CARSON, Calif. – The Galaxy’s Diego Polenta has turned out to be not only a sturdy defender but a quick learner.
It didn’t take long, for example, for the 27-year-old to conquer the never-ending battle that is Southern California traffic.
“I learned that I can’t leave my house at a certain time,” he said with a grin. “I have to go either really early or really late.”
The native of Montevideo, Uruguay signed in early February after taking a six-month break following his departure from his former club, Uruguayan side Club Nacional de Football. His sabbatical led to a couple of early lapses with the Galaxy, each of which led to goals by Minnesota United and FC Dallas, but he’s bounced back to help anchor a defense that has turned in consecutive shutouts and allowed only six goals in six games.
“I honestly didn’t know much about him before they put out a little video on him or something,” central defense partner Dan Steres said. “He’s a big guy, he’s physical, he’s got a good left foot and he’s calm on the ball.
“I’ve been impressed with him. He’s done well.”
Polenta clearly is enjoying himself on the Galaxy, which he said “welcomed me with open arms.” He also said he has been surprised at the level of play in Major League Soccer.
He apparently had been led to believe it was less than ideal. Not so, he pointed out.
“In the beginning, it was said that maybe it wasn’t competitive,” he said, “but playing here you know it is competitive and any team can beat anyone.
“That’s what makes it great.”
He said he has had no second thoughts about joining a new team in a new league, not to mention living in a new country – he’d never visited the United States prior to his arrival – and he feels at home in his new surroundings.
“I think I’ve adapted well,” he said. “I’d never been to the U.S. … I’ve been all over South America and Europe … but I’m very comfortable and it’s a beautiful city to live in. The weather is super nice and I hope to be here a long time.”
He said he feels he is in his “best form possible” and attributed that to his new teammates.
“I feel really, really good,” he said. “As a pro, it’s important that you feel comfortable with everyone around here. The truth is this is a big family.”
He said he likes the way the defense has been playing lately – “We’re understanding each other well,” he said – and is eager to see what Giancarlo Gonzalez can bring to the back line.
Polenta said he didn’t know the Costa Rican personally before his arrival last week, but he was well aware of a reputation that grew by leaps and bounds when Gonzalez helped his side reach the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“He’s a great teammate,” Polenta said. “He has a lot of experience for the national team and playing in Europe.
“He brings a lot to the team. It just adds more competition among us.”
And that can only make him better, he added.
“I feel really, really good,” he said. “You always want to improve, and you do that training after training and game after game.
“I think you never stop learning and growing.”
THEY’LL SECOND THAT
The Galaxy are 5-1 and sit in third place in the Western Conference behind only Los Angeles FC and Seattle, but they are not exactly pleased with themselves.
A disappointing second half in last week’s 2-0 win over Philadelphia apparently left them far from satisfied.
“We discussed it,” said Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was visibly upset with his teammates after the match. “The coach himself said he was not satisfied.
“When you have a chance to execute the game you need to go for it. You don’t leave any space for the opponent, especially how the game went. I think the first half was the best half the team has done since I came here. The second, we were less focused.
“But that is something you learn from,” he continued. “Nothing to complain about, only try to do more and even better. I think we are 5-1 … good numbers.”
YOUTH IS SERVED
Araujo, a Lompoc native, has made two appearances this season, including a 25-minute stint last Saturday after Feltscher was hurt.
Another possibility for right back was Gonzalez, who signed with the club last week. But Schelotto said the Costa Rican’s paperwork has not been completed and he likely will be available for the April 24 game in Minnesota.
At this point, it looks like Araujo will get the call.
“I think he’s ready,” Schelotto said. “He’s been training with us since January. He knows what I want from him during the game.
“I know he’s young, just 17, but he’s been training with us and he’s ready.”
Schelotto also said Feltscher is expected to miss at least 7-10 days.