CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy are second in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference behind only Los Angeles FC and have a 9-6-1 record for 28 points. Head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said he is happy with the results.
But he also can’t help but think of another challenging week that begins with Wednesday’s U.S. Open round-of-16 clash at Providence Park in Portland (8 p.m., ESPN+) and continues with a return to the MLS just three days later with a long trip to face expansion side FC Cincinnati.
Compound the condensed schedule with the fact six players are absent because of national-team duties (Jonathan dos Santos, Uriel Antuna, Giancarlo Gonazlez, Rolf Feltscher, Ernesto Walker, and Justin Vom Steeg), and it’s no wonder Schelotto and his staff are approaching the next several days cautiously.
“We have a very hard week with two games and six players out with national teams,” he said after training Monday. “That impacts us a lot for Wednesday and Saturday.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not play Wednesday but is expected to be available Saturday, and Schelotto said the Open Cup match could provide he and his staff the opportunity to look at some young players.
He also said it’s challenging to balance the importance of the Cup match – the Galaxy won the competition in 2001 and 2005 and were second in 2002 and 2006 – with a regular season that is shaping up to be a fight to the finish in the West.
“We need to balance the importance of every game, even if we lose six players to national teams or injuries,” he said. “We need to do the best thing for the Galaxy and for the team and try to win.
“But you need to think about the reality of the moment. We’ve lost six players to national teams and injuries. Then less than three days after the game in Portland we play in Cincinnati. It’s a tough trip … very hard, very far.
“We have to be smart.”
Schelotto also said he’s generally pleased with the play of his team which recently suffered a four-game losing streak but then won two of the last three MLS matches.
“I am very happy with the first six months. I’m very happy in LA,” he said. “I think the team has a lot of points, but we could have had more. We lost some games at home, but I am very happy with what we have. The first half with Minnesota was wonderful, with Philadelphia, then the first half against (Real) Salt Lake was really good.
“I think we can keep growing. The best part of the season is coming where you’re thinking about the playoffs. I think we have a lot of motivation to give our best. But I am very happy with the points we have now.”
BACK IN THE MIX
Perry Kitchen easily could have lost faith in his standing on the Galaxy despite missing the first 14 games of the regular season after suffering an ankle injury late in training camp. But that kind of pessimism is not in his makeup.
“It’s not ideal,” he admitted Monday, “but you just have to go through it the right way and get back sooner than you think.”
It’s taken almost three months, but the 27-year-old midfielder from Indianapolis, now in his seventh MLS season, is back in the picture and then some as the club heads into another busy week that starts with Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup match in Portland. The Galaxy then play at FC Cincinnati on Saturday in their first regular-season game since a 2-1 loss to New England on June 2.
Kitchen, who made 31 appearances (including 27 starts) a year ago, had been on the outside looking in this season, thanks to the tendon damage and chipped bone in his right ankle he suffered during a training session just prior to the start of the regular season. But he’s played in the last five games overall – including starting and going the full 90 minutes in a 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on May 29 – and is a good bet to start again Wednesday.
“I’m just glad to be back with the boys,” he said. “I’m full go, no issues. The ankle is 100 percent.”
Kitchen said he never lost hope at not only returning this season but also in watching the Galaxy revamp its roster, particularly in midfield.
“You just look at it as this is what you’ve got to do,” he said. “Your role’s kind of changed as far as your involvement with the team, but it’s part of it, part of the job.
“The new coaches come in, and of course they’re going to have their own ideas, which is great. But for me, I just have to work hard and show myself. I showed in the five weeks of preseason what I was capable of and I think they respected that.
“Ultimately those are the coaches’ decisions,” he went on. “It’s not up to me. All I can do is control how I play, my attitude, and my contributions to the team.
“You have to be a good teammate, and ultimately that will help the team win,” he went on. “You don’t want to be happy with not being on the field, but you have to go about it the right way.”