It has been just over four months since the LA Galaxy’s last competitive match, a disappointing 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps on March 7 at Dignity Health Sports Park in what should have been the second game of a 34-game MLS regular season.
But the little matter of the Coronavirus ground everything to a halt and only recently has the sports world showed signs of life, including the MLS Is Back tournament that finally welcomes the five-time MLS Cup champions to the fray on Monday with a match against the Portland Timbers at 7: 30 p.m. PDT (Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes) at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.
The Galaxy’s next game in the competition is against Los Angeles FC on Saturday, July 18, at 7:30 p.m. PDT.
It’s safe to say coaches and players are getting a little antsy about returning to the field. They’re also looking forward to talking about something other than a plodding start to a season that also included a 1-1 tie with the Houston Dynamo on February 29.
Head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto has been pushing his players during training sessions — “Trying to be dynamic in demands of the players, the quality; that is something you can not find very easily,” he said — perhaps his way of erasing any lingering memories of what were two disappointing results earlier this year.
“We didn’t get off to the best of starts with a draw and a loss at home,” the Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget said on a video conference call Saturday, “but it’s almost like starting from scratch at this point. It’s really hard for any team to carry on from where they were, even if you win the first two games.
“We’re missing a key guy in Jonah” — midfielder Jonathan dos Santos is out after recently undergoing hernia surgery — “but most of the group is here, and we’re healthy so far.
“I think there’s a lot of positives,” Lletget continued. “We’ve taken what we’ve done wrong in the past and tried to improve that, but again we haven’t had the chance to play any rival teams, anybody other ourselves in months.
“Of course, we hope for the best.”
The tournament, unfortunately, is not being run under the most ideal circumstances. Strict safety protocols — regular tests for the virus, social distancing, face masks, etc. — are everywhere, and two teams (FC Dallas and Nashville) were sent home after multiple players tested positive.
The Galaxy’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, however, said it’s still possible to find time to relax despite being in an environment resembling a quarantine.
“I’ve been very relaxed,” he said. “I’ve been watching Netflix, I’ve been playing Call of Duty a lot, FIFA a lot, I’ve been speaking with my son on FaceTime a lot. Obviously, you cannot go out and have a normal life.
“We all knew this was going to happen. Even when I went to the World Cup or the other international tournaments I played in, you are used to this a little bit. It’s kind of like a routine, staying in a hotel with your teammates.
“I feel very relaxed, very good.”
And the team’s overall mood?
“It was a rough start, then we stop for four months,” he said. “I think we’re trying to do the best we can, try to win this tournament then see what happens afterward. We are trying to do our best to entertain the people, try to make something out of this difficult moment, this situation.
“Hopefully, we can start on the right foot and win on Monday.”