With Javier Hernandez out, and Jonathan dos Santos far from 100-percent, the LA Galaxy have an uphill battle against LAFC on Saturday.
They remain one of the league’s three winless teams (Houston and Inter Miami CF being the others) at 0-3-2, good for last place in the Western Conference, and are coming off an early departure from the recent MLS Is Back Tournament in Orlando, Fla. Striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez was lost with a calf strain during the event and is not that close to resuming training, although perhaps an overly optimistic head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said he could be back next week.
“We need a player like him on the pitch because you know how important he is on our team,” he told reporters Thursday.
And with another “El Trafico” against Los Angeles FC looming on Saturday at Banc of California Stadium (3 p.m., Fox), the Galaxy need all the help they can get. Some actually might be on the way in the form of midfield general Jonathan dos Santos, who is expected to be available following his recovery from recent sports hernia surgery.
“He is ready to play,” Barros Schelotto said of dos Santos, who was badly missed in Orlando.
Dos Santos said he was eager to return, but he also knows his limit as far as fitness was concerned.
“I don’t feel 100 percent, but I feel good,” he said. “The important thing is that my injury is healed. I’m happy to be back with the team. It’s been a long time without playing. I’ve been training the last couple of months with pain … it’s been hard for me. But right now I feel really good.
“I don’t feel that I could play 90 minutes, but I feel good to play maybe 30-45 minutes. I don’t know yet, but I’m happy to be back.”
Another player expected to be back on the pitch this weekend is LAFC’s Carlos Vela, the 2019 MLS Most Valuable Player who chose to skip the Orlando tournament. Vela, who scored a league-leading 34 goals and also had 15 assists in a superb 2019 season, figures to make even more formidable an LAFC side that routed the Galaxy 6-2 on July 18 in Orlando. The game was tied 2-2 at the half before LAFC broke it open behind Diego Rossi, a 22-year-old Uruguayan sensation who finished the game with four goals and went on to be named the tournament’s top young player. Rossi currently leads MLS with six goals.
The Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget said the team’s approach won’t be any different despite Vela’s presence.
“I always like to focus on what we’re going to do. We’re going to approach it the same,” he said. “We know what he (Carlos Vela) has done, and we know how well the team plays when he’s on the field.
“I think if we do our jobs, we’ll shut him down. He hasn’t played in a while, and we’ve had a little bit of a break ourselves. There’s no sense of rhythm for any team. We’ve all kind of been in the same boat in that sense. We’ll see.”
Lletget was asked about the team’s confidence level in a season that has started poorly and facing an arch-rival that has won the last two meetings by a combined score of 11-5. That includes LAFC’s 5-3 victory in the MLS Cup Western Conference semifinals last Oct. 24.
“If you go based on our results,” he said, “obviously there’s not a lot of confidence going into this game. But one thing we can rely on is we’ve done a lot of good training leading up to this game. Physically we really put it in, and tactically we’ve tried to fix the errors we made in the tournament.
“If we eliminate those mistakes, those little errors, I really think we can get the better of them. I think that’s what we’ve kind of been talking about. If we adjust and stop making those errors as a team, we should have a good Saturday.”
Lletget also agreed there is a growing sense of urgency to get some positive results, especially with the LAFC match kicking off a schedule that features six games in 21 days. The rest of the games are as follows: Wednesday, Aug. 26 at home against Seattle; at home Saturday, Aug. 29 against San Jose; at Portland on Wednesday, Sept. 2; at home against LAFC on Sunday, Sept. 6 and at San Jose on Sunday, Sept. 13.
“I definitely think there’s urgency to get the win,” Lletget said. “There’s no doubt about it. It could be LAFC, it could be Orlando, it could be anybody in front of us. The urgency that we want to get this win stays the same.”