CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy captain Ashley Cole finally admitted it after training on Tuesday. He’s concerned about the five-time MLS Cup champions.
“If I’m honest, yeah, I am,” the 37-year-old left back told reporters as the club prepared for Friday’s highly anticipated clash, the third of the season, with crosstown rival Los Angeles FC at sold-out StubHub Center (7:30 p.m., ESPN). “Yeah, I’m worried.
“Three weeks ago if we would have won three of our games we would have been near the top of the league. Everything is so close. You look at the top of the table and I don’t know where we are now … fifth? We’ve gone down and teams are catching (up).
“Now it’s not about playing well,” he continued. “It’s about winning now.”
At first glance, the Galaxy would not appear to be in dire straits. They are tied for fifth in the West with Portland with 37 points (10-9-7) and are only one point behind fourth-place Real Salt Lake and five points behind second-place LAFC and Sporting Kansas City. But they are coming off a disturbing 5-0 loss at Seattle and could miss their four injured starters – midfielder Romain Alessandrini, center back Michael Ciani and midfielders Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos – again this week.
Cole smiled when he was asked what he could learn from last weekend’s mistakes.
“I’m at the end of my career. I’m not going another 20 years to find every mistake,” he answered with a laugh. “We have to change our mentality, which I always go back to.
“For me to be at the top of your game you have to have a tough mentality. A never-say-die mentality, an all-in-it-together mentality. At times I don’t think we kind of play like that.
“But the five-nil (loss) is gone, and now we have to look forward to a big, big, tough, tough game on Friday.”
Among the few – if any – positive developments in the loss to Seattle was the return of right back Rolf Feltscher.
The Swiss international had missed 18 consecutive matches after undergoing shoulder surgery for a torn pectoral muscle and went 57 minutes before being replaced by Chris Pontius.
Feltscher understandably was thrilled to be back on the playing field.
“It felt great,” he said. “I’m very happy. Being out those months is over and it’s nice to start again. I’m happy to join the team every day now and play to help my teammates.”
Feltscher admitted the forced inactivity was difficult to handle.
“I think for every injured player it’s (bleep), that situation,” he said. “This is the hardest part of the sport.
“That’s past. I want now to do my best for the team.”
Feltscher said he never lost hope that he would return this season, despite doctors’ earlier predictions that he would miss at least four months.
“After one day I was confident I would come back this year,” he said. “In my mind, it was three months. It was three months and eight days.
“And I start (in Seattle). So I’m very happy.”
STAYING THE COURSE
Galaxy president Chris Klein said he hasn’t lost faith in the team despite an 0-2-2 mini-slump.
“In professional sports, there’s always a bit of concern,” he said. “But we have belief in the group that we have and the group that’s there. They’ve shown that they can play and beat anyone.
“I’ve been around Major League Soccer long enough to know it goes in fits and spurts. Teams that find consistency usually are the ones that rise to the top and also are the ones that find form at the right time.
“It’s just about getting that form at the right time and making that run to the playoffs and then getting in the playoffs.”
Klein agreed there was a recipe for disaster in Seattle – five missing starters, facing a hot team on turf – but the loss did not shake his faith in the squad.
“Yeah, it had that,” he said about fearing the worst, “but we also have belief in our guys and a couple of mistakes and it goes the other way. That group has also gone out and gotten results.
“You’re going to miss players at different points of the year. Yeah, a lack of those guys certainly hurt us, but we’ve got to move on to a big game Friday.”
Klein said it won’t take much to snap the Galaxy out of its current doldrums.
“In our league that’s all it takes, one good win,” he said. “It’s crazy. We just have to continue to do what we do, continue to get guys healthy and put our group out there that can play with anyone.”