CARSON, Calif. – Major League Soccer’s regular season is about to begin, and the LA Galaxy aren’t exactly in top form. Far from it, actually.
The midfield suddenly has been decimated by injuries – Sebastian Lletget (hamstring), Perry Kitchen (ankle) and Juninho (knee) will be unavailable for Saturday’s opener against the Chicago Fire at Dignity Health Sports Park (5 p.m., FOX, FS1) – Ola Kamara has taken his 14 goals and three assists to Shenzhen Football Club of the Chinese Super League (for a reported $3 million-plus transfer fee) and the Giovani dos Santos drama continues unabated.
Regarding the latter, Galaxy general manager Dennis te Kloese told reporters Thursday he was confident a satisfactory resolution will be reached by Friday’s roster compliance deadline. Dos Santos has yet to play in preseason and has trained little, if any, because of a nagging knee injury, but a more pressing issue involving him and the Galaxy is the presence of four designated players – Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romain Alessandrini — on the roster. MLS rules stipulate teams can have only three.
Te Kloese did admit “we’re obviously speaking to Giovani” about either buying down his $6 million salary with targeted allocation money, thus removing his DP status, or discarding him via a buyout. Te Kloese did not reveal what the club had in mind except to say, “We’re working on it.”
“As everyboy knows,” he said, “we need to be roster compliant before we play (Saturday). To be very formal and also respect everything that goes on now, I think something as a formal statement from the club we’ll be able to give later today or tomorrow.
“First of all, we want him to be fit. That’s the most important thing for a player. Second of all, he’s expressed his big desire to show what he’s capable of contributing to the team.”
Dos Santos, by the way, has only nine goals and five assists in 39 games in the last two seasons combined.
“As we obviously respect all the rules and everything that MLS has been very clear upon, we will and we do as we will always do,” Te Kloese continued. “That’s where we stand at the moment.”
He was asked if he expected the predicament would take this long to solve.
“No,” he replied. “I think as you’ve seen since December there’s been a lot of things that we’ve dealt with, and one of the more important things is his situation.
“I think we’re very close and we hope to have a positive solution for everybody as soon as possible and then being able to discuss it more.”
Te Kloese also said Kamara’s departure this week had nothing to do with the ongoing dos Santos drama.
To clarify, the Galaxy will receive 75 percent of the total transfer fee (with MLS getting the remaining 25 percent) and can convert as much as $750,000 to general allocation money to offset roster charges against the salary cap. That potentially could see the Galaxy net more than $2.6 million for Kamara, money that could be used to offset a buyout on an existing designated player, for example.
“The Ola Kamara situation is totally independent and apart from anything else that’s been discussed regarding Giovani dos Santos,” te Kloese said. “Ola has expressed his desire to listen to an opportunity from a team in China which is finalized now.
“For him and his family it’s a life-changing decision. For us I think the responsibility is for us to listen to the player’s desire and second of all, take advantage in a good way so we get the most out of it for our club.
“I think for everybody it’s something that’s very positive.”
Midfielder Emil Cuello, taken 19th overall in January’s MLS SuperDraft in Chicago, officially was added to the roster earlier this week and admitted he was a bit nervous about the process.
“When I saw my hand signing the contract, it was a little surreal,” he said. “I was relieved and just very happy that it finally came true and all the hard work paid off.”
It has been a memorable first training camp, to say the least, for the former Southern Methodist University standout. He started two preseason games and, with the Galaxy’s current shortage of healthy midfielders, stands a good chance of starting Saturday’s opener.
He said his parents will be in attendance for the game and he’s feeling more and more comfortable in his new surroundings.
He also revealed he wasn’t a big Galaxy fan growing up in Utah. His favorite MLS club, not surprisingly, was Real Salt Lake but not anymore.
“I bleed blue and gold now,” he said with a grin. “I forgot about Real Salt Lake.”
BRING IT ON
Ibrahimovic pronounced himself ready for Saturday, not that there should have been any doubts about the 37-year-old Swedish international.
“I feel good,” he said. “I’ve been participating in almost everything and the team is feeling good. No big issues.
“For Saturday we will all be ready. We look forward to that game. We have been working hard. Now the real thing starts and it’s the most fun, an official game.”
Ibrahimovic also said he was not taken aback by the sudden departure of Kamara to China.
“I was not surprised,” he said. “When a player wants to leave you find a solution and you let him go. If he doesn’t want to stay you let him go. I had that feeling he doesn’t want to stay and hopefully he’s happier now.”
Ibrahimovic also said he continues to be his own harshest critic, an approach that keeps him sharp.
“I try to motivate myself every day,” he said. “I want to do more. I don’t feel satisfied, especially last year you know what happened. I want to do more, but to do that I need to work more and I push myself every day.
“If you know me or ask my teammates, every day I’m pushing myself to do more. I believe the way you train is the way you play the game. I put a lot of pressure on myself.