Photo by Steve Carrillo

Better Mentality has Galaxy on an upswing

They’re doing things better, and seeing the results. Can the LA Galaxy translate that into a victory at Portland?

The LA Galaxy returned from the recent MLS Is Back tournament in Orlando, Fla., in a state of depression with no apparent end in sight. Or so everyone thought.

The Galaxy was coming off three tournament games without a win (0-2-1) — including an embarrassing 6-2 thrashing at the hands of arch-rival LAFC on July 18 — were winless in five games on the season, and head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto reportedly was on the hot seat.

But lo and behold, the five-time MLS Cup champions have staged an impressive turnaround with two consecutive victoriesincluding a 2-0 triumph in a rematch with LAFC — as they head into Wednesday’s clash with the Portland Timbers at Providence Park (7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet).

Midfielder Joe Corona said he could sense something was about to change for the better in the two weeks the Galaxy had to prepare for their win over LAFC.

“I did,” he told reporters Monday, “because the team was mentally prepared. We came back, we had some days off to refresh. We also had a talk; that’s one of the things we talked about … step it up and try to get better in every way.

“You could feel that change. The past two games have been very good, but we still have a long way to go. We just have to stick to what we’re doing now and keep winning.”

Schelotto kept preaching — albeit on mostly deaf ears — that his team hadn’t been playing badly. It just didn’t have anything to show for their efforts. But they’ve been rewarded lately, with a 2-0 decision over LAFC followed by a 3-2 victory over San Jose last Saturday.

“Beyond just playing well, we have talked about maintaining character and pushing for results,” he said. “In videos, you could see how well we did, but it did not impact the results.

“Now, we change a couple of things, and with that character, the good things are more noticeable.”

The insertions of Nick DePuy in central defense and Julian Araujo in midfield are two of those changes, but Corona said the difference in the Galaxy’s play of late can be attributed to something more meaningful.

“After Orlando, we had to go over what we did right,” he said. “It wasn’t the best out there for us … that’s not acceptable. When we were back, we talked and trained hard as a group. We tried to understand what the coaches were trying to make us do on the field, we just kept on doing that with the mentality that we know we have the guys to be fighting for a championship all the time.

“That’s what changed the mentality in the group. We stepped it up in training in every aspect, and I think we just have to play every game as if it’s a final. Just look for the win, no matter what.”

In Portland, the Galaxy (2-3-2, eight points) will be taking on a Timbers (3-2-2, 11 points) team that has dominated the visitors. Since 2013, the Galaxy are 1-3-3 in Portland and have been outscored 13-6. Their lone victory during that stretch of games was on July 23, 2016, when Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes scored in a 2-1 victory.

The Galaxy’s last visit to Providence Park, by the way, was a forgettable one — a 4-0 loss on July 27, 2019.

In other Galaxy news, Schelotto said he will talk to Jonathan dos Santos, who is returning from recent sports hernia surgery but has played in relief roles in the last two matches, to determine his status for Wednesday.

Striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, sidelined by a strained right calf, met with Schelotto on Monday but will not be available for Wednesday or Sunday against LAFC at Dignity Health Sports Park.

“He’s improving every day,” Schelotto said. “I think this week he will take some risks to take a step forward. I think we are very close to having him training.”