The LA Galaxy’s Cristian Pavon said he’s “feeling better every day” as he and his teammates prepare for Sunday’s rematch with crosstown rival Los Angeles FC at Dignity Health Sports Park (7:30 p.m., UniMas, Univision Deportes, Spectrum SportsNet).
Not that the former Boca Juniors performer has been struggling lately. Hardly. The 24-year-old forward has resembled a one-man wrecking crew in helping the Galaxy rebound from a disappointing showing in the recent MLS Is Back tournament in Orlando, Fla. — winless (0-2-1) in three games — to put together a three-game winning streak.
The skein, the team’s longest since a four-game run in the 2016 season, began with a 2-0 victory over LAFC on Aug. 22 at Banc of California Stadium and includes 3-2 victories over San Jose and, on Wednesday, Portland.
Pavon, in a five-way tie for third in MLS in goals scored with five (LAFC’s Diego Rossi is the leader with nine goals), takes pride in being at the forefront of the club’s recent revival.
“I’m feeling better every day. I want to show what I’m made of,” he told reporters Friday. “I want to leave a good impression on people, on our fans and I want to do my best to help the team.”
He certainly has a fan in LAFC head coach Bob Bradley, whose club snapped a two-game losing streak with a 5-1 rout of San Jose earlier this week. Bradley went so far as to group Pavon among MLS’ best, young players.
“Certainly when you look around the league at some of the attacking players you’d put him in that category,” he said. “Cristian Pavon is a very good player. He normally is best when he plays from the left … similar things to what we try to get Diego (Rossi) to do.
“They’re not the same player by any means, but Pavon has been in a good form.”
Pavon said he’s detected a noticeable difference in the Galaxy’s game preparations lately.
“We’ve changed a lot since that tournament in Orlando,” he said. “We knew we had a good season upon us. In Orlando we just weren’t lucky, which I’ve said in interviews before. I think what has changed is the attitude, the mentality and the desire to win games.”
Jonathan dos Santos, continuing his recovery from sports hernia surgery, echoed those sentiments.
“There’s a big difference from last year to this year,” he said. “Now you see everyone is playing together, and that’s something we were missing. We’re a team now, we support each other and that’s very important.”
Head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto repeatedly has stressed Pavon’s importance to the team, but his future is cloudy at best. Pavon’s contract is up in December and the option to keep him in Southern California could cost the club as much as $20 million according to some reports, although one Galaxy official said the price is lower than that.
Pavon wouldn’t reveal what’s in store for him, but he did say he’s having a great time with the Galaxy.
“I do have a contract until December, and then we will see what happens,” he said. “As I have said before in other interviews I will let my manager handle that. I hope that what happens is best for me.
“I’m not going to tell you that I don’t like it here. I am very happy here and enjoying it every day. I’m enjoying the city, I’m enjoying the Galaxy and I feel great.”
Dos Santos is improving, too, but he revealed he recently spent a week dealing with pain in an abductor muscle. He figured it was a minor obstacle to resuming his full-time role with the club.
“I’ve been training with the team for two weeks and working hard with the coaches and team doctor,” he said. “I feel better every day with more confidence.
“I’m getting hopefully close to playing 90 minutes again and starting, which is something I’ve been longing for. I’m close to coming back full … hopefully, I’ll be back soon.”
The news wasn’t quite as promising for Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who has been sidelined with July with a strained calf. Barros Schelotto ruled him out for the LAFC match.
“He trained very well today,” he said. “He will keep working during the weekend, then Monday or Tuesday he will be with the team. But he’s not ready for Sunday.”
Sacha Klestjan, out with an ankle injury, also trained on Friday and his status for the weekend was unclear.
“We’ll decide tomorrow if he feels fit enough to play Sunday,” Schelotto said.