Sacha Kljestan is playing translator for the LA Galaxy while Dan steres is welcoming the competition
Change is nothing new to LA Galaxy center back Dan Steres.
He has been through his share of coaches — just shy of a half dozen since he was brought up from Galaxy II in 2016 — and new players at his position, the latter something he’s grudgingly grown accustomed to.
So in his view there was nothing new when the club earlier this week announced the signing of French center back Sega Coulibaly, who is working to obtain his work visa and is expected to arrive soon in Southern California. There also is Irish center back Derrick Williams, who is poised to make his long-awaited Galaxy debut, and even Costa Rica’s Giancarlo Gonzalez, who was acquired in 2019.
Steres, often under-appreciated for his steadiness, grinned and said he’s learned to accept the continued overhaul of his position.
“As a professional athlete,” he told reporters Friday as the unbeaten Galaxy prepared to take on the Seattle Sounders on Sunday at Lumen Field (6 p.m., FS 1), “anyone in soccer anywhere, there’s always going to be a new crop of guys. It doesn’t matter what position you are. There’s always going to be people coming for your spot.
“That’s what this job is. Each day I work on everything I can. I don’t take it for granted. You’re never just given a spot, you’ve got to earn it. I feel like I’ve done that in years past. I plan on just continuing to do that as long as I can.
“The more competition the better, to be honest,” he went on, “if we’re raising each other’s level.”
One change the 30-year-old Steres, who has started 116 matches in his Galaxy career, clearly was in favor of was the arrival of Greg Vanney as manager. The difference in his approach to that of former Galaxy head coaches has been telling, he said.
“He’s brought in a lot of clarity, organization … he knows exactly how he wants to play, he knows the pieces we have here and how they can all fit into that,” Steres said. “And how he can adjust to make it better. I think that’s been the biggest thing. We’re starting to develop a true identity of how we want to play, no matter who we’re going against, and that all started early in preseason and right away.
“Those are some of the biggest things I think a lot of the guys who have been here have been hoping for and asking for.”
Veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan, now in his 12th season, is one of the league’s most respected veterans and more than willing to lend his expertise to those willing to listen.
The 35-year-old also isn’t a bad team interpreter.
Kljestan, who started his MLS career with Chivas USA in 2006, also played several years with Belgian side Anderlecht, and his ability to speak French will come in handy this season because of the arrival of three French players — Kevin Cabral, Coulibaly and Samuel Grandsir.
Cabral and Coulibaly have yet to arrive, but Kljestan already has provided invaluable assistance to Grandsir.
“He doesn’t speak very much English. I’m the only one who speaks French, so I’m pretty much his official translator for everything that goes on around here,” said Kljestan, who also joked he will be sending an invoice to Galaxy president Chris Klein “for the second part of my job now.”
“I enjoy it,” he added. “I haven’t spoken a lot of French in the last couple of years. In New York (with the Red Bulls from 2015-2017) there were about five guys that spoke French, so I was able to keep speaking. It’s been good for me to practice my French with Sam.
“I’ve been doing my best to make him feel welcome here. He’s been great on his own. Even though he doesn’t speak the language he’s a very social guy and he’s becoming very social with the rest of the group, which I commend him for.
“Sometimes it’s hard to go into a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and make friends,” he said. “And I think he’s done a very good job of being part of the group and trying to be funny in his own way, have banter with the guys.
“Some guys are trying to learn French words and talk to him and he’s learning English as best as he can.”
— The Galaxy have not won at Seattle since July 9, 2016, when Robbie Keane scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory, and Steres acknowledged the Sounders make it difficult for visiting opponents.
The Galaxy are 2-2-3 in Seattle since their last MLS Cup title in 2014.
“It’s a tough place to go, no matter what year it is, how they’re looking and who they have,” Steres said. “We have to be organized and play our game, to be honest. We want to possess the ball, we want to be on our front foot.
“We’re going to be away from home, but we want to be aggressive and play our game.”
— The wait continues for the arrival of Cabral, a winger acquired from French side Valenciennes FC just over three weeks ago.
“This is a little bit of a mind-boggling one,” Vanney said. “Today we found out … we were wondering what was taking so long, he had gone through the process … there seemed to be an administrative error in the embassy in terms of some paperwork.
“We were hoping they sorted that out today, but they didn’t, which means he probably won’t get his passport back until Monday. Hopefully he’ll travel Monday or at the latest Tuesday. The challenge for us is from a quarantine standpoint it pushes us into another week.
“I know he’s anxious to get here, he’s eager and we’d love to get him here. We’re looking at next week now.”
— On the injury front, Williams should be ready to go for Sunday after training all week. The Irish international has been sidelined since December, when he underwent quadriceps surgery.
“There’s no reason he wouldn’t be available for the match this weekend,” Vanney said.
The Galaxy are playing it cautious, however, with defender Jalen Neal, who has a stress fracture.
“He’s making progress,” Vanney said. “He’s been in a boot for a couple of weeks. He’s starting to do a little bit of activity without the boot, but not too much. It’s something that’s a little bit about patience; we need to make sure this thing heals.
“It’s a stress reaction which we don’t want to turn into an actual fracture.”
Vanney also said Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Jonathan dos Santos, both of whom were taken out of last Sunday’s 3-2 victory over the Red Bulls because of cramping, were fine and “ready to be available.”
— Speaking of Hernandez, Kljestan has been particularly impressed with the Mexican international who has a league-leading five goals in just two games.
“I think what he’s done is amazing. What are you going to say bad about the guys who’s got five goals in two games?” Kljestan said with a smile. “He’s led us two victories, basically.
“He’s an example of what’s different from last year to this year. Other guys can feel it, too. The mood within the team, the vibes on the team are just so much better than last year. Everyone’s excited … we’re feeling like the real family who comes to work every day in order to better ourselves.