Photo Courtesy of LA Galaxy

NOTEBOOK: Vanney not worried about faltering Galaxy

The Galaxy are coming off a three-game, eight-day road trip that featured two losses to two of Major League Soccer’s bottom feeders, but head coach Greg Vanney insisted his team was in a “good spot” entering Friday’s match against the Portland Timbers at Dignity Health Sports Park (7 p.m., ESPN).

Even the absence of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who continues to recover from a calf strain and was termed by Vanney as “unlikely” to play this weekend, hasn’t dimmed his optimism after the recent slide. The Galaxy, by the way, remain in third place in the Western Conference behind Seattle and Sporting Kansas City.

“The guys are in a good spot,” he told reporters Wednesday. “I think they understand this is a blip on the radar and they need to regroup and put our best foot forward.”

Vanney admitted there was one facet of his team’s game that bothered him on the just-concluded road swing.

“One of the things we lacked for the whole trip was intensity,” he said. “That led to some smaller issues and details that I thought went lacking through the course of the trip.”

Vanney also said frustration among his players was palpable at the conclusion of the trip, and he wasn’t immune to it.

“Obviously they were a little frustrated in terms of just on the road and getting just one point out of the three games,” he said. “I think everybody acknowledges the tight turnaround being on the road for three games and the challenging environmental issues, if you will, for a week.

“For me, personally, the frustration really was the first game (a 2-1 loss to Vancouver). We got up one-zero and it’s the first game of three and you really want to take something out of that game before traveling. Dallas was always going to be a challenging game, given kind of where we are roster-wise, and being on the road for a week and knowing what the conditions are like in Dallas.

“Now we’re home, the guys are rested, we gave them a couple of days off and a chance to clear their minds.”

Friday’s match with Portland will be the first meeting between the sides since the Timbers’ 3-0 win on May 22 at Providence Park, a game that featured a brutal tackle by the Galaxy’s Derrick Williams on Portland’s Andy Polo in the 44th minute that ended the Timbers player’s season. Williams was suspended six games for the incident.

Vanney said Williams has looked good in workouts and appears to have put the fateful play behind him.

“I think he’s in a decent spot,” Vanney said of his central defender. “You know, time kind of gets you to that spot and I think he’s moved on to focus on playing and what’s going on.

“I know back when it happened he was very remorseful and it was something that was weighing on him heavily for a while. But I think again time maybe helps those situations from his perspective. He’s looked OK in training and everything going into the game. It doesn’t seem to be heavy on him.”


Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez still isn’t ready to return to action, Vanney said Wednesday.

The Mexican standout, second in MLS in goals with 10 (Seattle’s Raul Ruidiaz leads with 11), has a strained calf and has not played since a 3-1 win over San Jose on June 26. It is the same calf he hurt last season and forced him to miss two months.

Vanney sounded confident Hernandez was close to returning to the field, but Friday’s game was out.

“He has taken some steps forward, which has been positive,” Vanney said. “He’s kind of in that space where you’re returning you’re having potentially a little bit of aches and pains. We’re just doing a follow-up to make sure as he’s continuing his return to play everything is still stable and in a good spot and we’re hoping he keeps progressing.

“He needs to check the boxes and feel good doing so before we kind of rush him back into the mix. But so far things have been moving in the right direction. We’re just going to do one more checkup before we take the next big step for him.”

One injured player who appears ready to return is central defender Sega Coulibaly. The Frenchman went out on July 4 with an abductor strain, but Vanney said he was now healthy and returned to full training this week.

“He’s checking all the boxes, for us it’s just getting him prepared for the game. Getting him back into full match fitness, things like that,” Vanney said. “He’s in good shape.

“Everybody else is healthy and ready to go.”

Vanney was stumped when asked if new winger Samuel Grandsir reminded him of anyone he’s coached or faced in MLS. One reporter suggested former Galaxy great Cobi Jones, and Vanney liked the comparison.

“But Cobi was like an out and out winger,” he said. “He kind of kept his heels on the line a little bit. Cobi really played for the end line, I think. He really had a signature move that if you know Cobi, he kind of gets you unbalanced. One push off his left foot and he beats you out of quickness.

“His actually was one of the names that crossed my mind, although there are some differences in the way they do things. Not a bad shout-out. I appreciate that.”

Vanney has been impressed with the newcomer, despite Grandsir having three assists in 15 appearances and not scoring yet. He also said Grandsir was just what the Galaxy needed when he took over as head coach.

“As I looked at the group from last year and coming into renewing the roster this year,” he said, “it was something we needed to add a lot more of. We had a lot of guys who kind of played between the lines, as we would say, when you talk about Seba (Lletget) and Jonah (dos Santos) and Victor (Vazquez) and Efra (Alvarez). These are all guys that need space to play between the lines. We needed some space creators.

“Sam is still a young player, he’s still getting there but I thought he really manned up the last game when the going was tough and the game was really not within reach. He put forth a big effort there in the second half, which was nice.”

Grandsir, who joined the Galaxy in March, said he’s been impressed with MLS.

“In the beginning, I heard that MLS was a retirement league for big stars,” he said Wednesday. “But when I made my choice and spoke to my agent and spoke with the sporting director, I noticed it was a project with young players and with balanced players.

“MLS is a difficult league with athletic players. It’s even more difficult because here it’s very, very hot. I believe that within a few years it’s going to be stronger and stronger.”

The 24-year-old, who became a new father a month ago, said he was confident he will find the back of the net soon. He’s hit the crossbar a couple of times, but he hasn’t let that affect his play.

Well, maybe a little.

“Of course, it’s frustrating,” he said. “I’m still looking for my first goal. I’ve hit the bar twice, but I’m someone who’s remained confident. I hope that when I score the first goal I will score more goals more often.

“I haven’t lost confidence and I hope I get the first one this weekend.”

Vanney said the team has the capacity “to probably make two moves” before FIFA’s latest transfer window closes on Aug. 31.

One of them could involve the addition of Serbian Dejan Joveljic, who currently plays for Eintracht Frankfurt of the Bundesliga and may be the backup striker the club has been seeking.

Some reports have the 22-year-old Joveljic already signed to a 4 1/2-year contract, but a club source told Corner of the Galaxy’s Josh Guesman the deal is not done yet.  

“The question is there are ongoing discussions,” Vanney said. “Some things are further along than others. There’s definitely discussions about the possibility of adding two more players to this group.”