LA Galaxy set for Reserve League opener

CARSON, Calif. — While the MLS season is in full swing, the LA Galaxy are ready to open on another front.

The Galaxy will play their first Reserve League match on Sunday against the Portland Timbers. For Galaxy assistant coach Curt Onalfo, who coaches the reserve team, the approach to Sunday’s match is aligned directly with the approach to the first team’s game on Saturday.

“Everything is all predicated on the first team. Our focus is on [the first team’s] the game on Saturday [against the Timbers] and then knowing that we have a game on Sunday for the players who don’t participate significantly in the game on Saturday,” Onalfo said. “It’s not llike we have different training sessions, it’s just a matter of making sure that we’re all prepared. We have enough players who can step on the field and do a good job.”

In an ideal world, the reserve team would serve different functions.

“There are three things. One, it’s an opportunity to develop players, in particular younger players. It’s an opportunity to get players sharp to contribute to the first team and it’s an opportunity for injured players to find their sharpness for the first team,” Onalfo said. “There are a lot of different objectives for the reserve team. You have to look at all those things and then put a team on the field that makes the most sense based on all those things.”

However, the Galaxy’s world, much like any team in the league, is far from ideal. Injuries have already had an impact on the club’s season as Juan Pablo Angel, Donovan Ricketts, Omar Gonzalez and Landon Donovan have all missed time because of one physical ailment or another.

Furthermore, central defender Leonardo was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury while others such as Gregg Berhalter and Adam Cristman have yet to dress because of their own injuries.

Still, Onalfo said he does his best to prepare for the reserve match, but even those plans can go awry.

“I’ve planned out the week in terms of if everyone is healthy, what it should look like. But the week has to play itself out and then we have the game as well on Saturday,” Onalfo said. “There could be an injury in the third minute and then all of the sudden a guy is playing 87 minutes. We have to be intelligent with players’ minutes.”

With regards to one of the aims of the reserve team, player development is a key part of a portion of the roster.

While newcomers Miguel Lopez and Paolo Cardozo have done well to get into games and contribute, others have not had the same chance. For players like Daniel Keat, Ryan Thomas, Hector Jimenez and Jack McBean, the first crack at playing time with the Galaxy could be in reserve games.

“We have 28, 29 players and we want them all to be sharp,” Onalfo said. “We have a season with a lot of games. May is full of games where we’re going to utilize our entire roster. You just saw us utilize a lot of new bodies for the game in Chicago and it’s going to be similar all season.”