CARSON, Calif. - The last time Los Angeles Galaxy head coach Steve Sampson had his full complement of players to choose from for a match was nearly three months ago - May 22, for a game against the San Jose Earthquakes at The Home Depot Center, to be exact.
Since that time, he's been without Landon Donovan, Jovan Kirovski, Pete Vagenas, Paulo Nagamura, Guillermo Ramirez, Chris Albright and Tyrone Marshall for portions of the summer. And those are just the players in Sampson's usual first-choice team. Several other players have been out as well this summer, whether due to injury or national team call-ups.
Sampson isn't feeling sorry for himself or the Galaxy though, and won't use the lack of a full squad as an excuse for why his team's play has fallen off since the beginning of the season.
"No one really cares about that," said Sampson. "All anyone really cares about is results, and we have to dig deep and put forth the effort on the day to get it done."
Unfortunately for the Galaxy, getting it done just hasn't seemed to happen that much this summer. Chalk it up to bad breaks, lack of players available, or long road trips. Sitting in third place in the conference, they have to find a way to stop the downhill slide they've been on before the Colorado Rapids, a team on the rise in the West, passes them.
However, help is on the way. Jamaican international Marshall should return to the starting lineup in the center of defense this weekend after missing two games with an injury. Donovan, Albright and Kevin Hartman will rejoin the team in D.C. after helping the U.S. national team defeat Trinidad & Tobago in World Cup qualifying this week.
"It's fun, it's exciting," said Galaxy captain Pete Vagenas about the return of so many players. "The best part is we have everyone at practice. Anyone in team sports knows that's the first step."
The Galaxy welcome everyone back with open arms, even though it will be short lived. In about two weeks, several stars will disappear again for extended national team duty. In the meantime, Sampson is hoping that the weaknesses his team had without so many key players will be harder for teams to exploit with his full squad back.
"This is a league where you need fresh legs game in and game out, otherwise teams can really expose you," said Sampson. "This is a league where you have to be very well organized. If you fall out of that organization, every year the players get better, and the teams are more tactically aware, and they can take advantage of any kind of weakness."
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.