Last Thursday, after his first game in charge of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Frank Yallop made a somewhat surprising statement. He said his his side wasn't fit enough to play his style of play.
That statement in and of itself isn't so surprising. What's surprising is that the Galaxy are more than one-third of the way through the season, and their fitness has been called into question.
The players however weren't surprised. Every player has noticed that they are breathing a little bit heavier after practice.
"Not really. I know I'm not fit," said Josh Gardner when asked if he was surprised by his coach's statements. "Going into the season I wasn't that fit, but I played a lot of minutes. I haven't played a lot lately."
It's understandable that some of the reserve players don't feel game fit. But even Herculez Gomez, who works tirelessly throughout games, has noticed moments in the games where he was grasping for air.
"I really don't know what style (Yallop) wants to play or imagine what kind of fitness that involves," said Gomez. "I'm excited. From my perspective I feel fit. I definitely saw myself in the D.C. game, there was a good five minutes here, five minutes there, where I was like 'Whoa, I'm out of breath.' "
In order to get every member of his roster to a level of game fitness he desires, Yallop spends much of his training sessions simulating game play. Short-sided scrimmages played at a high pace have left even the most fit player with a dry mouth after practice.
Nobody is complaining though. They all understand that Yallop is trying to build a winner again in Los Angeles, and aren't about to question his methods.
"He wants everyone 100 percent for 90 minutes. That takes a lot of fitness," said Alan Gordon. "Me, personally, I'm coming back from an injury. I'm not as fit as I should be. I think he's (Yallop) right."
Todd Dunivant played for Yallop in San Jose, and has seen this all before. He's likely to be one of the players Yallop looks to lead the way as he's getting to know the rest of his players.
"He (Yallop) comes in and he sees things that need to be better, and that's great for us. We can always get fitter," said Dunivant. "We went through a spell where we had so many games in so many days maybe we were a bit worn down. What we're going to do on a day to day basis in practice is going to really help that. We're going to be playing soccer and getting fitter."
It really is a simple formula that Yallop is trying to implement. The more pressure a team can put on the ball the harder it is for opponents to play against, and that's what Yallop is hoping will bring wins back to the Southland.
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.