CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy this week began preseason preparations under their third new head coach in as many seasons, and the biggest issue facing the club as Guillermo Barros Schelotto starts to install his way of playing is what to do about the excess Designated Player.
How about keep him?
The Galaxy have four DPs after a new contract boosted Zlatan Ibrahimovic to that status, and they can possess just three when the season kicks off March 2 against the Chicago Fire at Dignity Health Sports Park. The most persistent speculation has concerned Giovani dos Santos' departure, either via a transfer, with LA likely picking up part of his salary, or the club buying out his contract – or a trade sending Romain Alessandrini to Montreal, but Barros Schelotto would prefer to keep all four.
Watch, perhaps, for one of the holdovers – Alessandrini, dos Santos, or his brother Jonathan dos Santos – to take a restructured deal or for the Galaxy to use Targeted Allocation Money to lessen his impact under the salary cap.
“We don't have any problem about the [Designated] Player,” Schelotto said after Wednesday's training session during LA's first media availability of the preseason. “We are talking with the player about that, and no problem. ... I think maybe it can happen. I think we need to talk with him.”
Which “him” it is, the club isn't saying, but Alessandrini thinks he's earned his DP stature.
“If I have to choose, I stay there. I stay, like, as a DP,” the French winger said. “I don't want to be too much confident, but we work I did the last two years, I think I have to stay like a DP. We'll see what's going to happen.
“The club has to make a choice. Soccer is complicated sometimes, but it is what it is. We'll see what [the club is] going to do, and we have to accept it.”
Neither of the dos Santos brothers spoke Wednesday, and Ibrahimovic said he was hopeful all three remained with the club: “Hopefully, everybody gets satisfied and happy, and we can continue to work just like we're doing.”
The Galaxy opened camp Sunday and are training twice a day most of the first week; they have 23 players under contract, plus draft picks midfielder Emil Cuello from SMU and forward Don Tchilao from Oregon State. And Galaxy II defender Diedie Traore also appears to be in the team's plans at the moment.
There is ample talent and depth in midfield, and LA are happy with their goalkeeping situation after announcing Wednesday they'd signed Re-Entry Draft choice Matt Lampson. Another forward would help, and the backline is a work in progress.
“I think we have a really good roster, but maybe we can get [additional players], more in defense,” Schelotto said. “We are seeing our possibilities. We have important players like Ibra, Romain, both Dos Santos, so we will see what possibilities we have so that all our players have the freedom to feel comfortable on the field and give their best.”
MLS's MVP when he led Columbus Crew SC to the 2008 MLS Cup title, Schelotto emphasized attacking soccer with strong defensive organization during his coaching tenures with Lanus and Boca Juniors, and that's what players expect to see from the Galaxy.
“His vision is to attack, get organized, more tactical,” Ibrahimovic said. “I think you all know his philosophy from his previous clubs. So I think it fits us good.”
Ola Kamara said Schelotto has started unveiling the vision of how he wants to play.
“He wants us to defend,” the Norwegian forward said, “but he also wants us to play good attacking football where everybody's involved and [he] wants to play along the ground. He's been pretty clear about that the first couple of days.”
Schelotto himself is more coy.
“I think we first have to find our style of play, be committed, and from then on see what our possibilities are, based on what we have,” he said. “We'll see that as soon as we start playing games.”