From a competitive standpoint, LA Galaxy coach Curt Onalfo’s approach to Saturday’s 5-2 friendly defeat against Manchester United might’ve seemed unusual.
In the first 45 minutes, Onalfo fielded a young Starting XI that conceded three goals inside the first half-hour. Then after halftime, regulars like Jelle Van Damme and Ashley Cole entered, helping the Galaxy play to a 2-2 draw over the second 45 minutes off goals by Giovanni Dos Santos and Dave Romney.
While that approach might’ve made pulling off a surprise result more difficult, Onalfo had his reasons.
“We’re thinking about Wednesday [at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps],” he explained. “We needed to make sure that if certain things took place, if guys needed to play 90 minutes, it would certainly be players that wouldn’t necessarily be starting on Wednesday.”
Despite giving up two early goals off bad giveaways, Onalfo said overall he was pleased with his younger players’ shift.
“I do think some of the players performed well and positioned themselves to be in the starting group,” he said, though he refused to specify exactly who.
And despite their inexperience, those youngsters trying to prove themselves worthy of more time appreciated the unique opportunity to face the Europa League champions.
“It’s a great experience playing one of the best teams in the world,” 19-year-old center-back Hugo Arellano said. “Being young you have to cherish these kind of matches.”
As for learning from it, Arellano said the main thing he gleaned was the need for he and his teammates to improve on their speed of thought and play.
“Have your plays early, before you get the ball,” Arellano said. “These guys [Manchester United] are knowing where the ball is going to go before it gets to them. You’re not playing with your feet only, you’re playing with your mind.”
Onalfo’s assessment was similar, considering that the first two goals the Galaxy conceded were the result of bad giveaways in the defensive third.
“In the first half [they were] playing at a very high speed and we got to be quicker,” Onalfo said. “Those are moments where those players involved, I believe will grow from. Unfortunately, sometimes you have those growing pains. It was a fast game. We just need to be quicker, we need to be sharper and you can’t lose the ball in those areas.”
Ariel Lassiter echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“You have to be ready to play and ready to battle,” The 22-year-old forward said. “It was tough to keep the ball around them, but it’s something that we have to take away, learn from it and keep on moving forward.”
Lassiter insisted that, despite trying to break down world famous defenders like Antonio Valencia and Danny Blind, he and his young teammates spent the game focusing on themselves
“That doesn’t phase me at all,” Lassiter said of facing those players. “I want to play against world class players and it’s not anything special for me. They are just players like I am. We’re all at the professional level so I just want to go at them and be a threat.
“I put in a lot of hard work and I’m just looking to show my boss that I am ready to play and continue to push on forward.”