CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy have made major renovations in goal, on the backline and in midfield heading toward the new season, and they appear to be altering things up front, too.
It, like everything else in LA's lineup, is a work in progress, and less than a week until their competitive opener, plenty of progress is needed.
Zardes spent the latter half of last season, after Dos Santos' arrival but on occasion before that, as a wide midfielder. Eleven of Dos Santos' dozen starts, including a CONCACAF Champions League match and the playoff loss to Seattle, were up top.
“Both are capable of playing both spots,” head coach Bruce Arena told MLSsoccer.com following Friday's training session at StubHub Center. “Gio hasn't had much time in the midfield, so we wanted to use the preseason to see whether he can make himself comfortable there or not.”
Dos Santos says he's fine on the right – he's played there many times in his career – and he's developing a nice relationship on the flank with Robbie Rogers, whose overlapping enables the Mexican star to pinch inside as needed. Zardes, who didn't join LA's preseason preparations until the US national team's camp broke up two weeks ago, is still regaining his feel for forward.
“I definitely have to get back into that groove of playing up top as opposed to playing out wide,” said Zardes, who plays at forward and on the flank for the US. “There are certain times, various times, that I'm not linked up with Robbie, and I have to be. ... That's something I'm working on.”
Zardes scored one goal in three preseason match appearances, heading home a nifty Keane cross to beat San Jose last weekend in Las Vegas. The Galaxy would love to see him produce like he did two years ago, when he netted 19 goals in 41 competitive matches while playing in front.
“Nothing is set in stone, you're always tinkering, but the idea is we think Gyasi has great potential [at forward],” associate head coach Dave Sarachan said. “He's also a physical force and a presence in front of goal that you don't always get, and here's a guy who can make life miserable for center backs, which allows a little bit of room for a guy like [Keane] to maneuver. ...
“Speed kills, and with a guy like Gyasi, the ability to get behind defenders is massive. And so not only can he be in the physical fight, but he can offer a dimension that can open up the game for us.”
Dos Santos, who totaled four goals and eight assists in 13 competitive matches last year, has looked dynamic in the middle third during preseason but not particularly sharp in opponents' boxes.
“I'm feeling better [as preseason proceeds],” he said. “I have been playing in that position [before], so for me it's normal. I just defend a little bit more [that at forward], but that's it.”
Sarachan notes that “Gio is very comfortable when he collects balls in spots on the field where he can run at players.” Since Keane is apt to come quite deep, that's best accomplished from a wide position.
The chemistry is evolving and ought to be stronger by the March 6 MLS opener against D.C. United (10 pm ET; UniMas). The Galaxy first have a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series with Santos Laguna, with the home leg on Wednesday night (10 pm ET; FS1).
“We're just past the middle part of February, so we're very early in this process,” Sarachan said. “From all departments – out backs, out midfielders and our forwards – this work is being done every day, and so it's not in a position where we would say, 'Boy, are we satisfied,' but we didn't expect that, either, at this time.”