LA Galaxy still a "work in progress" with Kamara out, Giovani injured again

CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy head into the new season still a work in progress, with needs to be filled, key figures sidelined by injuries and now Ola Kamara's anticipated move to China.

But head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto is adamant that “we are ready.”

The Galaxy kick off Major League Soccer's 24th season Saturday evening at Dignity Health Sports Park against the Chicago Fire (8 pm ET | FS1) with one chief aim: Get back to the MLS Cup Playoffs after missing out the past two seasons. What the team will be come fall isn't certain — the new coach says the team must build its identity “during the season” — and given the current roster turmoil, what it will be in the opener isn't completely clear either.

The chief order of business remains solving the team's Designated Player quandary, which LA brass has said would involve restructuring either Giovani dos Santos', Jonathan dos Santos' or Romain Alessandrini's contracts after Zlatan Ibrahimovic vaulted into the DP realm with a new deal during the offseason.

It needs to be completed by the weekend, and GM Dennis te Kloese is expected on Thursday to address the situation with media, and perhaps announce the solution. Speculation that the Galaxy might buy out Giovani's contract was quashed when preseason began, but the oft-injured Mexican star had spent most of his five weeks' preparation working in the gym.

He's not ready, to be sure.

“I [was] very worried because he couldn't play with us last season, just played seven games, [and that is too] few games for a DP player,” Barros Schelotto told following Wednesday's training session at DHSP. “But we start to train [last month] and he was OK, and [then] he starts with some pain in the knee. The doctor said he had to wait three or four weeks [before returning to on-field training] because we had a bad experience [with his injuries] last season.

“Right this week, I [expected that] he would start training with is, but the doctor said we need 10 days more.”

That timeline would have him settling in for his preseason heading into (or perhaps out of, depending) the March 9 game at FC Dallas.

“He missed the preseason, and you know how important it is for the players to get fit," Barros Schelotto said. “It's pretty important we've got a player like him, but he's out. It's very complicated for us.”

His injuries, he noted, are different injuries rather than one recurrent injury. Barros Schelotto noted, “I hope this time was the last time he is out.”

Additional complications arrive with injuries to versatile US national teamer Sebastian Lletget and holding midfielders Perry Kitchen and Juninho. None will be available for the opener.

Kamara's departure wasn't a surprise, as his agent had informed the Galaxy that talks were taking place, but the timing isn't ideal. LA had played with a two-forward front much of preseason, but are now preparing for Chicago in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Ibrahimovic, back on the field after a minor groin ailment forced him to miss a couple weeks of on-field work, the lone striker.

“Now [with] Ola leaving, maybe we can get another player. We are looking toward that,” Barros Schelotto said. “I feel sorry not to get the player before, but Ola [is leaving] now, so we've got [to do so] now.”

Barros Schelotto said he was satisfied with the Galaxy's contingent of forwards — Ibrahimovic, Giovani Dos Santos, and Chris Pontius — and that “we need to complete better the roster in other positions.” The Galaxy announced Wednesday they had signed first-round draft pick Emil Cuello, and Barros Schelotto said they would sign Galaxy II defenders Julian Araujo and Diedie Traore to first-team deals. 

Injuries are primarily impacting the Galaxy midfield. As things stand, Cuello, whose signing was announced Wednesday, could start the season in the No. 10 spot, behind Ibrahimovic and between wingers Alessandrini and newcomer Uriel Antuna. He started in three preseason matches.

“We are getting the team [determined] today, tomorrow and Friday, but it is possible he will play,” Barros Schelotto said. “[Because] we have a lot of injuries, we accelerate the time for [Cuello]. Maybe he needs more time training with a professional team, but he has played some games preseason; pretty different to play than [in the game] we have Saturday, but we are comfortable with him.”

Barros Schelotto said the club was “working” on further acquisitions. “It's possible defender or midfielder, but we are bringing some players more.”

Building the team into what he wants it to be will take time.