The lesson and the message couldn't be more clear. Steve Sampson, who at an early hour called his players into an exhausting session of physical work and resistance on Field 2 at The Home Depot Center, showed on Monday there's a new boss in Los Angeles.
"We have to have discipline in every respect. Today we demanded as never before on all the bench players, because we need that they be ready to play 90 minutes as any moment," Sampson said.
The starters? "Jogging, but their turn will come," said the Galaxy chief, minutes after his reunion with Guatemalan striker Carlos Ruiz, who returned from his native country on Sunday night, after missing some three days following the game played his national team against Honduras.
"Discipline has to be worked at in every respect. In the case of Ruiz, my policy remains the same as FIFA: Every player has to rejoin his team 24 hours after playing with their respective national team. It's a policy that has to be reinforced. We'll apply a lot of discipline, there can't be exceptions. Every player has to return to his club in the stipulated time, and it's the Galaxy who owns his contract and who pays his monthly salary," said Sampson, who wants his entire team together fully concentrating in advance of the stretch drive of the MLS season.
"The case of Ruiz's absence was something that could have been fixed with both sides talking, I hope that everything is clear and nothing more is needed. Carlos's injury, according to [Ivan] Pierra [athletic trainer], isn't as serious as we thought. We intend on having him back for the weekend," Sampson said, who also seemed a bit worried by an injury to Ryan Suarez, a key part of the Galaxy rearguard.
"I have insisted that we be disciplined in everything. It's the only way to reach the goals that we've laid out."
The Galaxy boss, who recorded his first victory last Saturday as a head coach in Major League Soccer, summarized that his conversation with Ruiz has a positive outcome, after a lot of quibbling, soaked with the word "penalty".
Ruiz didn't practice with the remainder of the team -- because of a muscle strain in his right thigh, suffered in Guatemala's World Cup qualifier against Honduras last Wednesday -- arrived at the Galaxy offices on Monday morning where after undergoing a number of medical tests under Pierra's supervision, he had a brief meeting with the Galaxy head man with whom he cleared up the reasons for his absence at the weekend.
"Thanks to God I'm back. There was some confusion at the highest levels. Never at any moment did I want to cause this, including talking with (assistant coach) Martin Vasquez and I also left messages with Steve Sampson, letting him know what was happening with my injury. There were a lot of people asking about my body," Ruiz said shortly after leaving a fruitful meeting with Sampson.
"The communication with the coaching staff was always flowing, but not as much with the press because they didn't clearly know what was happening with me. At the executive level was where the unintended confusion happened, but now we're only looking at how my injury comes along. At the moment I don't think I have the strength to play for 90 minutes, but we'll see as the days pass if I can play some against Dallas next Saturday," said the Galaxy striker, who began a physical regimen under Pierra's supervision.
"We are deeply disappointed with the way that the Guatemalan federation handled this," Galaxy president and general manager Doug Hamilton said during the Earthquakes match. "There are clear guidelines within FIFA rules, and they decided to keep him in Guatemala to see a physician. It certainly doesn't fit within the guidelines of FIFA we will address it with the U.S. Soccer Federation and go through the proper protocol."
Rene Romano is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.