CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy kind of wish the MLS season was starting now.
It's less than two weeks until their league opener – with their CONCACAF Champions League series against Club Tijuana starting just a few days later – and they're quickly rounding into form, even if everyone isn't yet available or in 90-minute shape.
Captain Robbie Keane, who started training fully with the first team a little more than a week ago after rehabbing following offseason surgeries on both Achilles' tendons, is making huge strides; new forwards Rob Friend and Samuel are increasingly fitting in; and the Galaxy are turning their numbers along the backline into real depth.
“We're pretty close,” Landon Donovan said after LA's first “White vs. Blue” intraclub clash Saturday night against their new USL Pro side. “Bruce [Arena] has played a lot of us together a lot of minutes in these games, so we're starting to get a good chemistry.
“We're the same team for the most part, so we're getting used to Rob [Friend], we're getting used to Samuel, Gyasi [Zardes] is getting better and better, and we're getting more and more comfortable.”
Keane, who made his preseason debut with a penalty-kick goal Wednesday against UCLA, netted two more in a 70-minute stint – a 45-yarder just 80 seconds in and a penalty kick midway through the first half – as the Galaxy (5-1-1 preseason, 1-0-1 vs. MLS competition) romped to a 3-0 victory in front of 7,407 at StubHub Center this past weekend.
“I played the first half an hour [against UCLA] and felt great, got a little tired after that,” Keane said afterward. “Tonight I felt very strong. I could have played longer, but we stuck to the schedule.”
Donovan and Omar Gonzalez, who trained all January with the national team, and right back A.J. DeLaGarza played the full 90 on Saturday as Arena used something close to a first-choice lineup, although ailing winger Robbie Rogers, left back Todd Dunivant and goalkeeper Jaime Penedo weren't available.
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“It's good to get that fitness in,” said DeLaGarza, who played the final 20 minutes on the left side. “Last year against Monterrey, an issue is we got tired – that's when they scored the three goals in that series. We've got to be prepared to play a full 90” before taking on Tijuana on March 12.
Arena wants to see further progress from Keane and says Swedish winger Stefan Ishizaki, another newcomer, is “behind fitness-wise,” and that “we have to push him.”
There's still work to be done.
“You need to keep pushing yourself forward individually,” said Donovan, who has played primarily as a flank midfielder – right or left – during the preseason. “I think as a team we're going to gel, and I think the more opportunities we have to get on the field with both Rob and Samuel, that will be sort of the final piece that comes.”
Scott French covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com.