CARSON, Calif. – California Clasicos are always a passionate affair, more so when played in the Independence Day slot at Stanford Stadium. This time around, however, both the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes enter the anticipated affair with their share of struggles.
For the Earthquakes this will be their first MLS regular season game under new head coach Chris Leitch, who will attempt to take the club in a new direction after the firing of Dominic Kinnear. For the Galaxy, the struggle to field a full strength roster continues as players continue to rehab from injury.
LA’s backline has actually entered a period of relative stability in the past few weeks, while the midfield has required a juggling act while Jermaine Jones, Sebastian Lletget, and Baggio Husidic all continue to recover from injuries. Jones is the closest to returning to action – he was the last player off the field at Thursday’s practice - although he’s still working by himself and looks doubtful for this weekend’s action.
“It’s getting better,” said Jones, who is recovering from an MCL sprain. “Still some movements, especially in shooting balls, I still feel it a little bit but it’s coming. I don’t want to say I’m like 100% for this week but I think the main goal will be next week.
“That’s the goal but it’s still a small pinch that I feel sometimes. The doctors say that’s normal, that the ligaments have to get used to it.”
In this stretch with those three key starters out, the Galaxy have relied on Rafael Garcia and Joao Pedro, the latter who is starting to show his potential in midfield. Head coach Curt Onalfo is proud of how those younger depth players have stepped up in the midst of all the absences.
“Three injuries right in the middle of the field,” said Onalfo, “and so we’ve had Garcia step up, Jaime Villarreal, and Pedro continues to grow. He’s gotten a lot of minutes. It usually takes players time to adapt but he’s found very good form, and he’s been excellent in the last five or six games.
“The good thing is [the bench] has stepped up. We talked two weeks ago in that Open Cup game about how our younger players needed to step up and not only perform but produce. There’s a difference, and they have.”
For Jones, who missed the May 27 California Clasico that featured a five-goal first half, not being out there is upsetting but he can see the finish line getting closer.
“It’s always bad to sit outside,” said Jones. “Especially with that dumb situation what happened. When you see that injury when it happened it’s so dumb. Then you miss a couple games and it’s so [maddening]. I feel like I can help the team and I want to be back on the field.
“We know that we need everybody back. I’m trying my best and trying to push it.”