CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy spent most of last season filling holes left by injury, international call-ups and suspension – injuries, mostly – and now they're at it again. This time they're ready for it, or nearly so.
The Galaxy (1-1-0) head to Vancouver for a Western Conference showdown Saturday night (10 pm ET | MLS LIVE; TSN in Canada) likely without six starters, including most of their biggest names. That's nothing new – it's what defined LA's worst-in-MLS campaign last year – but Sigi Schmid's offseason rebuild has provided much in reserve.
The holes up front won't be as simple to fill as those at the back, but there's confidence that whoever gets the call will do the job.
“It's hard to win when you have two or three Los Dos [Galaxy II] players starting,” midfielder Baggio Husidic said. “With veterans with injuries last year, it's hard to swing odds for winning in your favor with an inexperienced group. This year's a bit different. Every single guy who's come in has lots of experience. ...
“I think it's always been a plus for the Galaxy. Throughout the years, we've always had a good bench, besides last year, so now we get the opportunity to show that and try to go out there and get a result.”
Four first-choice starters are definitely out – forward Ola Kamara is with Norway's national team, left back Ashley Cole is suspended after picking up two yellow cards in the loss two weekends ago at New York City FC. and central midfielders Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos are sidelined with hamstring strains – and backup right back Emrah Klimenta is away with Montenegro's national team.
Schmid said decisions on winger Romain Alessandrini and center back Michael Ciani would be made as the game approaches, possibly just before kickoff. Alessandrini pulled a hamstring in the opening-weekend victory over Portland, and Ciani suffered an abductor injury at NYCFC, and neither has trained since suffering their injuries.
The dos Santos brothers are missing Mexico's friendlies against Iceland and Croatia. Giovani dos Santos was hurt in the first half against NYCFC and exited at halftime. Jonathan dos Santos' injury was sustained in a closed-door scrimmage Friday.
Schmid, who is hopeful all of the injured players will be ready to go for the March 31 meeting with LAFC, employed an aggressive preseason regimen. Might that have contributed to the rash of muscle injuries?
“It's the first thing we looked at,” Schmid said. “We talked about it with Pierre [Barrieu, the Galaxy's director of sports performance] and all that, and we check numbers all the time and whether we need to give guys a day off or not a day off. I think our fitness level is good.
“I think sometimes you go through a little bit of a cycle, but, for sure, it's something we look at to see, hey, is it something we're doing in our training? Is there something we missed? We go back over our old numbers, [whether there] are indications that this was likely to happen.”
Alessandrini was hurt as a defender tugged on his shoulder as he was starting to sprint. Ciani suffered a recurrence of an injury he initially sustained a few years ago.
The Galaxy have depth at nearly every position, and there are options for most of the missing men. It's simple at the back: Daniel Steres figures to slot into central defense, although top draft pick Tomas Hilliard-Arce went 90 minutes in Galaxy II's USL opener last weekend, and Dave Romney likely steps in at left back. Servando Carrasco, Husidic and Joao Pedro can take Jonathan Dos Santos' post next to Perry Kitchen.
It's more complicated in the attack. Kamara is the only true striker on the roster, and two of the options in that spot – Sebastian Lletget and Emmanuel Boateng – are needed in midfield. Schmid says Chris Pontius could play there, but Ariel Lassiter seems likeliest.
“These guys know I like to play up top of anywhere in the attacking half …,” said Lassiter, who has played primarily on the flank for LA. “I've been feeling really good, so I'm just looking to bring that on the pitch. I know I have the ability to [contribute more to this team] and just waiting for my number to be called.”
Bradford Jamieson IV, another option up top, has been in the concussion protocol since preseason, but he did some light training Wednesday and hopes are he'll be available shortly.
Lletget stepped in on the right flank for Alessandrini last week but might be asked to move centrally, into Giovani dos Santos' role, against Vancouver. Pontius or Lassiter would then play on the wing.
And Schmid could opt for a different formation.
“I think we'll look at all situations,” he said. “Last week Vancouver played in a 3-5-2, but they've been playing a 4-2-3-1 mostly. We've got to determine what they'll come with, and that will determine what we'll come with. … We're going to train on a couple of different things, so we're prepared to go this way or that way, if we need to.”