CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy are healthy again, with everyone ostensibly available for Saturday night's critical Western Conference clash at Real Salt Lake (10 pm ET | Full TV & Streaming Info), and the news comes at a vital moment in a chaotic campaign that too often has been impacted by injury.
All three Designated Players -- Romain Alessandrini and the dos Santos brothers, Giovani and Jonathan -- and center back Michael Ciani returned to full training this week, and now head coach Sigi Schmid and his staff need to figure out who's ready to step in and how many minutes are they able to play.
“We told our guys everybody should be prepared to travel ...,” Schmid said on the eve of the trek to Salt Lake City. “Some guys, like Romain and Gio, really went through their first full training [Thursday], so what is their involvement? How is their involvement? That's something we still have to discuss.”
Jonathan dos Santos and Ciani have been going at it all week and are likelier to return to the starting XI. Sebastian Lletget and Dave Romney, who came out of last week's draw against LAFC with minor ailments, were back in training after a few days away and are expected to be fully available.
Injuries have hindered the Galaxy (10-9-8) much of the season, contributing to a disjointed start after an offseason rebuild and a few difficult stretches, including a monthlong dip that the club hopes is over. Thirteen players have lost a combined 71 games, a good chunk of that owing to the shoulder injury that sidelined right back Rolf Feltscher for three-and-a-half months.
Many teams deal with similar situations and lose as many or more games, but the Galaxy have lost 23 games from their Designated Players because of injury, and both dos Santos brothers missed another five games for the World Cup.
“I don't know, I don't keep stats like that, but it would be hard for me to believe that any team has had their Designated Players miss more games than we have ...,” Schmid said. “That's something that's obviously very frustrating, but the most frustrating thing about is the constant change in lineup and personnel.
“So you're taking a guy from this side to that side, you're shifting things around. We've got Rolf back now, and just as we get Rolf back and we say, 'OK, we're close to being healthy,' we lose four guys. Now you're starting off again. 'Where is his best position in relation to the other guys we have.' ”
Giovani dos Santos (calf strain) and Alessandrini (sore knee) have missed the last three games, and Jonathan dos Santos was out the last two with a groin strain.
Alessandrini says his right knee is still sore, but he'll gut it out.
“I still feel something on my knee, but it's the last seven games,” he said. “I have to give everything to my team, for my teammates. ... I'll give everything. Even with my pain, I'll try to give everything, and we'll see.”
Alessandrini was hurt early in the draw three weeks ago with Minnesota, and he was in tears as he left the field. He says he feared he was done for the year.
“It was the same feeling as my previous injury. That's why I was a little scared,” said the French winger, who in 2013 tore his anterior cruciate ligaments in both knees. “And when you know this feeling, you think the worst. But the MRI gave me some good news. That's why I'm more confident right now, even if it's a little bit painful.”
The absences have slowed the Galaxy's attack, which has netted just three goals in the last three games after scoring 24 in a two-month, eight-game stretch through the end of July. The partnership between Alessandrini and Giovani is key to LA's attacking flow, and Jonathan is the primary conduit to link play in midfield.
“We need every player, and especially the players that have been out,” said Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who complained that the Galaxy couldn't muster a last pass in the attacking third against LAFC. “Because it's quality players that fill in the quality that is needed in the coming of positive things. That is what makes the difference.”