CARSON, Calif. – Dominic Kinnear has offered few specifics on how things will be different on the field for the LA Galaxy than they were under Sigi Schmid's leadership. But his captain believes that a first step would be to abandon the formation LA has used most of the summer.
Trying to find the right mix up front while shoring up a leaky defense and dealing with nearly constant injuries to key personnel, the Galaxy evolved in mid-July from a 4-2-1-3 alignment into a 3-4-1-2 that contributed to moments good and ill.
Ashley Cole on Tuesday said that it “obviously wasn't working playing five at the back,” in which the wingers on the line of four drop back while defending.
“The preparation [all season] was playing four at the back, and then we switched to three in the back,” said Cole, who played at left back in a four-defender formation and left wingback in the three-back system. “I think we needed a little bit more preparation in terms of learning how to play this system. I don't think as a team, we knew how to play.
“It's on the manager, but it's on us as well. Now I think something has to change in terms of our formation and personnel on the pitch. ... I hope there's a formation change and [we] get back to what we know. Who knows what it's going to be, but I think it's kind of important that we change our formation and understand this formation so it's better for us.”
The chief issue is cutting down on goals and chances conceded, and if that doesn't occur, LA's shrinking playoff hopes will wilt entirely. The Galaxy (10-10-8) are eighth in the West, three points out of sixth place and with just six games to go, three of them on the road. They visit Toronto FC on Saturday (7:30 pm ET | TSN1/4 – Full TV and streaming info).
LA's defensive play has often been atrocious, and the Galaxy conceded 11 goals in their final two road games under Schmid, a 5-0 loss at Seattle in mid-August and a 6-2 defeat at Real Salt Lake two weekends ago.
“I think we have to hold ourselves responsible for our hard work off the ball, especially when the ball turns over,” Kinnear said in his first media session as interim head coach. “That's the first thing we've addressed, is we have to stop giving up as many chances as we do.”
“The game's changed a little bit,” he said. “I always had this reputation of being a strict 4-4-2 manager, which was far from the truth my last couple of years as a [head] coach, so it all depends on the health of your squad, first and foremost. What you can put out there and what you cannot.
“We've been battling injuries over the last couple of weeks, as everyone should know by the players missing from the field. The only thing I demand from the players, as any coach does, is when you step across that line, you're focused and you are working hard to do one thing, to help your team win the game. That's it. It's a pretty simple message.”
Midfielder Servando Carrasco, who played under Kinnear with Houston in 2013-14, said that a vital ingredient of those teams was that “the effort was nonnegotiable.”
“It was a hard-nosed group, it was a blue-collar style,” he said. “Guys never gave up, especially this time of the season, when every point matters. Looking back to the teams that he coached with Houston, I think that we're trying to kind of adopt that same mentality, if you want to call it that. I think we have some big games that are coming up, and with his experience in getting players ready, I think we have an opportunity to bounce back.”
Carrasco said preparations under Schmid were quite good.
“For whatever reason, I don't have the answer why, we didn't get the results that we wanted,” he said. “We [have gone] through a time there without a win, so, of course, whatever happens, fingers are being pointed. But I think the coaching staff did a good job in preparing us to try to win games.”
Kinnear said the change of leadership is “definitely a wakeup call,” that “people should feel sad,” but that “some players may see it as an opportunity. They all should, but something's happened here, and it could be someone else's chance to get to play.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic noted that Kinnear spoke with players more than Schmid did and has “a good relationship with everybody.”
“He's the one that does the tactics and goes through the opposition,” Ibrahimovic said. “And he has been a head coach before. I think everyone respects him.”
To play the kind of soccer required to climb into the top six, the Swedish superstar said, will take “a combination of everything: tactical; organization; confidence, which comes with the wins, and belief. Luck. We've been unlucky some games. And the way you need to handle all those things good, and then you perform good.”