CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy this week welcomed back their conquering heroes, and just in time, with back-to-back home rivalry games on the docket, including next week's crosstown showdown with runaway Supporters' Shield leader LAFC.
First comes Friday night's California Clasico rematch with the San Jose Earthquakes (11 pm ET | UniMás, Twitter; MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada), and the reintegration of midfielders Jonathan dos Santos — LA's clear MVP, so far — and Uriel Antuna following Mexico's 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup triumph is a huge plus heading into what head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto called a “revenge” game.
The Quakes pulled away late for a 3-0 victory over LA, missing the Mexican pair, two weekends ago at Stanford Stadium, and Schelotto noted the rivalry and the “need to play with that in the heart.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic considers it “a new game,” with no connection to what occurred in the Bay Area.
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“First game, we didn't follow the tactic we should have followed, and then, obviously, we did mistakes in confidence,” he said after the Galaxy's training and gym sessions Wednesday. “When that comes together, the outcome is different, and we lost the game. So we learn from that game and, hopefully, we don't repeat the same mistakes.”
Dos Santos, who scored the lone goal to lift Mexico past the U.S. in last weekend's Gold Cup final, and Antuna, who scored four goals in his first event with El Tri, return to Southern California brimming with confidence and anxious to get back onto the field with the Galaxy (11-7-1).
“I missed the locker room, the atmosphere, and we know we have a very important game this Friday against San Jose, and we must win it,” dos Santos said in Spanish. “We know that games at home are very important for us, and I think the team has a good dynamic going, and, hopefully, we'll secure the three points.”
Dos Santos said Mexico's triumph, and his and Antuna's contributions to the title run, “helps a lot” as they step back into Schelotto's lineup.
“The fact that Antuna and I had a good tournament, I think coming to the team now gives the team more confidence,” he said. “We will always try and work hard like we have always done in the past and try to help the team wherever we can.”
Antuna, whose hat trick in his international debut fueled Mexico's 7-0 tournament-opening romp at the Rose Bowl, says he arrived “with a lot more confidence. It's going to help me to continue to grow and continue to have more confidence.”
The Galaxy's midfield depth was tested in their absence, with Sebastian Lletget going down with injury and Romain Alessandrini out until at least September, but Perry Kitchen was strong in the holding slot and teen phenom Efrain Alvarez was splendid in his first MLS start as LA ended a three-game home losing streak in a Fourth of July victory over Toronto FC. Schelotto said he was “thinking about [Alvarez] starting” against San Jose (8-7-4).