When the Galaxy spent a franchise-record $34 million to sign Giovani dos Santos nine months ago, they were sure they were getting a top international player in the prime of his career.
And at first Dos Santos played that way, scoring twice and adding three assists in his first three Major League Soccer games.
He scored only once more the rest of the year.
That slump carried over to this spring, with Dos Santos straining his left quadriceps 45 minutes into the season opener and spending the next month on the bench. But since returning he has shown flashes of being the player the team thought he could be, matching last year’s total of three goals in the last two games while leading the Galaxy to a pair of one-sided wins.
Coach Bruce Arena will be looking for more of the same Sunday when his short-handed team takes a five-game unbeaten streak into Sunday’s contest at Sporting Kansas City, where the Galaxy haven’t won since 2007.
Also out are midfielder Nigel de Jong, who is serving the final game of a three-game suspension, and captain Robbie Keane, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in March.
Ironically, it is Keane’s injury that helped the oft-injured Dos Santos find his stride because it cleared the way for Dos Santos to assume a more creative, improvisational role in the midfield, where he frequently thrived with the Mexican national team.
“He has a lot more to offer,” Arena said of Dos Santos, whose recent run of form earned him a spot on Mexico’s preliminary roster for next month’s Copa America. “He’s going to get better in every game ... if he continues to play and stay healthy.”
When Keane, the league’s leading scorer over the last four seasons, is on the field, Dos Santos must play a more disciplined game, leaving the creative freelancing to the captain. With Keane out, though, Dos Santos has been able to move from a wide spot into the center as a playmaker behind lone striker Gyasi Zardes.
With three goals and two assists, Dos Santos had a hand in half the Galaxy’s 10 scores since Keane got hurt.
But Dos Santos said there’s more to his performance than just a new role. After nine months with the Galaxy he said he also feels more settled with MLS, his new team and his new city.
“I feel a lot more comfortable,” he said in Spanish. “A lot better adjusted with the club, my teammates, what the coach wants from me. After [nine] months, everything is good.”
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