It took Galaxy coach Curt Onalfo 10 games to get forward Gio dos Santos and midfielder Romain Alessandrini on the same page. But with the pair combining on three scores in the last two games, that’s a mission he can safely consider accomplished.
“It takes time to understand chemistries, personalities,” Onalfo said of his two leading scorers, who had never played together until this season. “It was just a matter of time, and it’s starting to come out.”
So now Onalfo will turn his attention to struggling forward Gyasi Zardes, who goes into Sunday’s road game with expansion Minnesota United (2 p.m. PT, ESPN) scoreless in six games this season, equaling his longest drought since the fall of 2015.
And Onalfo is confident that time — in Zardes’ case, playing time — will remedy that situation as well.
“I’m not necessarily worried about it,” said Onalfo, whose team is riding a three-game unbeaten streak. “He has missed a lot of soccer. He’s just finding his rhythm. And it’s going to take a little time before he gets the sharpness that we’re used to seeing.”
Zardes broke a bone in his right foot in August, which cost him the rest of the season. Then in February, he had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to repair an injury he sustained while training with the U.S. national team. As a result, he has played just 461 minutes since the start of training camp, among the fewest of anyone on the Galaxy roster.
That has impacted his play. After scoring 28 goals in the last three seasons, Zardes has just seven shots — only three on goal — in six scoreless appearances this year.
Yet Onalfo is seeing signs Zardes is about to snap out of his funk just as the Galaxy (3-5-2) are breaking out of theirs. While he didn’t get on the score sheet in last week’s impressive 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls, which snapped the team’s four-game winless streak, the coach said Zardes contributed in other ways.
“He’s finding his form,” Onalfo said. “And we’re playing him into it.”
Minnesota United’s temporary home at TCF Bank Stadium, on the campus of the University of Minnesota, would seem to argue against an offensive breakout this week, however. The artificial-turf field, at 70 yards wide, is the second-narrowest in MLS. And the FieldTurf Revolution surface can be sticky and slow, further impeding an attack that relies on speedy wingers Ema Boateng and Alessandrini.
“It makes it harder to be really explosive going forward,” said Onalfo, whose team will be playing in Minnesota for the first time. “It can be a neutralizing surface.”
So though Minnesota United (3-6-2) has given up the most goals in the league this season (28), it has allowed just one score in the last three home games, shutting out both Colorado and Sporting Kansas City.
As for the Galaxy, while Alessandrini has been impressive — he leads the team with six goals and four assists — the team also has gotten a quiet boost from veteran Baggio Husidic, who stabilized a midfield that seemed unsettled even before playmaker Jermaine Jones went down with a knee injury earlier this month.
As a result the Galaxy haven’t lost in Husidic’s last three starts.
There’s a lot of intangibles that he just brings in terms of leadership and just having a little bit of a calming influence and really seeing the game intelligently,” Onalfo said of Husidic. “Having been in the league so long, he knows how to win games. He’s been very good for us.”