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Battered Galaxy hurting on, off the pitch

The Galaxy’s woes this spring aren’t necessarily a case of déjà vu all over again. But they’re reminiscent of that.

The Galaxy were so riddled with injuries last season, they entered one week missing 12 players and played another game with just four outfield players on the bench. That jinx has carried over to this season, one in which the team already has had nine starters sidelined by injury, international duty or suspension heading into Saturday’s game with the New York Red Bulls (3-3-0) at StubHub Center (SSN, Spectrum Deportes, 7:30 p.m. PT).

“I am looking forward to the day when everyone is fit and on the pitch together,” captain Ashley Cole said after a training session this week.

He may be waiting a while because the latest player to go down, right back Rolf Feltscher, could be out more than two months with a torn muscle in his chest. Feltscher, injured when he landed awkwardly after stumbling over a ball in training, will be joined on the sideline by midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, who was pulled from the starting lineup a week ago after straining a calf during warmups.

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Dos Santos’ injury occurred about two hours before his older brother, midfielder Giovani dos Santos, returned from a hamstring strain and came off the bench to make his first appearance in six weeks. Coach Sigi Schmid already has used 10 players in the midfield in seven games, which helps explain why the Galaxy (3-3-1) entered the weekend tied for second to last in the Western Conference with eight goals.

“We haven’t been able to field the same lineup twice,” said Schmid, whose team has lost its last two at home. “We’ve got to rely on our depth a little bit. What makes it difficult is getting guys to start to understand each other in a blind manner.

“That’s very difficult to do when you’re playing next to different players.”

It’s also difficult to do at the start of a season in which you’re welcoming 12 new players to your roster. Forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the newest, joined the team a month ago, prompting Schmid to scuttle the dynamic 4-2-3-1 formation he worked on all winter in favor of more staid 4-4-2.

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“We didn’t play that in the preseason,” said forward Ola Kamara, who scored 34 goals the last two seasons but has just two shots on target since Ibrahimovic came aboard. “It’s a formation that should be very good. But we have new players everywhere. We’re going to need some games.

“Most players have played 4-4-2 before. But it’s an adjustment.”

The revolving door in the midfield has caused problems both offensively and defensively for a team without a true playmaker. Offensively, it has weakened the link between the back line and the forwards, forcing Kamara and Ibrahimovic to retreat farther up the field to get the ball. And when the midfielders push forward, it leaves the defenders open to a counterattack.

Those weaknesses have been further exposed by a schedule that has had the Galaxy play six of their first seven games against teams that made the playoffs last season, the only exception being the Los Angeles Football Club, an expansion team.

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“We have to kind of understand our own philosophy in how we want to play,” Cole said. “Because at the moment we don’t really have an identity.”

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11


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