Injuries are forcing the Galaxy to test their depth early as they prepare to face NYC
Injuries so plagued the Galaxy last season that at one point, the team was missing nine players. They started a game in July without enough healthy bodies to fill out the bench.
One week into this season and the Galaxy already are ahead of that pace, leaving coach Sigi Schmid struggling to put together a lineup for Sunday’s game with New York City FC at the not-so-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium (SSN/SD 2 p.m. Pacific).
Four players — midfielders Joao Pedro and Chris Pontius, forward Bradford Jamieson IV and midfielder Romain Alessandrini, the team leader in goals and assists last season — didn’t make the Galaxy’s first road trip of the season. Pedro is out with a left knee injury, Jamieson has missed the last six weeks with a concussion and Alessandrini strained his right hamstring in the second half of last Sunday’s season opener. Pontius, who replaced Alessandrini, picked up an undisclosed injury of his own.
Meanwhile, midfielder Ema Boateng, who also left the opening game early, did not train with his teammates last week, although Schmid said Thursday he expects Boateng would be able to play.
“It’s getting interesting,” said midfielder Sebastian Lletget, who missed the final 31 games last season with a fracture in his left foot. “We had a good preseason. Everybody was healthy.”
Last season’s rash of injuries convinced Schmid to focus on building depth during his winter roster overhaul. But the second game of the season is an inopportune time to start relying on that depth.
“For sure, we didn’t want to test it this early. We wanted our group to get into a rhythm and get into an understanding of each other and how we play,” Schmid said. “Soccer is a unique sport where outstanding players are important. But you’re sometimes only as good as your weakest link.”
But the coach can’t do anything about the tight dimensions at Yankee Stadium, where NYCFC has shoehorned in a field that — at 68 by 106 yards — is the smallest in MLS. By comparison, the Galaxy’s home pitch at the StubHub Center is the league’s biggest at 75 by 120 yards, and its total area of 9,000 square yards is 14% larger than NYCFC’s.
“It’s extremely narrow. You can almost hit a ball from one side to the other pretty easily,” defense midfielder Perry Kitchen said.
That lack of space makes it tough for attacking players to maneuver, Kitchen said.
“Defensively, it’s great. The gaps are closing quickly. If you don’t see the pass, it’s shut down,” he said.
It can be tough on a goalkeeper, though. Corner kicks come in much harder, and the sidelines are so close, teams have been known to score off throw-ins into the penalty area.
“The field sets up almost diagonally, so it’s extremely awkward,” said Galaxy keeper David Bingham, who has played twice in Yankee Stadium, giving up five goals in a pair of losses. “The ball’s coming in a lot quicker. It’s more reaction, honestly.
“It’s a cool stadium for baseball. Unfortunately, we’re playing soccer there.”
“I did everything to be ready to go in terms of eating, the work,” said Alessandrini, who said he had an injection of platelet-rich plasma last week. “I [had] a good preseason, a good offseason and now with this injury, it’s bad for me.
“This is the first big injury for me, so I’ll take my time to be 100%. I want to make sure that everything’s good before I come back.”
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