Galaxy’s depth to be tested with key players out of the lineup
Galaxy Coach Curt Onalfo needed just one word to express his thoughts on the league’s decision to suspend two of his starters for Sunday’s game with the Portland Timbers.
“Ridiculous,” he said.
He had to call on a bit more of his vocabulary to explain how his team would respond to the disqualifications.
“We’ll rise above it,” he said after practice Friday. “It’s an opportunity for other players to step up. And our mentality is always to make the most of every situation.
“Find solutions. Don’t make excuses.”
But even from the high road, Onalfo could see that solutions, like players, are in short supply for the Galaxy, who head into Sunday’s game at the StubHub Center (4 p.m., FS1, Fox Deportes) missing five key contributors.
Forward Gyasi Zardes and outside backs Ashley Cole and Robbie Rogers missed last week’s MLS season opener, a 2-1 loss to FC Dallas, because of injury. Zardes and Cole trained apart from the first team Friday and could return as soon as next week, but Rogers, who is dealing with a nerve issue in his foot, could be out for months.
They’ll be joined on the sidelines Sunday by midfielder Jermaine Jones and defender Dave Romney, who were both suspended by the MLS disciplinary committee following the Dallas game, Jones for a reckless first-half challenge on Dallas’ Cristian Colman and Romney for embellishing a second-half bump in the box that earned the Galaxy a penalty kick.
“I was surprised just because there was contact on the play,” Romney said of his ban. “It’s kind of been if there’s contact, you’re taught to go down. He made contact with my leg, so I fell over. I didn’t dive.”
Jones declined to discuss his sanction, advising reporters to call MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
Difference of opinions aside, the suspensions will force Onalfo once again to call on a very short bench for replacements.
Onalfo is already using a midfielder, Rafael Garcia, to replace Rogers at right back, while Romney, the team’s fifth defender, was forced into a starting role at left back when Cole went down. None of the Galaxy’s remaining back-line reserves ever has played in an MLS game.
Nathan Smith, a former UCLA player, appears the most likely choice to start on the back line. In the team’s final exhibition game two weeks ago, Onalfo plucked Smith off the bench when Jelle Van Damme came out at halftime because of illness.
In the midfield, the Galaxy can replace Jones with veteran Baggio Husidic or they could slide national team playmaker Sebastian Lletget from the wing into the central midfield and use speedy Ema Boateng in Lletget’s spot on the outside.
“There’s even more options than that,” said Onalfo, who declined to discuss any of them.
The Timbers, coming off a season-opening 5-1 thrashing of expansion team Minnesota United, also could be missing three starters, all on the back line, after training injuries last week.
Left back Vytas (calf strain) has been ruled out, while captain Liam Ridgewell (foot) and Alvas Powell (ankle) will be game-time decisions.
“Both teams are being tested on the depth of their back line,” Onalfo said.
But that quiz might be more important for the Galaxy, who need a result to avoid the first 0-2 home start in franchise history.