Robert Mora

Nearly three weeks into preseason, Galaxy getting better every day

CARSON, Calif. Training camp isn’t even three weeks old, and LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said it’s too early to assess his team’s progress. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t pleased.

The Galaxy are 1-0-1 in practice games, with another one scheduled for Thursday against the San Jose Earthquakes, and a number of new players, highlighted by the likes of Juan Pablo Angel, top draft pick Paolo Cardozo and Frankie Hejduk, have created some interesting competitions for playing time.

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Arena said he has been especially happy to avoid any serious injury problems – so far, anyway – and is thankful not only to have Landon Donovan around for camp but also to knowing David Beckham is two weeks from returning from England.

“It’s been OK, a typical preseason,” he said Wednesday. “We’re still not obviously near where we want to be in terms of match fitness, but we’re getting a little better every day.

“We want to get a little sharper on the ball, get a little better tactical understanding of some of the things we want to do, and that’ll come. That’s why it’s called preseason.”

The Galaxy will continue do to work out at The Home Depot Center until Sunday, when they depart for Arizona for nine days of training that will feature practice games against the MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids and the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps FC. They will come back to Los Angeles on Wednesday, Feb. 23 and continue preparations for their MLS regular season opener on Tuesday, March 15 in Seattle.

Arena said there haven’t been any surprises so far, and there haven’t been any disappointments, either. Veteran defender Gregg Berhalter, who turns 38 in August and decided to return for his third season with the Galaxy after contemplating retirement, is doubling as an assistant coach this season. He agreed with Arena’s sentiments.

“No one’s standing out in a negative way, and that’s a surprise overall,” he said. “Everyone’s shown they have a level we’re looking for, and that’s what we need.”

One of those players is Chad Barrett, one of three new forwards (along with Angel and Adam Cristman) Arena brought in during the offseason to help offset the loss of 17 goals from Edson Buddle, now playing in Germany.

Barrett is a six-year MLS veteran who has 34 career regular season goals and was acquired from Toronto FC in mid-January. He said he was stuck in Atlanta during a recent ice storm there when he was notified of the trade and was thrilled to relocate to the West Coast.

“I’m not a snow bunny,” said Barrett, who was born in Southern California and spent time growing up in Arizona.

The 25-year-old said he has been impressed not only with what he has seen so far, but what he saw from the Galaxy last season.

“The team last year set a standard by winning the Supporters’ Shield and being the best overall team,” he said. “That’s something we have to strive to repeat.

“I know people are listing us as No. 1 in the preseason polls, and rightfully so. By looking at this team, I think it’s even deeper and more balanced than it was last year. Obviously they lost a great player in Edson Buddle, but we have a lot of great players to fill that void.”

Berhalter said he is confident the Galaxy can be among the MLS Cup contenders again despite a roster that features 11 new players.

That is the focus this season, he emphasized.

“We want to be one of the leaders in the league,” he said. “That’s our goal. We realize it’s easier said than done, but looking at our roster we expect to be there again.”

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