CARSON, Calif. – There are three weeks remaining before the LA Galaxy’s Home Opener against Real Salt Lake on March 8 at StubHub Center, and head coach Bruce Arena said he’s pleased with his team’s progress.
There have even been some pleasant surprises for the veteran coach who recently signed a multi-year contract extension to remain coach of the club.
The addition of target forwards Rob Friend and Samuel, along with midfielder Baggio Husidic, a former draft pick of the Chicago Fire, “has been a plus for us,” Arena said. He has liked what he has seen from some of his younger players who have benefitted from a year’s experience in MLS, most notably Gyasi Zardes, who has been especially impressive in preseason. Arena also feels his club has improved its depth with various offseason acquisitions.
“You never know until the real games come around,” he said after training this week, “but I think they’re doing well. It’s been a good preseason.
“It hasn’t been too rushed; I think we’ve had a method to our madness here, and I think it’s paid some dividends. I’m hopeful over the next couple of weeks we can clean it up a little bit more and be prepared for the first three games of the season.”
Two of the biggest additions – literally – for the Galaxy were the 6-foot-1 Samuel, who was acquired on a year-long loan from Brazilian side Fluminense, and the 6-foot-5 Friend, who came over from Bundesliga 2’s TSV 1860 Munich.
Arena said he thinks the new forward duo have already improved the Galaxy’s size and physicality on the front line and are adapting well to playing stateside.
“They need some time, they’re still in transition with this team,” Arena said. “Last year in the positions they’re playing we had less talented and less experienced players. I think that adds up to be a real plus for us.”
Arena said he didn’t expect their adjustments to MLS to be easy.
“Just a player like Samuel from Brazil where the game is a little slower-paced, perhaps a little more technical, then the culture’s different,” he said. “You’ve got to adjust to all those things as a player and a person. I think Baggio has been through this before, so it’s not as hard. I think Rob Friend has a better feel for it since he’s Canadian. He played in college here (at UC Santa Barbara) and he has a little better understanding.
“He comes from a league that’s probably a little faster and a little more physical as well. He’s probably a little more suited than a player like Samuel to adjust in the short-term.”
Friend said he has been “pretty satisfied” with his performance in camp, although he did suffer a minor groin injury last week, and is becoming more and more comfortable in his new surroundings.
“It was completely eye-opening when I came here. It’s a completely different style of play,” he said. “It’s different practicing, different training techniques. It’s definitely an adjustment, but I think it’s a positive environment that I’m in right now and that we’re in. I’ve enjoyed every second of it.
“Obviously it takes a bit of time to get to know the players and the way they play and the way team plays and the way we train. But I feel good about it.”