The soccer internet exploded during the offseason when a report surfaced stating that Galaxy midfielder Riqui Puig was bored in Los Angeles.
Bored? How can one be bored when there’s basketball?
Puig has taken in several Lakers games since arriving in L.A. late last season.
“In Spain, I didn’t see a lot (of NBA games) because the hours (time difference),” Puig said. “Here it’s crazy. I like it so much. In two months, I think I’ve three of four time. If I have the luck to go (sit) courtside, it is crazy to see all of the players. Me, I’m so small, the (size) difference is crazy.”
Like a point guard on the basketball court, Puig’s role for the Galaxy is just as important. Especially now as the team has managed just one goal in the first two games.
“He’s a clever player, he doesn’t necessarily love to stand up high, in between the lines,” Galaxy coach Greg Vanney said. “It’s important between him and other guys that we’re in good spots.
“At times he will stay high, but certainly at times when he wants to get a touch on the ball or we need to get him on the ball, he has the capacity to drop down in that line between the forwards and midfielders, pick up the ball, draw a midfielder out, play in between the lines and keep accelerating through the space. Sometimes smaller players don’t like to be in that high pocket where sometimes teams can be physical with them. We just need to make sure that we’re not rotating out of positions at the wrong times.”
The key for Saturday’s home opener against the Vancouver Whitecaps (7:30 p.m., Apple TV) is patience in all aspects.
“We need to be more patient, we need to stay in our areas and we need to continue to get guys in the spots where we’re going to get behind the (opponent’s) back line,” Vanney said. “We’ll try to be a little bit clearer in terms of our personnel, in terms of our positional play as to who we want and when we want guys to be stretching and where we want guys to be to try to unlock things.”
“Last game, I think there’s a good part of it where we were rotating and moving in our positions before we needed to. Then when the opposition started to put pressure on us, we weren’t where we needed to be. Guys were dropping back to pick up the ball, which we lose numbers up against the back line and it’s very hard to create attacks in those scenarios.”
For Puig, he’s looking forward to finally being home after a two-game road stretch to start the season.
“We’re excited to play our first match in the stadium,” he said. “The best thing we need to improve is we need to play fast. We don’t need to lose the midfield …we need to be focused.”
Lucas Calegari, 21, arrived from Brazil on Wednesday and went through his first training session Thursday. He is expected to be available Saturday.
Calegari joins the Galaxy on loan from Fluminense in Brazil. He made 80 appearances for the Brazilian club.
“I’m very happy to be here, I feel comfortable in the group and I’m looking forward to playing,” Calegari said through a translator Thursday. “I knew very little about the Galaxy, but as soon I knew the Galaxy were looking for a right back, I was very excited about the opportunity.”
Calegari is expected to replace Julian Araujo at right back for the Galaxy.
“Very good soccer, very cerebral, understands the position, understands the nuances of the position so we can use him in different ways,” Vanney said of Calegari. “Very confident and comfortable on the ball, especially in tight situations, he’s very good playing the team out of situations and he can give us some movement up the line and get us into the attack. For me, he’s an all-around, very solid right back.”
Galaxy and Sporting KC play to scoreless draw
Galaxy’s youth movement is here out of necessity
Galaxy stumble against FC Dallas
Riqui Puig has goals of winning league MVP and championships with Galaxy
Galaxy season preview: Balancing optimism amid frustration
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (hamstring) and Douglas Costa (calf) will be unavailable Saturday, but according to Vanney, they’re getting closer to returning.
“I would say that by the beginning of next week, they’re going to be on the field and hopefully integrating into training at some point over the next week,” Vanney said.