The Galaxy’s Jermaine Jones, left, and Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, center, tangle during a friendly at StubHub Center on July 15. (Ringo Chiuringo Chiu / AFP / Getty Images)
You know it has been a tough season when a three-goal loss is considered a sign of progress. But that’s exactly where the Galaxy are after Saturday’s exhibition loss to Manchester United.
“I thought it was a real positive experience,” coach Curt Onalfo said.
The biggest positive was the return of defender Daniel Steres and midfielder Jermaine Jones, who had been out since May because of injuries. Those reinforcements come at an important time for the Galaxy, who return from a two-week MLS break to face the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday at StubHub Center (7:30 p.m., Spectrum SN, Spectrum Deportes).
“We just have to get our confidence back, we have to get the guys back that we’re missing, and then we’ve got to get a rhythm between each other again,” said defender Dave Romney, whose team has lost four consecutive games in all competitions. “Once we get our confidence back, I think we’ll do fine.”
Onalfo didn’t say whether Jones (knee) or Steres (hamstring), who each played more than 30 minutes Saturday, would start against Vancouver. But simply having them available makes the Galaxy healthier than they’ve been in more than 10 weeks.
Gio dos Santos, who was away for five MLS games while with the Mexican national team, also returned last week, boosting a team that entered July without 12 players because of injury, suspension or international duty.
Still out are midfielders Baggio Husidic (broken fibula) and midfielder Sebastian Lletget (foot), forward Jose Villarreal (leg) and goalkeeper Clement Diop (hand), and forward Gyasi Zardes is with the U.S. national team. But Husidic returned to training this week, Zardes will be back next week and the injuries to Villarreal and Diop are considered minor.
Also expected to enter the lineup soon is Dutch right back Pele van Anholt, who signed with the team last week.
“We have as close to a full group as we had all year,” said Onalfo, who had only 16 players for a July 1 loss in San Jose. “We’re starting to get healthy and everyone feels good.”
That good feeling comes at a good time for the Galaxy (6-8-4), who enter the season’s second half eighth in the 11-team Western Conference. But they’re only six points behind third-place Houston and could jump over Vancouver into playoff position with a victory Wednesday.
“The West is so tight if we just get everyone back, stay focused, don’t kind of hang our heads on what just happened, I think we’ve got a good mind-set going forward,” Romney said.
A victory Wednesday would boast the Galaxy’s confidence in another way, too, since the team is a league-worst 1-5-3 at home, with its only StubHub victory coming more than 100 days ago. The Galaxy have lost once in nine home games all-time with Vancouver.
“We’ve just got to get our home record better,” said Onalfo, whose team will face a Vancouver team without five players who are on international duty. “We’ve got to turn the couple of ties we had recently into wins. And turn that into dominance.
“Then we’re in a good place. It’s never drawn up perfectly. So that’s the next challenge.”
Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11