Game against winless Montreal could help Galaxy start to regroup after rough start

The Galaxy should thank their lucky stars for Real Salt Lake.

Because without RSL to break their fall, the Galaxy would be in the Western Conference cellar heading into Friday’s game with the Montreal Impact at StubHub Center (7:30 p.m., Spectrum SN, Spectrum Deportes).

As it is, the Galaxy (1-3) — whose only win came against RSL — is looking up at nine teams in the 11-team conference, including Minnesota United, an expansion team that was playing in the lower-level North American Soccer League last year.

Minnesota has allowed a league-high 20 goals in its first five games and has a goal differential of minus-10. But it’s still one point better than the Galaxy.

And that makes Friday’s game unusually big for an early season contest against a winless nonconference opponent.

“The most important thing is the three points,” Galaxy captain Jelle Van Damme said. “It doesn’t matter how good we play, how bad we play. I just want, at the end of the game, the three points.”

Added midfielder Jermaine Jones: “We have a good team. We have to show it.”

Van Damme and Jones haven’t always been on the same page this year. After the Galaxy’s season-opening loss to FC Dallas, Jones criticized Van Damme by name, saying the attack-minded defender was pushing too far forward and leaving the team open to counterattacks.

Following last week’s come-from-ahead loss in Vancouver, in which the Galaxy gave up two more counterattack goals, Jones was again critical, saying “everybody has to know their role on the field.”

Van Damme and Jones said Wednesday the players and coaches have tried to clear the air this week. Coach Curt Onalfo said any suggestion of a split in the locker room was “probably too much.”

“Any time you have a loss you’re going to self-reflect,” he said. “You’ve got to regroup, you’ve got to talk as a group, you’ve got to meet with players individually.

“They’ve got to talk to themselves as well and get themselves right, too. That’s all part of what you’re dealing with.”

Onalfo might make a few lineup changes. Goalkeeper Clement Diop, who twice made questionable decisions to charge 20 yards off his line in the Vancouver loss, could be back on the bench if opening-day starter Brian Rowe is fully recovered from his shoulder injury.

And defensive midfielder Joao Pedro may temporarily have lost his job as well, after a string of poor performances. Up front, Gio dos Santos, invisible for long stretches of the Vancouver game, is likely to start again, but whether he’ll be reunited with forward Gyasi Zardes could be a game-time decision.

Onalfo is being cautious with Zardes, who hasn’t started a competitive game since August, before foot and knee injuries.

Jones, who starred for playoff teams in New England and Colorado before coming to the Galaxy, said he would have a message for whoever starts: Don’t try to do too much; just do your job.

“We’d win games 1-0, 1-0, 1-0 and played not really nice soccer. But we made it far,” he said of his previous MLS teams. “That’s the point of what I said last week.

“We have to play easy and play for the team. And bring everybody’s piece to the game. If we do that, I’m sure that we’ll [have] success.”

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

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