Galaxy defender Kelvin Leerdam’s role takes him back to early days as a professional

Galaxy defender Kelvin Leerdam had to shift to center back recently out of necessity.

It’s a position the right back has played before in MLS, but it had been awhile.

“In the Netherlands (at Feyenoord), I played plenty of games at center back, then I played it at Vitesse, basically all of the teams I’ve played at,” he said. “It’s nothing new for me, my first game at center back (at Feyenoord) was against Emil Heskey, we played Aston Villa. I think I was 17-18 (years old).”

With Jalen Neal (USMNT) and Eriq Zavaleta (El Salvador) away on international duty and Martin Caceres down with a knee injury, Galaxy coach Greg Vanney was left with one true center back in Chris Mavinga.

Leerdam has started the last four games alongside Mavinga in the center during the Galaxy’s current seven-game unbeaten streak. The Galaxy visits Vancouver on Saturday (7:30 p.m., Apple TV+) for the last league game before the break for the Leagues Cup.

“As a center back, in my opinion, (the key) is communicate,” Leerdam said. “You have to talk basically the whole game to everybody around you, that might help you to play a clean game. I think that’s the most important thing when you’re playing the position is communicate and try to think ahead of what is going to happen.”

Leerdam also credits his on- and off-field relationship with Mavinga to help him settle in.

“I think we understand each other,” Leerdam said. “We also sit next to each other in the locker room, so there’s a lot of talking going on between us, but it’s not only Chris, it’s also with Bondy (goalkeeper Jonathan Bond) or JK (goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann) or with the guys in front because we have to do it together.

“I think as long as you do it (defend) together, it becomes a lot easier.”

During the current seven-game unbeaten streak (3-0-4), the Galaxy (5-9-7, 22 points) has tightened up defensively, allowing for the offense to have a chance to pull out wins, which have been the case in the last two games against LAFC and Philadelphia.

“We’ve given less chances away and, because everybody is collectively doing their job, it becomes pretty clear and easy for our talent on the other side (attacking) to decide games,” Leerdam said. “If we defensively play solid enough, with the guys we have in front, our chances will come every game.”

Tony Alfaro returns

Alfaro, who attended Cal State Dominguez Hills, was acquired Monday in a trade with New York City FC in exchange for $125,000 in general allocation money.

Alfaro, 30, was a first-round draft pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft by the Seattle Sounders.

“It feels great, I feel blessed to come back home and be around my friends and family,” Alfaro said. “I found out Monday, I was on flight out here on Tuesday. I think the news was a little shocking, I didn’t know how to react, but at the end of the day, I’m blessed to be coming home.

Jalen Neal back

Neal, who missed Wednesday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal with what U.S. Soccer called a groin injury, was back at Galaxy training Thursday.

“He came out for some recovery stuff that he needs to possibility be available for Saturday,” Vanney said. “Between the level, playing at a different speed, playing international games and MLS games, this has been a super-busy six months. I’m sure his body is trying to adapt to all of that, because he’s not used to all that.

“We’re going to be very aware and cautious with him as we keep moving forward.”

Galaxy at Vancouver

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: BC Place, Vancouver, British Columbia

How to watch: Apple TV (MLS Season Pass)


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