MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. – Having failed to reach the MLS Cup final after joining the Los Angeles Galaxy last summer, Steven Gerrard admitted he had a lot to learn about Major League Soccer when he first arrived.
"I’d done a certain amount of homework before I turned up, but still it felt like I was starting a new school, new classmates, new people to play against, everything was new," Gerrard told Yahoo Sports at MLS Media Day on Tuesday.
"When I turned up here, I didn’t know there was humidity in Houston. I didn’t know there was altitude in Salt Lake. There was a lot about the league that was new and was a bit of a shock to me at the time."
However, Gerrard refused to offer excuses for his adjustment period.
"Yeah, it's very challenging, the climate and the surfaces can be a bit of a challenge. But I think the easy thing to do as a player is to sit here and use that as an excuse. It’s the same for all the other teams. It's the same for all the other players. You've got to roll with it and try and give it your best."
Gerrard stopped short of saying that MLS was more rigorous than the Premier League.
"I believe the Premiership's a lot more grueling, because you play an awful lot more games and they’re close together and you don’t get a break at Christmas."
The former international, who was capped 114 times for England, also bristled at the suggestion that MLS was a retirement league.
"Do you think it’s a retirement league? Who says that? [Sebastian] Giovinco doesn’t think that. [Giovani] Dos Santos doesn’t think that," Gerrard said. "I mean you can label that question toward me because I’m 35, but I certainly didn’t see it as somewhere where I’d go retire, put my feet up."
Having had time to digest last season’s shortcomings, Gerrard was optimistic that things would be different in his second season in MLS.
"I know what’s in store for me beforehand," he said. "I know the opposition I’ll be playing. I know a lot about the individuals."
After winning three out of the four previous MLS Cups, the Galaxy fell disappointingly short of making it to last season’s final, losing to the Seattle Sounders in the first round of the playoffs. The five-time MLS champion also saw its form dip in the latter part of the season, a dip that could be seen to have coincided with Gerrard’s arrival.
Gerrard admitted he was "very disappointed to go out of the playoffs so early last year" and seems determined to make the most of the 2016 campaign.
"I think this season I’ll be better for the experience," he said. "You know at the age of 35, I’m running out of time for success and I know my stay is only short in the MLS, so I’m desperate to be successful this year."
With veterans like Omar Gonzalez and Juninho having departed in the offseason and L.A. on the verge of signing former Premier League star Ashley Cole, the Galaxy is currently in the midst of a rebuild of sorts.
"Changes happen at any football club – players come, players go,” Gerrard said. “I’m very excited with some of the names that we’ve been linked with. Let’s hope we can get the signings over the line.”
Gerrard also is optimistic about the benefit of a training camp and preseason friendlies.
"I think the good thing is we got a preseason to work stuff out, we’ve got a preseason to get used to each other," he said. "You know I come halfway through last season, no one in the dressing room knew me, my character, the way I played, my movement. I didn’t know nothing about them. I only knew Robbie [Keane].
“This year we’ve got four, five, maybe six weeks to get used to each other."
The FA Cup and Champions League winner was quick to praise the fans he’d encountered since joining the Galaxy.
"The L.A. Galaxy fans are superb," he said. "They make an awful lot of noise. They’re very passionate. They’re just as passionate, it’s just that the country is an awful lot bigger.”
Gerrard also had a word of caution for Los Angeles's new MLS expansion franchise – Los Angeles Football Club – which is scheduled to begin play in 2018.
"I think from a [soccer] point of view it’d be very difficult for a team to come into Los Angeles and compete with L.A. Galaxy, because it’s a good establishment, it’s got good experience, it’s a winning brand and a winning set-up,” Gerrard said.
"I hope more NFL teams and more basketball teams come, I think it’ll be fantastic for the city. But for me from a [soccer] point of view, there’s only one team in this city."
Gerrard said he is enjoying his time in MLS, but he does see ways the league might be improved.
"If the MLS can maybe relax the rules slightly, to attract even more quality players, I think it’d be great, but at the same time keeping the balance right where the American young kids are still getting the chance to grow," he said. "I think that’s where you got to get the balance right."