CARSON, Calif. – Ruud Gullit has wasted no time making his mark on the Los Angeles Galaxy, both on the training fields of the Home Depot Center and in the kitchen.
The new head coach has implemented twice-a-day workouts with a heavy emphasis on physical conditioning, and he has also laid down some strict guidelines on the eating habits of his players.
Pasta and salads are in, pancakes are out.
Gullit hopes that, by taking these measures with the new Major League Soccer season still six weeks away, his players will develop a core level of fitness that will lead to a significant improvement in the standings from L.A.'s disappointing 2007 campaign.
The fresh approach has already won the approval of David Beckham, who believes Gullit's methods are just what the Galaxy need to make sure they are far more competitive than last season, which was disrupted by injuries to the star midfielder and marred by a general level of inconsistency.
"There are quite a few things that are different," Beckham said. "We are training morning and afternoon which a lot of the players have not done before. He is working us hard but we need that and it is a good thing. I enjoy working hard.
"It has changed under Ruud. We eat breakfast when we arrive and have a light lunch of salad and pasta after the morning session. No more pancakes.
"It has to be a strict regime in soccer these days because the game has changed so much in the last 15 years. It is all about eating right and drinking right and looking after yourself and if you don't, you can't perform at a high level."
Former coach Frank Yallop was a highly popular figure among his players, but it seems Gullit is not afraid to crack the whip when necessary.
His style and approach borrows heavily from the preseason preparation in Italy, where he spent six years at AC Milan at the peak of his playing career.
"It is all about training and getting the physical condition needed for the season," Gullit said. "It is hard work for them and we are pushing them hard, but I am pleased with them.
"I want the players to be as fit and ready as possible by the time we have our first game in MLS (on March 29). The season over here can take its toll on players. There are not so many games, but there is a lot of travelling and you have to be in good condition."
Last season, the Galaxy sometimes looked jaded and short on fitness. To be fair to Yallop, his plight was not helped by a schedule that was designed to maximize the impact of Beckham's arrival and imposed an exhausting travel itinerary on the team during August and September.
There is still plenty of travel this time, but much of it will take place before the season starts. The Galaxy depart for Hawaii next Monday for the Pan-Pacific Championship, then carry on to Asia for a mini-tour.
"We have got many things happening over the next weeks," Gullit said. "But we will make sure we stay focused and we will be ready. Don't worry about that."