CARSON, Calif. – Christian Wilhelmsson is back from international duty with Sweden and has his eyes set on starting role with the LA Galaxy.
During the international break, Wilhelmsson started and went 66 minutes for the Swedes in their 2-1 victory over The Faroe Islands last week before serving as an unused substitute during Sweden’s dramatic 4-4 draw with Germany on Tuesday. The results put the Swedes into second place in UEFA World Cup Qualifying Group C, one point ahead of Robbie Keane's Ireland.
Now that Wilhelmsson has returned to Southern California, the Swedish winger admits that he has shaken off a left calf strain that plagued him prior to the international break and is ready for a spot in the starting lineup—beginning this weekend against the San Jose Earthquakes.
“Fitness is good now; I’ve been working for a month now. It’s just a matter of playing games and getting into the game,” said Wilhelmsson. “As a player, you always want to play I’m just excited to show myself and help the team as much as possible and you can only do that on the field. I’m excited. I hope that I get in there soon and get in the shape that I was in before I came to L.A.”
But what of the dramatic comeback against Germany? It was simply “incredible,” says Wilhelmsson.
“That was some crazy stuff going on there, I don’t know, it was incredible,” said Wilhelmsson. “They played their best football in the first half and thought it’d be easy five or six to zero for them, but it was three to zero and then with an early goal in the second half, it was four to zero so we thought it was finished. When we scored, four to one, it was still quite even, but we scored on the four chances that we got in the game so it was incredible.
“Normally, [a comeback is] not possible against a team like Germany in Berlin; it was one kind of a night and just incredible,” Wilhelmsson added. “One point against Germany is always good and the way that we did it was amazing so we’re very satisfied and we need to keep going.”
With two matches remaining, the LA Galaxy are firmly in control of their playoff destiny.
A victory against the San Jose Earthquakes on Oct. 21, followed by a victory agaisnt the Seattle Sounders on Oct. 28, and the Galaxy will have at least the third spot in the Western Conference and avoid a taxing Knockout Round match.
CARSON, Calif. -- The last two meetings between the San Jose Earthquakes and the LA Galaxy were both dramatic encounters, but according to Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, the results mean little ahead of Sunday's match at Buck Shaw Stadium.
In two games this season, the Earthquakes roared back from a deficit to earn a victory against the Galaxy. The first was a 3-2 San Jose victory on May 23 at The Home Depot Center that featured three goals for the visitors in the last 20 minutes and started the "Goonies Never Say Die" mantra that has defined the Quakes' season. The second clash on June 30 at Stanford Stadium was just as dramatic as the Galaxy built a 3-1 lead late in the first half before a Victor Bernardez goal in the 44th and two goals in the second half gave San Jose a 4-3 victory.
Following training on Thursday, Arena admitted that those games meant little to him or the Galaxy.
ARENA: "I'm not at all troubled by those two games at this point in my life. I'm moving on, I was not happy in the short term with those games, but now I've put it past me, I'm looking for greater things in life. I had a grandchild born, we're in the middle of a heated Presidential election, [the U.S.] lost a difficult Ryder Cup, the Yankees are hanging on for life so really I don't give two sh*** about the last time that we played San Jose."
More thoughts from Arena on the Galaxy controlling their own destiny, Seattle vs. Real Salt Lake and the unbalanced schedule below.
(On the Seattle vs. Real Salt Lake match on Thursday...)
ARENA: "I thought the game was awful that playing surface [at CenturyLink Field] is becoming like a parking lot."
(On the Galaxy controlling their destiny with RSL and Seattle's tie...)
ARENA: "It’s one way of putting it, I guess. We can put two wins together; we could end up in second or third. But if we could have won ten previous games then we wouldn't have to worry about that so we've been controlling our destiny for a long time."
(On whether San Jose is a surprise team...)
ARENA: "I don’t think anything is a surprise in this league to be honest with you. At the end of the day, if you look at it you have a bunch of teams that are close together which is in a lot of ways what we anticipate. I think that throws it out of whack the whole competition this year is the whole unbalanced schedule and calling that winner of that unbalanced schedule, the Supporters’ Shield winner. That makes zero sense, but it is what it is, but having said of that, San Jose is still the team on top regardless of how odd that competition is."
If you've been following the blog or LAGalaxy.com as of late, you'll notice the emphasis on stories on the club's Academy following last Sunday's SuperClasiquito.
In conversations with readers, I've gotten a lot of comments about expanding my coverage on the club's Academy (view their official page here) so this week has been the first major push of that initative. However, due to the hectic nature of the modern news cycle, I didn't want these pieces to get buried so I decided to make a post for all of them so readers could catch up when they wish.
Check out the links below...
Share your thoughts below.
CARSON, Calif. -- Literally just hours after the conclusion of the International break, MLS action returns on Wednesday with a match that will hold considerable barring on the LA Galaxy's playoff seeding.
On Wednesday evening, Real Salt Lake face off against Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, in a match between the two of the Western Conference's (RSL No. 2 and Seattle No. 3) top teams. The match has major implications for the Galaxy, who currently sit in fourth place in the West two points behind the Sounders for the third seed, who after Wednesday's match will have played the same number of games as the rest of the West.
Should Seattle defeat RSL, the Galaxy would five points out of the third spot and likely be resigned to playing in the Knockout round match against the fifth seed -- likely Vancouver Whitecaps FC. If RSL wins on the other hand, LA would be unable to finish in second place, but the Galaxy would remain two points behind Seattle--who LA face in the final match of the season on Oct. 28-- and would likely need a victory in at least that match to avoid the Knockout round. Similar results are likely to be needed should the match end in a tie.
While the Galaxy will be watching the action from Seattle, they're not supporting either club.
"Obviously we want certain things to happen, but we have to take care of our business and I know that is one thing that our team is focused on," said defender Sean Franklin. " [We're] not worrying about who wins that game or if they tie or who loses. It's all about doing our job because if we don't do our job then those things don't matter."
It's time for the 11th edition of Ask the Insider.
Today's question comes from Alan Vega Butron Now that we are so close to the playoffs, What tactical and personnel changes will we see from Bruce Arena? and how will this help us come playoff time?
CARSON, Calif. -- The Under-16 Academy level is admittedly one of transition as players look to blossom from skilled children into prospective professional.
One of the LA Galaxy U-16's finest young talents is defender Christian Onalfo, the son of assistant coach Curt Onalfo. The birth of Christian was something of a miracle for the elder Onalfo, who battled cancer in his twenties undergoing chemotherapy that caused him to initially fear if he would ever have children. But when Christian was born on July 26, 1997, the eldest Onalfo couldn't conceal his joy, exclaiming "he's perfect" as he held his son for the first time.
On the soccer field, Christian is a talented center back, whose physical size makes him an intriguing prospect to U-16 head coach Craig Harrington.
"Physically, he's got the body, he's got to mature because it's his first year playing at the [U-16] level, but he's got a lot of plus sides," Harrington said after the Galaxy U-16s fell to Chivas USA's U-16's last Sunday. "Obviously, with his dad being around, he knows what it takes. He's going to have a lot of growing up this year, but as he gets into his body because he's a big strong lad and grows [on the field] by playing at this tempo all the time, he should be a rock for us in the back by next year."
Harrington isn't the only one that believes in Onalfo's skills as his father Curt is pleased with how is son has developed.
“It’s very satisfying, as a parent, you always want the best for your kid. He’s an extremely bright kid and he’s shown that he has a passion for soccer," said Onalfo. "He’s grown up around professional players and teams, that has bled off on him a little bit. It’s not easy being the son of a coach because you get the microscope on you a little bit. But he’s an extremely bright young man and he’s turning into a really good soccer player, but whatever success that he has in it, I’ll be proud of him.”
As he continues his development, the youngest Onalfo admits being the son of a coach has been vital for his development.
"It's been a great experience. I look at the defenders and see what they do so that I can try to do it and improve," said Onalfo. "He taught me a lot of stuff and always helps me. He always tells me what I need to improve on so it's a great experience."
In an interview with the local media, LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena confirmed his statements to Sirus XM FC radio by specifying Landon Donovan's injury as a bone bruse. However, the LA Galaxy captain's status remains in question for Sunday's game against the San Jose Earthquakes.
On Tuesday afternoon, the club listed Donovan as questionble with a left knee bone bruise for Sunday's match agaisnt San Jose. The Galaxy captain did not participate in training on Tuesday ahead of the club's off day on Wednesday, taking part in gym work for the second consecutive day this week. When questioned by reporters, Arena stated that Donovan's injury was a "not a long term injury" but a "short term" one and he is "day by day" as they look to evaluate the forward ahead of the San Jose match.
"We're taking it a day at a time with Landon, and were hopeful that he’ll be back in the near future," said Arena. "You never know with those things, you’ve got to get scans done and get a doctor's opinion."
Arena went on to state that he had only recently been made aware of the specificity of the injury, but was not in a rush to reveal the details.
"There was no rush. We had no game, right? The national team gave their opinion, and we took our time and evaluated him and didn't rush to any kind of judgment and haven’t so we'll just see," said Arena. " These things, you never know what they're like, but we don’t think that it’s anything that critical where we need to be giving notices on the hour on his condition."
International Roundup: Keane starts, Wilhelmsson sits and Keat makes his longest international appearance
Four of the five LA Galaxy players on International Duty participated for their respective nations on Tuesday.
In the first match of the day, Dan Keat made his longest international appearance to date, making a 24 minute stint as a substitute in New Zealand's commanding 3-0 victory over Tahiti. Meanwhile in Europe, Robbie Keane started and had a few dangerous chances while going 81 minutes for Ireland in their 4-1 victory over The Faroe Islands while Jose Villarreal and Javan Torre started for the United States Under-20's in their 3-2 victory over the Azerbaijan Under-21's to clinch the Marbella Cup.
The lone player not to feature was Christian Wilhelmsson did not appear for Sweden in their dramatic 4-4 tie with Germany.
Photo by Robert Mora/LA Galaxy
CARSON, Calif. -- It's impossible not to notice LA Galaxy Under-18 forward Justin Dhillon on the soccer field.
The 17-year-old Dhillon stands an imposing 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds and has become well-known throughout the youth soccer level for his mix of size, speed and ball skills. In four Development Academy matches this season, Dhillon is the second leading goal scorer on the team -- behind Jack McBean who has four -- including one open the scoring of Sunday's 3-1 victory over the Chivas USA U-18s. Throughout Dhillon's youth career, the forward has racked up honors including being placed on the U.S. Soccer Development Academy First XI for 2010-2011 season while the wide forward from Rancho Santa Margarita was at the Galaxy's Under-16 level.
According to Top Drawer Soccer, Dhillon has committed Cal Poly in the fall and will begin his college career in San Luis Obispo, but Galaxy U-18 head coach Eddie Soto believes that if he continues his development, the forward could grow to even greater heights.
"Justin is such a dynamic player," said Soto. "With his physical attributes, with his size and how good is with his feet. I think that the biggest challenge that he needs to overcome is his consistency. When he’s on, the kid is very special and it’s one thing that we’re working on in training is demand more from him in training every day. I think that will carry over when he plays…It’s a process and for him, it’s day by day."
Below Dhillon describes himself as a player and his attributes...
DHILLON: "I play outside wing [forward] and my strength is that I'm fast and that I'm able to dribble past people a lot. The last couple of years, I've been a goalscorer, scoring quite a few goals."
(On using his size as an outside forward...)
DHILLON: "When people see me and I say that I'm a forwawrd, they always say, 'oh, he's a center forward and a target guy," but they always end up putting me back on the wing again because that's my best spot and where I grew up playing."
(On his future...)
DHILLON: "We'll see what happens in the future. I've been playing well right now, but hopefully, I'll be in the big stadium one day...college is always an option, but ultimately my dream is to be a professional."