CARSON, Calif. – Parity in MLS is nothing new, and despite the LA Galaxy’s early season struggles, the club is in striking distance of the top spot in MLS. However, as close as LA are to the league summit, they’re just as close to falling out of the five Western Conference playoff berths.
Currently just seven points separate the Western Conference’s best club Real Salt Lake (34 points) from the sixth team in the West, the Colorado Rapids (27 points). LA sits in the thick of the race just four behind RSL, but three ahead of the Rapids.
“It shows that there’s a lot of parity and no one is running away with it in this league, but you could look at it in two ways—yes, we’re four points out, but we’re also a couple points of being out of the playoffs,” said defender Todd Dunivant. “It could go either way. It’s encouraging on one hand, but we know that there’s a lot of heat coming from behind us as well. Seattle has games in hand and other teams have games in hand as well. It’s close all the way around.”
Should a couple of results go LA’s way this week then the Galaxy will inch ever closer to the top of the table. If LA defeats Portland on Saturday and second place FC Dallas defeat RSL then the Galaxy would sit just a single point back of the conference lead.
“It could go that way or we could be down seven again,” says Dunivant. “It’s tight and it’s going to be tight. We just want to keep collecting points and keep moving up the table. Obviously, the top three is our ultimate goal. We’d love to [have] the Supporters’ Shield, I think that anyone would, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We just want to keep moving up the table, keep getting points, and we’ll talk about that stuff as we get down to the last few games of the season.”
Dunivant admits that while he does watch the standings, he won’t allow LA’s placement to distract him or the team.
“We've been through it enough and we know that top three is the most important thing,” said Dunivant. “Obviously, seeding matters, but at this point we're just over half way through the season and there’s such a long way to go that to talk about that stuff would be foolish at this point.”
CARSON, Calif. – Former Chivas USA midfielder Laurent Courtois continued to train with the LA Galaxy and following Thursday's session, Galaxy head coach and general manager Bruce Arena offered his take on what he's seen from the versatile Frenchman.
“Nothing that I don’t already know, I've seen him for a number of years with Chivas,” said Arena. “He’s a good player.”
As for whether or not Courtois could earn a deal with the Galaxy, Arena said that no decision has been made right now.
“It remains to be seen. We’ll see if this continues,” Arena said. “It is open right now and at some point, it’ll end with a determination.”
Montreal's Marco Di Vaio defeats Robbie Keane in MLS All-Star "In the Game" race for final spot on Fan XI
Montreal Impact forward Marco Di Vaio defeated LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane in the AT&T MLS All-Star ‘In the Game’ Challenge’ to lock down the final spot in the MLS All-Star Fan XI, the league announced on Thursday.
Fans utilizing the Impact forward scored 73,838 goals through FIFA Soccer 13, which outpaced the other 26 eligible players. According to the release, Keane finished second to Di Vaio with 69,797 goals.
In total, more than 480,000 goals were scored by fans.
Remember, this doesn’t mean that Keane can’t make the All-Star team as he can still be selected through player voting or as a commissioner’s selection.
A former Academy coach with Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake, Muñoz has also spent time as an assistant coach with Chivas and the U.S. Under-15 national team.
On Wednesday, I spoke to Muñoz about his new position and how his move to the Galaxy came about.
My conversation with the new LA Galaxy Academy coach is below…
LA GALAXY INSIDER: (On how his move from Chivas USA materialized…)
MUNOZ: “[Galaxy Academy Director Pete Vagenas] approached Chivas to begin to have conversations with me, and obviously, Chivas granted permission to have those conversations. I knew Pete from years of playing [in MLS], but when he gave me a phone call and we met, the reality is that the opportunity was too good to pass up. I’m very excited about Pete being the Academy Director. I loved his vision for this club and where he wants to take the academy, especially with the full support of [Galaxy head coach and general manager] Bruce Arena and [LA Technical Director] Jovan Kirovski. It was a no-brainer after that.”
LAGI: (On what he might have gained from working with Chivas…)
MUNOZ: “When I originally came over from Salt Lake, I was able to work with the first team under former [Chivas USA] coaches Robin Fraser and Greg Vanney for almost two years. That experience at the first team level and being able to bring it back to the kids, such as what it takes to be a professional, is the biggest thing that I got out of it.”
LAGI: (On what the past season was like with Chivas…)
MUNOZ: “100 percent, this [past season] was the hardest challenge of my young coaching career. My number one priority was to protect my players and the academy players from everything that was happening on the outside, and just making sure that we focused on our objectives and goals to further their development as we had done over the past two years. I think that I did a pretty good job of that, but at the same time, it was very challenging.”
LAGI: (You say that you protected the players, what does that mean?)
MUNOZ: “I just told them to try and stay focused, and not worry about what is happening with the first team or Academy Director [Teddy Chronopoulos] getting fired. [I told them] just to make sure that they were focused on their own development and our team. For the most part, we did a good job by getting to the playoffs and winning the Southwest conference. We fell short [of an Academy title], but I think for the most part, everyone is going to walk away a better person and better player.”
LAGI: (On how the Academy will change under Peter Vagenas and how he plans to help…)
MUNOZ: “Listen, first and foremost, our number one objective is to produce players for the first team, and produce players for Bruce’s eyes—players that can jump right in immediately and contribute. Everything that Bruce does with his staff will be implemented all the way down to the Academy. At the same time, our academy teams need to have an identity for themselves as well. Pete’s vision is to create this top-to-bottom unification of style, systems and all that kind of stuff. Like I said, our number one objective is producing not only a good player for the first team, but also a good human being.”
LAGI: (On his thoughts on the Galaxy Academy after being an outsider…)
MUNOZ: “One of the biggest reasons why I came over was because the Galaxy, in my opinion, is the best and biggest club in the country with the best talent pool in Southern California. It’s only a matter of time before we’re going to blow this thing up and really become the dominant force in the Development Academy out of all the clubs in MLS.”
LAGI: (On how he changes the Galaxy’s reputation of a “recruiting” academy…)
MUNOZ: “Listen, it’s a process. It starts all the way to our affiliate clubs with our younger kids, U-12’s, and making it go all the way up. From what I hear and what I see, our 10 and 11-year-olds that we’re starting through this system are very exciting. Our U-14’s are one of the best teams in the country, so listen, it’s a process and it’s going to take time to see the fruits of our labor. But we’re starting to scratch the surface of what the potential could be.”
LAGI: (On any interesting players that he sees on the roster…)
MUNOZ: “Haji Wright is a kid who has been part of the U-15 national team and a kid that I got to work with on national team camps. He really has a bright future and I would say that he’s the most exciting player that I can think of right now.”
LAGI: (On whether he’ll stay active in the U.S. Under-15 National Team…)
MUNOZ: “That’s only a part time job with camps and tournaments. As far as I know, I’ll continue to work with that. The club is very supportive of me working with the national team, so that will continue.”
LAGI: (On his growth over the past few years…)
MUNOZ: “Making this move finally is what I’ve always envisioned, what I’ve always wanted, and what always strived for in my career. Coming to the Galaxy there is going to be more growth in my development as a coach. Whether it’s working with the U-23’s or the reserves or other opportunities to be a part of the first team down the road, was very intriguing for my move. It’s been a rapid increase in my career and I’ve learned a lot along the way and I’ve had a lot of important mentors as well. I’ve just tried to learn from all the positive and negative experiences, and I know that will continue here as well.”
The 2014 AT&T MLS All-Star Game is heading to Portland
MLS announced on Wednesday that Portland's JELD-WEN Field will host the 2014 MLS All-Star Game, marking the first time that the game has been played in Cascadia.
“The Portland Timbers and their passionate fans have certainly earned the honor of hosting the 2014 AT&T MLS All-Star Game,” said Commissioner Don Garber in a statement. “This match will showcase to an international audience the incredible devotion to the game in the Pacific Northwest that serves as one of the most important stories for our league.”
The game is still a year away, but are you planning to make the trip to Portland for the match?
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Landon Donovan added another page to the U.S. Soccer history book on Tuesday when he became the first U.S. player to tally 50 goals and 50, after tallying one goal and two assists during the Americans 6-1 victory over Belize in the opening match of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Donovan notched his 50th assist when he fired a pinpoint cross to Stuart Holden that gave the Americans a 4-1 lead in the 58th minute. The Galaxy midfielder notched his 51st assist just 14 minutes later when he provided a helper on Michael Orozco Fiscal’s finish. Donovan wasn’t the only star on the night as San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski scored his first hat trick of his international career with three goals in the first half.
In the 78th minute, Donovan put the capper on the night for the Americans with a penalty kick goal that gives him 52 goals and 51 assists in his 146 appearances with the U.S. National Team.
The U.S. returns to action on July 13 against Cuba at Rio Tinto Stadium in their second match in Group C.
CARSON, Calif. – Three LA Galaxy players are off to train with Swedish side Hammarby, but that doesn’t mean that a certain player currently in Sweden whose rights LA own is on his way to StubHub Center.
The Galaxy obtained the rights to Hammarby midfielder Baggio Hušidić last month from the Colorado Rapids as part of a deal that sent Pablo Mastroeni to LA, in exchange for an international roster spot and a second round draft choice. A former member of the Chicago Fire, Hušidić has made nine appearances for Hammarby this season, but hasn't appeared in a match for the Swedish Superettan club since May.
Technical Director Jovan Kirovski touched on Hušidić's during my interview with him on Tuesday and noted that no move was imminent.
“Right now, the [three players] are going over to train, so no,” said Kirovski when asked if Hušidić could be on his way to LA as part of the training stint. “We have the rights to him, and that could happen in the future, but this is just about these kids.”
CARSON, Calif. – Three LA Galaxy youngsters began a European excursion on Monday.
Bryan Gaul, Charlie Rugg, and Kenney Walker began training with Swedish Superettan side Hammarby this week as they look to gain European experience. The trio has been used sparingly by LA this season and the opportunity to train in Europe provides them with a different type of experience for their young careers. Rugg and Walker have already begun their training and can be seen here training with the club on Tuesday alongside new signing and former New York Red Bulls forward Luke Rodgers.
I spoke to LA Galaxy club President Chris Klein on Sunday prior to the club’s 2-0 victory over FC Dallas about the move. Klein currently sits on the board of directors at Hammarby and also played alongside former Galaxy center back and current Hammarby head coach Gregg Berhalter.
My conversation with Klein is below...
LA GALAXY INSIDER: (On your thoughts on the three players training with Hammarby…)
KLEIN: “I think from a general standpoint, we're always looking to do more with [Hammarby]. We feel that it’s a good place for our players to develop. I think if you look at MLS and you look at where Hammarby is in Sweden, it becomes ripe for someone like Kenney Walker, Bryan Gaul, and Charlie Rugg to get valuable experience. The three of those players are in positions of need for Hammarby, but initially, [they're] going over to train. They’re going over so Gregg can take a look. We're constantly looking to get a better idea of how the level over there compares to the level over here, so we can do more stuff with them in the end.”
LAGI: (Is this a trial?)
KLEIN: “I wouldn't say that it is a trial. It’s a trial for us more than it is specifically for those three players. Gregg knows them, he’s seen film on them, but yeah, in the end, it’s a good opportunity for these players to get a new experience for a couple of weeks and see how they do.”
LAGI: (Would you explore the possibility of a loan…)
KLEIN: “That’s the conversations that we're going to have at the end of two weeks - if there is a possibility possibly to loan one, two or all of those players there where they can get better minutes and move themselves along to further their development. From a Galaxy standpoint, we don’t feel that just playing in MLS Reserve League games as they are right now, is enough to move our players along. Possibly next year if we have a USL team that is playing on a regular basis with a little extra pressure there, but this is a team that is fighting for promotion at Hammarby. There’s pressure there, we feel the level is very high, we know the coach, and we can montior the progress of these players. From Hammarby’s point of view, they need a little bit more quality in the team and [they're] constantly searching for that quality. They signed a forward that used to play in MLS to play at Hammarby [Rodgers], so they're looking to get a little more quality at a few different positions, which specifically Bryan, Kenney, and Charlie play.”
Thoughts on Klein's comments?
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CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy are just four points out of the lead for the MLS Supporters’ Shield.
Let that sink in just a little bit. Done? Okay.
For all of LA’s struggles—poor results against San Jose, Chivas USA, and New York Red Bulls come to mind right off the bat—they are within striking distance of MLS leaders Real Salt Lake. The Galaxy continued their rise up the standings on Sunday with their victory with a comprehensive win over FC Dallas that sealed their second straight victory and their third in four games.
Following the victory, I asked different members of the Galaxy to reflect on the club’s proximity to the top of the table.
Thoughts from Bruce Arena, Marcelo Sarvas, Hector Jimenez, and Robbie Rogers are below…
ARENA: “I try to tell you guys that you have to be a little bit patient. Hopefully we can position ourselves first of all to be in the playoffs and second of all, to challenge in the conference for the first spot. But there is a lot of soccer ahead, but we need to be patient and grow along the way. Hopefully we're doing this at the right time.”
SARVAS: “That’s our target. When you play for the Galaxy, you have to fight for first position. Our target has been first place and we're going to run for it.”
JIMENEZ: “Hopefully. It’s a long season and some of the teams are dying right now. Hopefully, we can creep up and get back to the top. We talked about this being a six point game and it was really important for us.”
ROGERS: “It’s crazy, isn't it? To think that some of the other games would have gone our way like San Jose or some of the other games, we could have been on top already. You learn your lessons and you grow as a team during the season. I think that builds character.”
Think the Galaxy can reach the league summit?
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After overcoming late fitness test, Robbie Keane takes MLS assist lead with stellar showing against FC Dallas
CARSON, Calif. – Another game and another impressive performance by LA Galaxy captain Robbie Keane.
A threat seemingly each time that he touched the ball, Keane notched two assists and set up several more scoring chances as the Galaxy won their second straight on Sunday with a 2-0 victory over FC Dallas. The two assists give Keane eight on the year, which is a league-high. The performance sealed quite a week for Keane, who scored two goals and two assists in two matches last week
However, Keane nearly missed out on LA's clash with Dallas, but passed a late fitness test in order to start on Sunday.
“I had a swollen knee so I had to get fluid taken out yesterday in the hospital,” said Keane. “It was kind of touch-and-go before the game, so I’ve come along way the last two days to get myself fit. Lucky enough I felt 80 percent.”
Although his status was in doubt, Galaxy boss Bruce Arena admits that it would take quite a blow to keep his captain off the field.
“He took a blow in a game against Columbus on Thursday and he was a last minute decision whether he could play tonight and you can see that he’s the last guy that’s not going to play,” said Arena.
He’d have to be in real bad shape not to play. So, his competitiveness, his hunger to play and to win is contagious.”
As for the league assist lead, just what did Keane think when he found out?
“Thanks for telling me. I don’t really sit and look at it to be honest with you,” said Keane. “As long as we win the championship at the end, I don’t care to be honest with you. It’s always nice, I like setting up goals so it’s always pleasant. I think the position where I play I like to score goals but I think certainly I also like to set up goals as well.”