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02 March 5:07 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy wrapped up their preparations for Sunday’s regular season opener against the Chicago Fire with a lively training session on Saturday morning.

After a successful preseason that saw the club go 5-1-1, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena believes that his club is itching for the season to start.

“We’re looking forward to the game,” said Arena. “We’ve certainly had enough of preseason at this point. We’ve been together five weeks so it’s time to play the games that count…We’re prepared. We have to deal with the ring ceremony beforehand so we have to be good and focused and have the right kind of concentration. We have to understand that it is part of the day, and rightfully so, and then get on with the business of getting ready for kick off.”

They’ll open the season against a Chicago side that is coming off a successful season in 2012 that saw the Fire get knocked out by the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Houston Dynamo in a Knockout Round match. If the Fire are to return to the postseason, it will be in large part due to an organized back four that is headlined by 2012 Rookie of the Year centerback Austin Berry.

“They’re a disciplined team with their block of six in defending,” said Galaxy forward Mike Magee. “You got to be patient. They’re not going to come out of their block of six so you have to be patient. We have to pass well and if we get a chance early then we have to finish it so we can make them lose their shape.”

Meanwhile, for centerback Omar Gonzalez, the focus will be on slowing their attack—particularly forward Sherjill MacDonald who scored four goals in 14 appearances for the Fire in 2012.

“He likes to sit on the line and threaten behind you so we have to be aware of where he is. If they bring Maicon Santos in then we have to be aware of his left foot,” said Gonzalez. “They’re going to be really confident and move the ball around, but like I’ve said in years past, it’s about how we start the game and our mentality because if all those things are right then it’s highly probable that we’ll win the game.”

A couple of notes...

*Tommy Meyer was back at training on Saturday and spoke to reporters to provide an update on his recovery. The second-year defender told reporters that he began running for the first time on Saturday as he concentrates on improving his fitness. 

*Chandler Hoffman trained with the club for the first time on Saturday.

"The Galaxy formally announced the signings of SuperDraft selections Charlie Rugg and Greg Cochrane.

*The Galaxy will receive their championship rings prior to Sunday's game. More information on the rings can be found here.

02 March 3:26 pm

CARSON, Calif. – When the LA Galaxy take the field against the Chicago Fire on Sunday, they’ll have a new captain for the first time since the 2009 season as Robbie Keane takes over for Landon Donovan. 

Keane’s teammates admitted earlier in the week, however, that little change is expected with the Irishman taking possession of the armband for good. The 32-year-old forward has served as the club's vice-captain since the start of the 2012 season and he vows that he'll remain the same type of leader now that he is the face of the franchise.

“Listen, if I can help the franchise and help this team win games and win championships for me, that’s important. Everything else will take care of itself,” said Keane.  “I’m not one of those people that goes home and really thinks too much [about] being on billboards and stuff like that. I’ve been playing for a long time and I know that it is all part of what you do. It’s something that you just take it on board and that’s it.”

When asked to describe his leadership style, Keane admits that he’ll bring plenty of his trademark candor to the role of Galaxy captain.

“It’s about being a leader on the pitch and off the pitch. It’s important to tell people if they’re not doing the job and without being captain, I’m that person anyways. I like people around me to do better and be better. I only do it to help the team and help the players around me become better players,” said Keane. “For me, the most important thing is that people respect you and look up to you. I’m not one of those these people that will go behind people’s backs, if I’ve got something to say then I will say it straight to their face. If you don’t like it, I don’t really give a [expletive] to be honest with you.

“I’ve been in teams since I was 17 that had a lot of big players who gave me bollocks for a few years and it made me a lot stronger and the player that I am now,” added Keane. “You learn [a lot from] these experienced players so if I can help the players then great.”

One place that Keane will certainly help the Galaxy in 2013 will be on the scoresheet as he looks to repeat his impressive goal tally of 23 goals in 37 games across all competitions last season. Although Keane serves as the primary weapon in the Galaxy offense, the Irishman insists LA are not a one man show. And to prove his point, he looks back at the current situation at his previous club Tottenham Hotspur. 

“People are talking about [Tottenham Hotspur left winger] Gareth Bale being a one-man team but even though he’s on fire, he’s got [good] players around him,” said Keane. “I think for me, without the other teammates giving me the chances to score goals, I wouldn’t be half the player that I am.”

As a player and a captain, results take precedent for Keane, but the Irishman hopes that his blunt leadership pays dividends for his teammates.

“They have to get on board,” said Keane. “You’re not doing it to disrespect anybody, you’re doing it to try and help them become better players and maybe in a few years when they look back at their time here, hopefully they can say that I did help them.”

02 March 1:08 pm

CARSON, Calif. – On Sunday, the LA Galaxy will celebrate winning their fourth MLS Cup title, but for all the team’s success on and off the field, Galaxy President Chris Klein believes that greater days are ahead for the club.

At the unveiling of a new sport court for the Carson Boys and Girls Club, I caught up with Klein for a quick chat on the state of the club.

Check it out below...

LA GALAXY INSIDER: “Chris, what is the state of the team heading into the 2013 season?”

KLEIN: “I think the state of the team is very good. It’s not perfect, obviously, we’re still missing Landon, but I think that the preparation that the team has had has been as good as it can get. We have our home opener which we have to deal with then our focus turns to Champions League. Bruce has been very clear is our initial goal in 2013 is to start better than 2012, which seems simple, but it’s something that the team and group is focused on.”

LAGI: You mentioned the CONCACAF Champions League, just how important is that competition for the team as a brand and on the business side?

KLEIN: “It’s important for us as the Galaxy. There’s no brand or business issue, it’s important for us. Our league and the Galaxy have to establish that we are the best league and the Galaxy has the best team in this region. And that includes being able to complete effectively against Mexican clubs, it’s very simple. We have to establish that we can do that.”

LAGI: You’re heading into the first year without David Beckham. How does that change things for the club?

KLEIN: “I don’t know that it changed things a lot. One thing that we realized that as great as an asset as David was, he helped us to realize what the Galaxy could become—a worldwide brand and something that people wanted to see. Now we’ve taken that torch and continued on. We’re confident that the Galaxy’s best days are ahead of us.”

LAGI: Has there been any impact on business side from Beckham’s absence?

KLEIN: “No, there hasn’t. We’ve had very few people that have called in and said that they don’t want to come to our games because David is not there. That’s not a slight against David; it’s more of a good thing for the Galaxy. People come out to see the Galaxy and to see us win. David was instrumental in helping us win two championships back to back and I think that is where his greatest contribution was.”

LAGI: “Handing that the business side is your primary job now, what is the state of the organization on that front?”

KLEIN:  “It’s going very well. Last year, our season ticket holders increased almost 100 percent. We were not where we were supposed to be, but we’re looking to add to that again this year. We have a different approach in terms of relating to the local community. Whether it is [community initiatives] or whether it’s relating to the soccer community or whether it’s getting people to come to our games. We want to create an atmosphere that looks and feels like a soccer game that you can see all over the world."

LAGI: “The club has been very aggressive on the marketing side with an outdoor marking campaign across Southern California. How has that impacted the club?

KLEIN: “It helped. Our intention was to be bold with our marketing. We shouldn’t be shy about who we are and who we want to be and that starts at the top with our ownership group with Tim Leiweke and AEG. We’ve won two championships in a row and our expectation is to keep the level very, very high. We have great backing from our owner and I think that’s where it starts. To be able to go out and market the way we do, to have the players that we have and to have the organization and staff that we have says something about our league and about the Galaxy."

LAGI: “Lastly, what is the discord like between the Galaxy and other organizations about marketing strategies? Do organizations regularly share info on what works in their market with other clubs?

KLEIN: “Absolutely. We can all learn from other organizations. One of the great things about our league is that we’re not too proud to ask for help. If we see something that we think works well, what do they say; imitation is the greatest form of flattery. We’re okay to do that and we’re also very open that if someone sees something that we’re doing that makes sense to them, then we’re happy to share that information with them.” 

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02 March 10:34 am

Ahead of the LA Galaxy's MLS regular season opener against the Chicago Fire, Joe Tutino and Cobi Jones provided a preview of the match in the first edition of "View from Booth" of 2013.

Check it out below...

02 March 9:24 am

Jose Villarreal did not feature due to an ankle injury, but the U.S. Under-20’s qualified for the final of the CONCACAF U-20 Championships on Friday with a 2-0 victory over Cuba.  Waiting for the U.S. in the final on Sunday will be defending champion Mexico who defeated El Salvador 2-0.

Mario Rodriguez— a former Galaxy Academy member— and Santos Laguna starlet Daniel Cuevas scored three minutes apart as the U.S. blanked the Cubans.  Galaxy Academy product and current UCLA defender Javan Torre got the start in central defense and played a full 90 minutes.

The U.S. will look to win the tournament for the first time ever against a vaunted Mexican side that boasts two American-born players including Mission Hills-native goalkeeper Richard Sanchez and Texas-born midfielder Uvaldo Luna.

01 March 8:18 pm

CARSON, Calif -- Just days before the 2012 MLS Cup, the LA Galaxy Foundation working in tandem with AEG and MLS W.O.R.K.S. pledged to bring a new sport court to the Boys and Girls Club of Carson and two days ahead of the 2013, they delievered. 

Galaxy President Chris Klein, Galaxy players Colin Clark, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant, and LA alumus Clint Mathis were hand as the new court was unveiled to the children of the Boys and Girls Club. Following the unveiling, Mathis led a brief soccer clinic for the members of the program. 

As the Galaxy look to establish a greater foothold in the Southern California community, Klein believes that events like this are vital for the club. 

"These are important for us for a number of reasons. This is the Boys and Girls Club of Carson, which is in our backyard. With the Galaxy Foundation and our club, it's important to invest in the local community around us," said Klein. "We want to give kids an opportunity to grow and have a chance and we feel that learning the sport of soccer is one way that they can do that. Our players are a great positive example of what can happen in a team sport so this is a great avenue for us to show that."

I was on hand for the event and provided a few photos of the presentation. Check that out below. 

01 March 7:31 pm

CARSON, Calif. – One of the larger predicaments facing the LA Galaxy this preseason has been deciding just who would get the start alongside Omar Gonzalez in central defense.  Ahead of the season opener against the Chicago Fire, it seems that two options—Leonardo and A.J. DeLaGarza have risen to the top of the heap.

MLS Cup starter Tommy Meyer has been sidelined with a nagging left hamstring injury leaving Leonardo and DeLaGarza to earn minutes in central defense alongside the U.S. national team defender.  Both have appeared solid, but Leonardo has impressed particularly after missing much of the last two seasons due to the after effects of knee surgery.

However, it is worth nothing that the last time all three were available for the preseason game –LA’s victory over LIGA MX’s Club Tijuana—it was Leonardo who got the start alongside the Brazilian.

When asked if it would be Leonardo starting against the Fire following Friday’s training session, Bruce Arena quickly reiterated that DeLaGarza is another likely option.

“Or A.J.,” the Galaxy boss sharply noted. “Omar and A.J. typically play together in the center, and they're very experienced players, probably been together the last seven, eight years [including time at the University of Maryland]. I think Leo, whenever he's come in and played with Omar or A.J., has done quite well.”

DeLaGarza’s partnership with Gonzalez, which has lasted since their days at the University of Maryland, is well documented, but Leonardo has had his own success when teaming up with Gonzalez. The pair made a pair of brief preseason appearances together against Tijuana and South Korean side Gangwon FC.  Leonardo and Gonzalez also combined 12 times during the 2010 and 2011 seasons with the Galaxy going 6-2-4 in that time.

If Leonardo is the option on Sunday, however, Gonzalez believes that he has complete faith in Leonardo—especially after both recovered from major knee injuries in the past year.

“Leonardo – man, that's another story similar to mine, maybe a little worse than mine,” said Gonzalez. “Two years to come back, and what a story that is. He's just been playing really well lately, he's been showing that he's fit, he's ready to step on the field, and everyone's more than happy to have him out there.

“I've only been paired up with him [during] a couple of [preseason] games here and there, but it was just the way it was before he got hurt,” said Gonzalez. “[Leonardo’s addition] adds a lot more depth, it gives you the opportunity to maybe rotate more guys, because everybody's a solid defender, everybody has quality. You can move A.J. to right back or keep him as center back. You just have a lot more options.”

01 March 1:26 pm

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy bolstered their attacking depth on Friday by acquiring Chandler Hoffman from the Philadelphia Union in exchange for a conditional selection in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.

The 13th overall selection in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft out of UCLA, Hoffman made seven appearances for the Union in his only season for the club while being reduced to a reserve role.  Although he struggled for time in Philadelphia, Hoffman was prolific for the Bruins as he scored 29 goals and 10 assists in his three years in Westwood.

Following training on Friday, Arena admitted that Hoffman should bolster the Galaxy’s forward depth, but the Galaxy boss “doubts” he’ll be on the bench come Sunday’s season opener against the Chicago Fire.

 “He’s a good young player and we’ve known him from his UCLA days. He’s a young promising player, but we need to get him into our team and see if we can move him along as a player,” said head coach Bruce Arena. “We always look around for young promising players and he’s a guy that we’re familiar with.  There’s no given with anything, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fits into our environment on a daily basis and hopefully, he’s player that we can move him along well to help our team.”

Hoffman’s teammate at UCLA, LA third goalkeeper Brian Rowe believes that his college teammate could do big things at The Home Depot Center.

“It’ll be great. He has a knack for the goal and he gets into good spots so with good players like Robbie [Keane], once Gyasi [Zardes] gets back, he’ll be a good threat," said Rowe. "He considers L.A. to be his second home after going to UCLA and I think he’ll be happy and motivated to do well.

“He’s always one to stay late and put in the time to do work and improve himself. He’s one that always wants to keep learning,” Rowe added. “It’ll be a good personality to have around the locker room.”

Hoffman will become the fifth Galaxy forward under the age of 23—joining Jack McBean (18), Charlie Rugg (22), Jose Villarreal (19), and Gyasi Zardes (21) –  but Arena doesn’t believe that “stockpiling” is the right term for what LA’s actions.

“I don’t know if that’s the right term. I hope that eventually, it becomes the right term for the description of these players,” said Arena. “They haven’t tasted a whole lot of success yet so we have to see. Hopefully down the road, they’re going to be players who are very important for the Galaxy.” 

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01 March 11:52 am

LOS ANGELES – Gyasi Zardes is still at least a month away from returning to the training ground, but the LA Galaxy Homegrown forward recently spoke to reporters to provide a progress report for his recovery.

The 21-year-old Homegrown signing underwent surgery in early February after cracking the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. On Wednesday, Zardes was spotted on crutches and a walking boot –which he has been wearing nearly three weeks – during LA’s unveiling of their new second kit at The GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE.  There is currently no timeline for his return, but Zardes says he will undergo further X-rays in two weeks and hopes to return sometime in April.

Prior to his injury, Zardes appeared in two preseason games, but a sudden freak issue forced him to the sidelines. 

“I came into camp and I felt fine, but on certain days, I felt a pain. In one practice, I felt a throbbing pain and I got it checked out, it turns out it was a hairline fracture and I didn’t even know it,” said Zardes. “I think it was the shoes that I was running in that had a bad arch…over time it got worse and worse.  But at least, I still got to nip it in the bud before it got worse.”

However, Zardes is doing what he can to keep his spirits up, particularly conversing with teammate Kenney Walker who endured a similar injury this preseason, albeit on his right foot, just prior to Zardes.

“I’m asking him for questions because he’s a genius at it since he’s went through everything I’m going through two weeks ahead of me,” said Zardes. “I’m constantly asking him questions every time I see him.”

Just when Zardes will return to the training ground remains to be seen, but the forward is keeping his spirits high.

“It really helps me look at the big picture because obviously, I’m a college kid and I’m anxious to get on the field, but this has helped me be mellow and stay humble,” said Zardes. “It’s a long season as they say…I’m thinking short term, but they’re thinking long term.”

01 March 8:37 am

The LA Galaxy added to their stable of young forwards on Friday by acquiring Chandler Hoffman from the Philadelphia Union.

LA acquired the 13th overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft for a 2014 conditional MLS SuperDraft pick. Hoffman, 22, was a star forward at UCLA, but made just seven regular season appearances for the Union in 2012, seeing substantial time in Reserve League matches.

At UCLA, Hoffman was one of college game’s most lethal strikers, scoring 29 goals in three years with the Bruins.  Hoffman is now the fifth Galaxy striker under the age of 23, joining 18-year-old Jack McBean, 22-year-old Charlie Rugg, 19-year-old Jose Villarreal, and 21-year-old Gyasi Zardes.

The former UCLA star is scheduled to arrive in Southern California on Friday and train with the club on Friday per a club release.

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