Beat

03 August 2:24 pm

Dodger Stadium has been transformed from a baseball stadium into a soccer pitch ahead of Saturday’s Guinness International Champions Cup matches.

Earlier, I spoke with Dodger groundskeeper Eric Hanson on the preparation of getting Dodger Stadium ready for soccer.

My interview with him is below...

(On how the grounds crew began the conversion…)

HANSON: “We started immediately after the Yankees/Dodgers game on Wednesday at 10:45 p.m.. We spent three hours doing what we needed to do to prep the field for the sod that was installed early on Thursday morning. From that point on, we did detail work and looked at the grass closely, and then attended to anything that we think might help. Now the lines have been painted and the goals have come in, so it is completely set up.”

(On how the reconfiguration was done…)

HANSON: “It mostly involves how we handle the dirt portions of the field because those areas had to be resodded, so to make that work we had to do some work on the skin areas and remove some of the material so the sod will transition nicely. The field runs over the pitcher’s mound and we did have to remove that, so it will have to be rebuilt prior to the Dodgers coming back in town next Friday.”

(On the challenges for the reconfiguration…)

HANSON: “The whole objective is that we want it to be as good as surface as we can possibly provide. We obviously have time constraints and we have to get it back in shape for the Dodgers on the following Friday, so we do the best that we can in the amount of time that we have. Our goal is to make that field as well play as well as it can.”

(On how long it’ll take to return the stadium to baseball shape…)

HANSON: “It won’t take much time to get that turf off. The sod company will come in and remove it. Then we have to bring the dirt that we took out and put that in on all the places. Also, we have to rebuild the pitcher’s mound. We’ll spend till next Thursday working on that and doing our detail work to get it back in shape.”

(On what it means for Dodger Stadium to host two soccer matches…)

HANSON: “It’s a new challenge for us. This is what we do. This is why the grounds crew is here and it’s not uncommon. Football has been played in baseball stadiums for many years and that’s a conversion that used to occur all the time. Soccer is no different; it’s just a different type of conversion. It’s just a new challenge for us and that’s how we view it. We’re anxious to see how it all works out, and hopefully, we can do it again.” 

03 August 1:56 pm

CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan wasn’t the only U.S. National Team star that the LA Galaxy welcomed back to the fold on Friday as defender Omar Gonzalez returned from his brief stint with the U.S. and MLS All-Star team.

Gonzalez went 45 minutes in the MLS All-Stars defeat to AS Roma, but only made a brief shift in the closing stages of the U.S. Gold Cup Final victory over Panama. The Galaxy defender is expected to be in action on Saturday.

“I’m happy to be back in L.A., I’m looking forward to being back with the Galaxy,” said Gonzalez. “I’m looking forward to these games, finding a way to improve as a team, and get ready for the second half of the season.”

Juventus will the second Italian team that Gonzalez faces in a week after his shift against Roma.  But even though the chance to face some of the top teams from around the globe is enjoyable, Gonzalez admits that his focus is simply on improving for the stretch run.

“It’s an opportunity for us to face teams from overseas, and not just any teams, but some of the world’s best teams,” said Gonzalez. “It’s a great experience for all of us, and I think that this is a chance for us to tune ourselves up for the second half of the season.”

02 August 6:19 pm

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Brian Rowe got the chance that many goalkeepers have sought out—and dreaded—a chance to field a shot from Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. But unlike goalkeepers before him, Rowe held firm as he denied the star three times during LA’s 3-1 defeat to the Spanish giants.

Despite filling in for Carlo Cudicini, who traveled but did not dress, Rowe did well against the Spaniards as he repeatedly made big saves in the LA defeat.

As for the chance to face Ronaldo? Rowe admitted that there was nothing to it.

“It wasn’t different. You just find yourself in the moment and react to it,” said Rowe. “Once you start thinking about who you’re going up against then it gives them advantage. You just react. It’s all natural stuff.”

A video of Rowe speaking to the media after the Madrid match is below...

02 August 5:59 pm

CARSON, Calif. – Carlo Cudicini may get the opportunity to face off against one of the giants of Italian soccer on Saturday at Dodger Stadium—but only if he can complete a fitness test.

Cudicini had been scheduled to play a half against Real Madrid on Thursday, but a back issue suffered in training on Wednesday caused the goalkeeper to miss out on the match against the Spaniards.  If he does return to action on Saturday, he’ll face a side loaded with his countrymen.

“It's always nice to play against your own — some of them — old mates, and it's always good to speak a little bit of Italian,” said Cudicini, who started his career with AC Milan, the same club that his father played for. “I'm an AC Milan supporter, so, of course, Juventus and Inter Milan are the two big rivals. And Juventus is a great club, especially in Italy. They've won so many titles, have got such a great history. It's a game that's always nice to play.”

As for his fitness, however, that remains in flux—meaning that backup 'keeper Brian Rowe may be given his second start in three days if Cudicini is unable to go.

 “I feel it's better. I don't know, we'll see tomorrow, if it improves a little bit more, then it will maybe again be the 45 [minutes] each,” Cudicini said. “Of course, you hope to, but you want to be sure you're 100 percent OK.

"You don't want to risk, first of all because at the end of the day, these are important games for us, but what you're looking for is the [next MLS] game against Dallas [on Aug. 11],” Cudicini added. “You want to be sure you're ready for that game.”

02 August 3:54 pm

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Pablo Mastroeni reunion tour made its latest stop on Thursday when the 36-year-old midfielder returned to his childhood home of Arizona.

In front of more than 50 friends and family, Mastroeni went 45 minutes in the Galaxy’s 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in Guinness International Championship Cup play.  For Mastroeni, who left Arizona as a teenager of 17 to pursue his soccer career, the chance to play in his home state was an emotional experience.

“Playing in front of friends and family is always awesome,” said Mastroeni. “I had high school buddies; I had elementary school buddies, the extended family, and in-laws. The list goes on and on, but it was awesome…It was good to be out there and play probably my last game in front of the Phoenix crowd.”

However, playing in front of family and friends wasn’t the only exciting part as the midfielder enjoyed the chance to test himself against the Spanish giants.

“I don’t know what their payroll looks like, but I’m sure it’s a little bit more expensive than ours. Just world class players that you watch day in and day out, so to play against these guys doesn’t get old,” said Mastroeni. “Each and every opportunity that you get is an opportunity to measure yourself and [ask yourself] if I would have done alright overseas if I had gone over at a younger age.

“I think that we did a really good job of competing and making these guys play outside their comfort zone,” Mastroeni added. “I think their class showed when they were able to break and score goals, but it was a great game to be a part of, and hopefully, something that we can build on.”

Although Mastroeni has enjoyed getting a chance to spend time with scores of family and friends over the past two weeks, he’s ready for his life to return to normal.

“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster, I’m ready to get off this thing and get some type of normalcy in my life, but that comes with the territory because professional sports are crazy,” said Mastroeni. “It always finds a way to make stories out of this, for me, I’m glad that in a week or two, we’ll get back to a somewhat normal schedule and get back into league.”

However, before that happens, the Mastroeni reunion tour will make one final stop next week in Miami, the place where Mastroeni began his MLS career 16-years-ago with the now defunct Miami Fusion.

01 August 9:33 pm

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The LA Galaxy gave a fair account of themselves as Real Madrid defeated the two-time defending MLS Cup champions 3-1 in front of 38,922 at University of Phoenix Stadium. 

Madrid opened the scoring just 15 minutes in when Angel Di Maria found the back of the net of a pass from Cristiano Ronaldo. After the goal, the Galaxy held the Spanish giants going into the half down just one, but Madrid doubled their lead in the 52nd when Karim Benzema found the back of the net. However, the Galaxy pulled one back in 63rd minute from a wonder strike by Jose Villarreal.

Madrid pulled it to three in the 74th minute when Benzema completed his brace. 

The Galaxy will now face Juventus at Dodger Stadium on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Madrid will take on Everton in the early match of the doubleheader at Dodger Stadium. 

A video of Jose Villarreal's wonder goal is below...

01 August 2:37 pm

The LA Galaxy will take on Real Madrid for the fourth straight season on Thursday evening at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Even though the Galaxy have made a match against Los Merengues an annual event, they admit that the match is just as special as it was the first time.

“It doesn’t get old. They’re one of the best teams in the world. You never miss a chance to play in these games and this will be a fun ne,” said defender Todd Dunivant, who scored against Madrid in 2010. “I think that you have nothing to lose so you get to compete and test yourself against the highest level, and Real Madrid certainly qualifies as that. I remember being back in college when you got to play against MLS teams, that was your chance to raise your level and try to raise your game, and the same is kind of true playing Madrid. It’s fun, it’s good experience for guys, and we’re making sure that they know that you have to have a good competitive attitude.”

As for LA’s history against Real? Thursday’s match will be the fifth time that the Galaxy have played against them and the first outside of Southern California.  

2005: Real Madrid defeats LA Galaxy 2-0 on goals from Michael Owen and Roberto Salgado at The Home Depot Center.

2010: Real Madrid defeats LA Galaxy 3-2 at the Rose Bowl. LA take a first half lead with goals from Dunivant and Landon Donovan before Madrid roars back in the second half with a brace from Gonzalo Higuain and a goal from Xabi Alonso.

2011: Real Madrid defeats LA Galaxy 4-1 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Jose Callejon, Joselu, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Karim Benzema tallied for Madrid.Adam Cristman scored the lone goal for LA. 

2012: Real Madrid 5-1 LA Galaxy at The Home Depot Center. Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Jose Callejon, Alvaro Morata, and Jese scored for Madrid. David Junior Lopes scored the only goal for the Galaxy

01 August 12:39 pm

LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez scored stoppage time of the MLS All-Stars' 3-1 defeat to Italian giants AS Roma, but it was expansion news that stole the show in Kansas City.

At halftime of the match, MLS Commissioner Don Garber revealed that the league will be looking to expand to 24 teams by 2020. In the interview, he also revealed that the league won't be looking to move any teams either. 

Which cities could be in line to get an MLS club? Well, the Orlando City franchise is considered a frontrunner and former Galaxy midfielder David Beckham has been linked to a team in Miami.  As for the other two spots, well there are a host of options ranging from Sacramento, San Antonio, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and even a second team in New York City. 

Video of Gonzalez's goal is below. Also comment about which cities deserve expansion sides in the comment section.

01 August 10:54 am

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Real Madrid has released their travel roster for the team that will face the LA Galaxy on Thursday.

There are a few notable players missing on the squad as Madrid will be without Spanish internationals Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa as well as Brazilian international Marcelo and French defender Raphaël Varane.

The Real Madrid squad list for the match is below

Goalkeepers: Diego López, Jesús,  Tomás Mejías

Defenders: Pepe, Daniel Carvajal, Nacho Fernandez, David Mateos, Jorge Casado

Midfielders: Khedira, Özil, Kaká, Luka Modric, Angel Di María, Isco, Casemiro,  Denis Cheryshev

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Alvaro Morata

01 August 9:34 am

In the lead up to Saturday's Guinness International Championship Cup match at Dodger Stadium, Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo threw out the first pitch -- and well, the second one -- at Wednesday's game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees. 

During his time at Chavez Ravine, Ronaldo bonded with Dodgers star Yasiel Puig, which was profiled all over social media. Whereas people who typically throw out the first pitch don a Dodgers uniform and a cap, Ronaldo was clad in his Madrid best with his iconic finely trimmed hair totally immaculate. 

Check out Ronaldo's first and second attempts below. Did he get a strike?