03 November 4:20 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- Landon Donovan knows the intricacies of the California Clasico, perhaps, more than any other player or coach in MLS. 

From 2001 to 2003, Donovan was a thorn in the Galaxy's side as a member of the San Jose Earthquakes, leading the Quakes to two MLS Cup titles in 2001 -- scoring in San Jose's 2-1 defeat of the Galaxy -- and 2003. When the U.S. International joined the Galaxy in 2004, the script was flipped as Donovan began terrorizing his former club, time and time again. Perhaps no moment was more distinctive than in 2005, when he helped LA eliminate the Supporters' Shield winning San Jose Earthquakes in the Western Conference Semifinals en route to LA's second MLS Cup title.

On Sunday, Donovan will once again be at the forefront as the pair face off in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinal. 

Donovan addresses his current state of mind, what his position might be on Sunday, and the role that referee Ricardo Salazar will have on the match below...

(On his mood heading into the game...)

DONOVAN: “I feel great. This is as good as I’ve felt in a long time, so I’m excited for tomorrow.”

(On LA’s postseason experience being an advantage of a San Jose team that is relatively inexperienced in the postseason…)

DONOVAN: “Well, I said before the Vancouver game that our experience can help us, if we use it to our advantage. At the end of the day, it’s still a soccer game and it’s 11 v. 11, but if we’re smart and we put ourselves in good positions, then I think that our experience can be a big factor, but we got to get there first.”

(On whether he'd rather play as a forward or in the midfield against San Jose...)

DONOVAN: “I leave that up to Bruce. I always try to be a player that could do whatever a coach needed. Wherever he asks me to play, I’m more than happy to play, and I think a lot of it depends on how the guys come out from the game on Thursday.”

(On San Jose’s tactics…)

DONOVAN: “They’re a physical team there’s no question. They’re an aggressive team. I don’t think that they’re particularly dirty in the things that they do. I think that they definitely bend the rules as much as they can. You have to rely on the officiating to some extent, to make sure that they’re protecting guys and seeing things, and calling plays that deserve to be fouls. I think that they probably get away with some borderline fouls more than other teams do. Fortunately, we have a great referee doing this game. One who has been in a lot of these games, and knows what kind of game that San Jose plays. I have no question that he’s going to take care of us.”  

(On his conversation with the referee pregame…)

DONOVAN: “Sometimes you say things to officials if things are blatantly obvious, but it’s not your job. It’s the job of the officials to do their job. Some days you get refs that don’t see things and miss things, and that’s all part of the game. You can miss it both ways. I think Ricardo has been great all year and I think he’s going to do a great job. He knows, trust me, he’s watched enough games and done enough San Jose games where he knows the types of things that they tend to get away with. So my guess is that won’t happen."

(On San Jose’s ability to test the Galaxy…)

DONOVAN: “They test your ability to concentrate for 90 minutes. There’s a few teams in this league that if you’re not good on the day then they can really beat you, not just beat you, but beat you handily.  San Jose has scored a bunch of goals on us this year, the moments that we haven’t been sharp, they’ve been good, and they’ve got three or four guys, who can absolutely punish you if you make mistakes and they’ve done that against us this year.”

03 November 3:57 pm


CARSON, Calif. -- After missing Thursday's Knockout Round match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC with soreness in his right quadriceps, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena told reporters on Saturday that Christian Wilhelmsson will "likely" be available for Sunday's Western Conference Semifinal  first leg against the San Jose Earthquakes. 

Wilhelmsson trained on Saturday for the first time since suffering the injury during Wednesday's training session. With squad rotation likely due to the three day turnaround between the Vancouver and San Jose games, if Wilhelmsson is available, he could potentially slide into midfield on either flank against the Earthquakes. The Swedish International has shown that he can have success against the San Jose as he was particularly dangerous during his 79 minute stint in LA's 2-2 draw at Buck Shaw Stadium in October. 

But while Wilhelmsson appears available to play on Sunday, Arena remains coy on the status of defender A.J. DeLaGarza. The Galaxy centerback picked up left MCL sprain due to a collision with Colorado Rapids forward Omar Cummings in LA's 1-1 draw at Dick's Sporting Goods Park back on Sept. 30 and is currently listed as out on the club's official injury report. The injury prevented DeLaGarza from appearing in LA's final two Regular Season matches, but when asked on Saturday if DeLaGarza would miss out on the postseason, Arena said that no decision has been made.

"I have not moved towards that conclusion one way or the other," said Arena. "I haven't moved towards that conclusion. I was terrible in biology and never took anatomy or physiology, so I don't know the answers to those questions."

03 November 3:30 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- Count Landon Donovan among those impressed by the San Jose Earthquakes forward trio of Alan Gordon, Steven Lenhart, and Chris Wondolowski.

The Galaxy defense will have their hands full attempting to stop the trio, who accounted for 50 goals of the 72 that the Earthquakes scored this season. To put that in perspective, it is more than five of the teams that qualified for MLS Cup Playoffs, and would be in the sixth highest team output this season.

The most divisive of the trio is Lenhart, whose physical playing style has drawn the ire of many of his opponents this season, but has also seen him tally a total of 10 goals and two assists this season. Such an output led one reporter on Saturday to question whether Lenhart was U.S. National team material and while Donovan admitted that he'd leave the decision to U.S. National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Lenhart could be counted among the many that could help the USMNT.

"That’s not my decision to make, but I think that he’s had a great year. I think him and Gordon have a great partnership; him and Wondolowski have a great partnership. He’s a big part of their team and a player that we have to contain,” said Donovan. “There’s a lot of guys that could help the national team. I assume that anybody playing against him wouldn’t be too happy if they saw him lining up on the other side of the field from the U.S. team so you never know.”

But Donovan saved his chief praise for Wondolowski, who tied Roy Lassiter's record for most goals in a single season with 27 this year.

"I’ve talked to Frank [Yallop] about him actually and he says that he spends a lot of time in front of the goal everyday doing finishing. He plays on a team where he’s not asked to do a lot more than just get in front of the goal, and be dangerous. His runs are excellent, his timing is as good as anyone in this league, and his pure finishing ability is as good as anyone in this league right now," said Donovan. "When he gets a chance then he buries it. That’s a credit to how hard he works. I think people assume that he just all of a sudden became this great goal scorer. I think in talking to Frank and seeing him during the All-Star Game or with the national team, you see how much time that he spends doing it. I always like to say, success is no accident and it’s certainly not with him.”

03 November 12:43 pm

CARSON, Calif. – With a quick turnaround and numerous injuries, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has repeatedly stated that he anticipates lineup changes for Sunday’s Western Conference Semifinal first leg

One potential change could see Marcelo Sarvas slot into the center of midfield, in place of his compatriot Juninho. During Thursday’s Knockout Round victory over Vancouver Whitecaps, Juninho took a knock to his right Achilles, but has admitted that he is hopeful that he could feature in some capacity on Sunday.  Juninho did not train on Saturday, but head coach Bruce Arena told reporters after training that “his status is that he’ll be playing” on Sunday.

However, if Juninho is unable to start, Sarvas represents an option, particularly after his role in helping spark the Galaxy attack in Thursday's win.

“I don’t know what is going to happen. I hope [Juninho is] back and we have our full team ready to play,” said Sarvas. “If I have to play there, you don’t have to think too much, you just have to be ready to help the team in that position.”

Adding Sarvas to the lineup could be a benefit for LA as the Brazilian midfielder enjoyed great success during the two teams’ 2-2 draw at Buck Shaw Stadium in October. Throughout the match, Sarvas helped fuel the Galaxy attack by completing 24 of 31 passes while helping LA control wide stretches of the game. Despite his success, San Jose was still able to battle back from two deficits to earn a 2-2 draw against the Galaxy. But regardless of the result, Sarvas believes the Galaxy understand San Jose’s style of play.

“It’s a very simple game, the ball is in the defense, it’s a long ball direct to the forwards, and we fight for the second ball. For 90 minutes, they play like that. It’s nothing beautiful to see, it’s some kind of boring football in my opinion, but it’s the way that they are leading the league so we have to respect that, and be ready for it.”

And just how does Sarvas believe the Galaxy will approach San Jose?

“You have to be physical also; you have to be ready for the second balls,” said Sarvas. “You cannot rest during the game; you have to be alert for 90 minutes.”

03 November 11:53 am

CARSON, Calif. – After missing Thursday’s Knockout Round match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC with tightness in left hamstring, right back Sean Franklin is hopeful that he can participate in Sunday’s Western Conference Final first leg against the San Jose Earthquakes.

Franklin told reporters after training on Saturday that the tightness in his hamstring stopped “a couple of days ago,” causing him to be optimistic for Sunday.  

“Everything seems good,” said Franklin. “I trained the last two days so we’ll see how I feel tomorrow. It’s up to the trainers and we’ll talk to Bruce about it. I’m looking forward to, hopefully, playing tomorrow.”

While those comments are similar to the ones that Franklin made following last Sunday’s match against the Seattle Sounders, -- when the injury first surfaced and caused him to exit the match at the half-- Franklin admitted that need to be smart about his injury prevented him from playing on Thursday.

“It was something where it was the right time to be smart about it,” said Franklin. “I felt something in the Seattle game, they said be smart about it and I’m trying to do everything that I can to make sure that it’s 100 percent.”,

03 November 11:01 am

CARSON, Calif. -- The Professional Referee Organization announced on Friday via Twitter that Referee Ricardo Salazar will officiate Sunday's Western Conference Semifinal first leg between the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes. 

Salazar officiated just two Galaxy matches this season, LA's match against the New England Revolution in March, and their 1-1 draw with FC Dallas in April that saw him deal out six cautions -- three to the Galaxy -- and award a penalty kick for each side. Meawnhile, Salazar officiated just two San Jose matches this season, a  2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls in April where he issued four cautions and a 1-1 draw with Chivas USA in May that saw him issue five yellow cards -- three to San Jose . Salazar has a history of officiating big games at The Home Depot Center having served as the referee for the 2011 MLS Cup Final. 

While Sunday's clash between the Galaxy and San Jose promises to be a physical clash, the Galaxy believe that they will need to focus on their gameplan rather than Salazar's officiating.

“It's something that we can’t worry about. We can’t think about the referees, we just have to go into the game,” said Dunivant after training on Friday. “Salazar doing the game; he’s probably the best ref in the league. He did our final last year and has done a lot of big games, so he won’t be an excuse for us. We can’t think about the referees going into this game, we have to think about San Jose.”

03 November 10:40 am

CARSON, Calif. -- For the first time since 2005, the LA Galaxy head into the Western Conference Semifinal as the series’ lowest seed, meaning that The Home Depot Center will host the first leg of the two-leg series against the San Jose Earthquakes.

Of the 36 home-and-home series in MLS history since their introduction during the  2003 MLS Cup playoffs, the top seeds have advanced 22 times.  Whether this actually classifies a competitive advantage or disadvantage for either team remains a heated topic for debate, but Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant is convinced that it means little.

“I guess that technically it should be, but in reality, it’s not. A lot of times, the only real advantage to having the second leg at home is knowing what you need to do   and also having that  overtime in penalties, but that’s not a huge advantage,” said Dunivant. “Last year, Salt Lake got up 3-0 on Seattle and it was too big a hill for [the Sounders] to climb when they got home.  It can go either way, D.C.. and New York just swapped, and I don’t think that’s going to change drastically what is happening in that series. It is two games and you have 180 minutes to decide who is going through and who is advancing.”

Curiously enough, LA’s opponents in that 2005 series? None other than the 2005 Supporters’ Shield winners, the San Jose Earthquakes.

02 November 1:30 pm

LA Galaxy released their Friday injury report earlier this afternoon.

Off the list are David Beckham and Landon Donovan, who both went 90 minutes on Thursday, while David Junior Lopes was downgraded from out to questionable with a left facial fracture. Added to the list were Sean Franklin and Christian Wilhelmsson, neither of whom dressed in Thursday’s Knockout Round victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

Not added to the list is Brazilian midfielder Juninho, who is optimistic that he will be available for Sunday's Western Conference Semifinal against the San Jose Earthquakes after sustaining a kick to his right Achilles in the closing stages of Thursday's match

Prior to the injury report being released, head coach Bruce Arena told reporters after Friday's training session that there was a “good chance” that Franklin is ready for Sunday, while the club is taking a wait and see approach on Wilhelmsson’s status.  However, Arena admitted that some moves are expected ahead of Sunday.

“I think that we’re going to make changes to our lineup whether those guys are in or out,” said Arena on Friday.

The complete Galaxy injury report is below…

OUT: DF A.J. DeLaGarza (L knee sprain); DF Leonardo (R knee inflammation); MF Kyle Nakazawa (back spasms). QUESTIONABLE: DF David Junior Lopes (L facial fracture); DF Sean Franklin (L Hamstring Tightness); MF Christian Wilhelmsson: (R Quad Tightness)

02 November 12:50 pm

The LA Galaxy Foundation announced on Friday that they will be collecting monetary donations for Hurricane Sandy relief at this Sunday's Western Conference Semifinal First Leg against the San Jose Earthquakes.

Galaxy Academy players and Red Cross volunteers will be stationed outside of each entrance at The Home Depot Center on Sunday from 4 pm to 6 pm to collect donations for the American Red Cross' Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. 

02 November 9:17 am

Before we turn the page to Sunday's Western Conference Semifinal match against the San Jose Earthquakes, check out my Three Points to Thursday's 2-1 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC. 

Find my Three Points to the game here.


Agree or disagree with my observations?

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