CARSON, Calif. – The match up in the MLS Cup may be the same, but the LA Galaxy know that the Houston Dynamo are a significantly different team this season than they were when they fell 1-0 to LA in the 2011 final.
When the final kicks off next Saturday, Houston will bring a high-powered squad to The Home Depot Center, one that includes midfielder Brad Davis—who missed the 2011 MLS Cup with a torn right quadriceps –, electric Honduran midfielder Boniek Garcia and midfielder Ricardo Clark, among others.
After a dominating performance that saw them slice through the Eastern Conference, the Galaxy are well-aware that they will face a challenge from Houston next Saturday.
“They're a better team,” Mike Magee said when asked about how this Houston team compares to the 2011 edition “They're definitely a better team. They've got more speed and, obviously, having Brad Davis back is going to help them. They got [second-year forward] Will Bruin scoring a ton of goals. They know what it's like [to be in a final] and they're similar to us in terms of experience and leadership, which is something we can't overlook.”
The experience of being in the final isn’t the only parallel that the two teams share as both advanced through the Knockout Round with Houston traveling on the road to defeat the fourth-ranked Chicago Fire. From there, the Dynamo defeated the Conference’s top-seed Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference Semifinal before advancing past D.C. United in the Conference Championship to reach MLS Cup. While the Dynamo were mowing through the East, the Galaxy bypassed Vancouver Whitecaps FC in their Knockout Round match before defeating the Supporters' Shield winning San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders FC for the right to play for MLS' ultimate prize.
“They’re the same as us,” said Magee. “They definitely had their backs against the wall with that play-in game like we had. They definitely have a good story going.”
Although Houston began the postseason as the lowest seed in the Eastern Conference, with the second-lowest point total among all teams in the MLS Cup Playoffs, the Dynamo boast head coach Dominic Kinnear, who is one of two head coaches to lead his team to back-to-back MLS Cup titles, performing the feat during the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
The only other coach to repeat as champions? Current Galaxy boss then D.C. United head coach Bruce Arena from 1996 to 1997.
“Houston's not a team you want to overlook, no matter what seed they were," said Magee. “I think you always kind of get a feeling like they were going to win [the Eastern Conference], and any time Kinnear puts a team out there, they're going to give it their all. He's one of the best coaches the league's seen. You know what you're going to get. You're going to get a battle, and you've got to prepare for that.”
While the MLS Cup promises to be a battle, Magee believes LA stack up well with the Dynamo.
“I like my match up. I like all our match ups,” said Magee. “We’ve kind of proven in big games, we have players that can step up and rise to the occasion so I’m not worried about us.”
A week from now, the LA Galaxy will go for back-to-back MLS Cups against the Houston Dynamo at The Home Depot Center
If you're unable to make it out to The HDC on Dec. 1 then you'll have to catch the game on ESPN. The coverage from "The Worldwide Leader in Sports"' begins at 1:30 p.m. PT.
Ahead of next week's festivities, check out ESPN's "This is MLS Cup" commercial.
A few notes to get you through the morning and into your Saturday.
*Landon Donovan appeared on ESPN's College Gameday on Saturday serving as the "celebrity picker" for Saturday's College Football slate. The LA Galaxy captain revealed that he would have attended UCLA had he not signed for German club Bayer Leverkusen at age 16. During his picks, Donovan selected No. 1 ranked Notre Dame over USC -- a selection that he admits was influenced by Mike Magee -- and No. 8 Stanford over No. 17 UCLA.
*There are still two more days to vote for Marcelo Sarvas, who is in the quarterfinals of FutbolMLS.com's Latino del Año 2012 (Latino of the Year). The semifinalists will be announced on Monday.
*Across the hall at The Home Depot Center, Chivas USA's Juan Agudelo is making a good impression during his training stint with Scottish club Celtic. Could it lead to an extended training stint or perhaps a transfer?
*Lastly, a programming note, I'll be on Philadelphia's 860AM "Vuvuzela-blast" radio show at 1 p.m. PT talking MLS Cup and David Beckham. Be sure to listen along.
As you start to wind your night down, here are a few evening notes.
*LA Galaxy Under-18 midfielder Paul Arriola started and went 45 minutes, earning an assist as well as a yellow card in the U.S. Under-18 squad's 2-2 draw with Canada on Friday.
* U.S. National Team midfielder Jose Francisco Torres completed a move from Mexican club Pachuca to Tigres UNAL.
*2012 Rookie of the Year Austin Berry will join teammate Jalil Anibaba in a training stint with Spanish giants Atlético Madrid from Nov. 25 to Dec. 9. Anibaba is training with Atléti from Nov. 18 to Dec. 2
*Soccer By Ives released the first edition of their 2013 MLS Draft Big Board on Friday evening. Included in the 40-player list are seven players from five different California universities.
CARSON, Calif. – Jose Villarreal sounded his arrival in MLS with an late bomb against Vancouver Whitecaps FC for his first career goal back in July, but the 19-year-old forward believes that the events of 2012 are just the beginning of a promising career.
In his rookie season for LA, “the kid from Inglewood” as he’s called by some Galaxy fans has made 14 appearances in all competitive competitions, scoring two goals. The 19-year-old had an even larger impact in MLS Reserve League play, making nine appearances while scoring three goals. Although the youngster made only 11 appearances in MLS regular season and postseason play, Villarreal has become a key member of LA's rotation since being added to the club's roster on July 14 as he has made the game day roster in 23 of the Galaxy's last 24 games in all competitions.
Villarreal admits that while his season has been an incredible ride, he’s hoping for even more next year.
“It’s been an amazing season," Villarreal said after LA's final practice before the Thanksgiving holiday break on Wednesday. "I was just trying to come in as a rookie in the middle of the season and hoping to get some minutes. I feel happy but at the same time, not satisfied because I haven’t been performing the way that I want to, but I’ve been looking to get better and better for next year."
Lost in the shuffle of the craziness of the past week and the Thanksgiving Holiday, the Professional Referee Organization announced earlier in the week that newly crowned Referee of the Year Silviu Petrescu will officiate the 2012 MLS Cup between the LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo on Dec. 1 at The Home Depot Center.
Petrescu worked 20 MLS regular season games this season as well as one postseason game -- LA's 2-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Nov. 12. The Canadian referee officiated three matches apiece for the Galaxy and Houston as well as their May 26 meeting at BBVA Compass Stadium.
A complete breakdown of Petrescu's games with LA and Houston as well as his complete officiating crew is below.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. LA GALAXY
5/26 - HOU 2 LA 1. FOULS: 20 (10 for Houston and 10 for LA); CAUTIONS: 4 (1 for Houston and 3 for LA)
11/1 - LA 2 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 1. FOULS: 24 (12 for LA and 12 for Vancouver); CAUTIONS: 4 (2 for LA and 2 for Vancouver); PENALTIES: 1 (Converted by LA)
7/18 - Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 LA 2. FOULS: 35 (16 for Vancouver and 19 for LA); CAUTIONS: 4 (1 for Vancouver and 3 for LA)
8/3 - HOU 2 New York Red Bulls 0. FOULS: 20 (10 for Houston and 10 for NYRB); CAUTIONS: 2 (Houston
3/11 - Chivas USA 0 HOU 1. FOULS: 26 (12 for Chivas and 14 for Houston); CAUTIONS: 1 (Houston)
2012 MLS Cup Officiating Crew
REFEREE: SILVIU PETRESCU
ASST 1: Daniel Belleau
ASST 2: Darren Clark
4TH: Hilario Grajeda
Marcelo Sarvas is into the Quarterfinals of FutbolMLS.com's Latino del Año 2012 or Latino Player of the Year.
Sarvas is matched up against FC Dallas' Panamaian forward Blas Pérez in the quarterfinals. The Brazilian, who joined the club from Costa Rican side Alajuelense during the offseason has made 37 appearances for the LA Galaxy in all competitive matches this year, tallying two goals and two assists. Meanwhile Perez made 20 appearances for FCD in 2012, scoring nine goals as well as four assists.
Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or just Thursday, I wanted to take a moment to offer my thanks to all of those that have supported the LA Galaxy Insider since the blog's inception in July.
I know that I'm incredibly thankful to have the ability to serve as the LA Galaxy Insider and for all my interactions with players, journalists, staff, and fans.
On this holiday, a few members of the LA Galaxy including head coach Bruce Arena took part in the Foundations' Feast, which is an annual Thanksgiving Dinner for children and families in need hosted by the LA Galaxy Foundation and The Home Depot Center Charitable Foundation. Check out some photos from that event here.
One MLSsoccer.com reporter Jonah Freedman wrote the following piece stating how thankful he is for David Beckham's six-year career in MLS. Be sure to watch my interview with the LA Galaxy midfielder as we close into the final game of his Galaxy career, the 2012 MLS Cup Final on Dec. 1 against the Houston Dynamo at The Home Depot Center.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving.
CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy took part in their final training session on Wednesday before a three day break for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Before the Galaxy players crisscross the country for the holiday, they took part in a brisk session at the training ground in the shadow of The Home Depot Center. The holiday break will be the club’s biggest in a month ahead of their most important game of the season, the 2012 MLS Cup which takes place on Dec. 1 at The HDC.
Below Bruce Arena, Todd Dunivant, Mike Magee, Sean Franklin, and Jose Villarreal discuss the implications of the holiday break on the team.
ARENA: “I think [it’s good]. Hopefully we can get back into the swing of things quickly [on Sunday]. With the game still a bit away, we can afford the three days and hopefully it’ll get the guys rested and ready to go next week.”
DUNIVANT: “We need the break, it’s been a long five playoff games in a very short amount of time. We had a really good tough session today and I think we felt our heavy legs, so it’ll be good to get time off and regroup, regenerate, and be ready to come back sharp next week.”
FRANKLIN: “I wish it wasn’t such a big break. Last year, there was also two weeks between the conference game and the MLS Cup and it’d be nice to have the game this week to keep the momentum from our game this past Sunday. It is what it is, it’s nice to have a few days off to get a few guys healthy who have a few knocks and nicks. [When] we come back from this break, it’s time to crack down and get things sharp for December 1.”
MAGEE: “I think it’s good. We got some guys banged up that we want to get back. A bunch of guys are ill and I don’t think that Seattle weather helped us too much. I think we think we needed this break, obviously, we would have liked a break before, but we’ll take it now.”
VILLARREAL: “Since the Seattle game, I think about the final every day, but it’s good to have a couple of days off and to with the family and enjoy that time. Then we get back to business and get to it to win that cup again.”
CARSON, Calif. -- The United States Under-20's learned their opponents for the group stage of 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Puebla, Mexico, which serves as the qualifying tournament for the 2013 Under-20 World Cup.
The Americans were awarded the top seed in Group A for the tournament that takes place from February 18 through March 2 and will take on Costa Rica and Haiti. The top two nations in each of the four groups will reach the quarterfinals while the four nations that advance to the semifinals will move on to the 2013 U-20 World Cup in Turkey. (The complete schedule for the CONCACAF tournament can be found here.)
One player that is expected to be on the field for the Americans in Mexico is LA Galaxy forward Jose Villarreal, who is hopeful that he can become a key part of U-20 head coach Tab Ramos' squad.
“That’s important for me getting to be with the Under-20s and getting ready for qualifiers and hopefully we make it to the World Cup," said Villarreal. "It’s going to get me fitter and expose me to different players, different coaches, and different styles of play.”
With World Cup qualifying in his sights, Villarreal admits that he’s certainly learned a great deal during his U-20 experience.
“It’s definitely positive in every way," said Villarreal. "It’s a little similar to what the national team is like and it’s always fun to be around a group of guys that are the best in their age group. It’s just fun because you can learn a lot from them and we’re all friends and it’s always fun to play with friends.”