BAYAMÓN, Puerto Rico— We're just hours away from tonight's match between the LA Galaxy and the Puerto Rico Islanders.
Above is a photo that I snapped of the field at the Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium just hours ahead of game time.
A few notes:
*Three Galaxy players on yellow card watch: Jose Villarreal, A.J. DeLaGarza and Michael Stephens.
*If the Islanders lose or draw tonight, they will be eliminated from CCL quarterfinals contention.
Before kick off be sure to check out my CCL Notebook with the Galaxy's impressions of the field as well as their likely reliance on a youthful lineup and my piece on forward Edson Buddle's aspirations to start in the pivotal CCL match. Also check out MLSsoccer.com's Scott French, who wrote his own piece on the Galaxy's likely youthful squad as they look to close in on qualification for the Quarterfinals.
Lastly, be sure to check out my Three Points to the match and remember that you can follow along on the match at LAGalaxy.com/gamedaylive for Joe Tutino's play by play if you're unable to watch the match on Fox Soccer or Univision Deportes dos.
PREDICTED LINEUP: Perk; Jimenez, Meyer, Boyens, Gaul; Stephens, Walker, Garcia, Wilhelmsson; Donovan, Buddle
As is common place in the CONCACAF Champions League, the condtions will not be in the LA Galaxy's favor on Wednesday.
The forecast for Bayamón at tonight's 8pm kick off calls for temperatures in the lower 80s with scattered showers and an 85% humidity. The Galaxy experienced these conditions during Tuesday's training session at the Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium and expect much of the same on Wednesday.
Below are thoughts from midfielder Michael Stephens on the weather conditions...
'STEPHENS: "It's just a different environment. We're just out here training and its home and its very hot and very humid so its something we're not used to. We'll be able to adjust to it but it will definitely be tougher than it was at our home stadium."
BAYAMÓN, Puerto Rico -- When the LA Galaxy kick off against the Puerto Rico Islanders, it is likely that the duo of Hector Jimenez and Michael Stephens will be lining up on the right flank for the Galaxy.
The pairing of Jimenez at right back and Stephens at right midfield is nothing new as the duo formed an effective partnership during LA's 4-0 over the Islanders in August. Due to Jimenez's eagerness going forward and Stephens' energy and defensive acumen, the two midfielders are natural partners as their complimentary skills offer them the chance to switch off at any given time. Following the club's final practice before Thursday's match, the pair agreed that they form an intriguing partnership.
JIMENEZ: “Most likely I’ll be playing right back, so I’ll try to defend a little bit and try to attack, it might be Mikey [Stephens] on the right so we’re going to try to combine well and create some trouble for them on left.”
STEPHENS: “He’s really fit and he’s willing to get forward. t takes a lot of pressure off me, not being a guy that really likes to get down the line that much, so if I have him behind me, I know he’s going to be coming down the whole game. He’s very relentless going forward and I like that.”
The LA Galaxy's ownership may change as the club's parent company the Anschutz Company has put its AEG subsidary up for sale, the company announced on Tuesday afternoon.
"Given the success of the management team and employees in establishing AEG as one of the premier real estate development, live sports and entertainment platforms in the world, as well as the value AEG has created with the strategic assets that comprise its platform, this is an appropriate time to transition AEG to a new qualified owner," Anschutz Co. president Cannon Y. Harvey said in a statement. "This process represents a unique opportunity to maximize value for all concerned and will allow us to assure that, like the Anschutz Company, the new owner will have the financial resources, commitment and vision to support AEG’s management team as it continues to grow the businesses of AEG and the power of its brands."
"We will conduct this process in a manner that avoids disruption of the day-to-day operations of AEG and its constituencies," Harvey added. "The Anschutz Company has the highest confidence in AEG’s potential and its management, and will only undertake a transaction that reflects this confidence.”
Run by Phillip Anschutz, the Anschutz Company runs AEG, which owns and operates a wealth of properties-- 120 in total -- across the globe including the Galaxy, The Home Depot Center, Staples Center and half of the Houston Dynamo, among others. To assist the Anschutz Company and AEG in the sale process, the Anschutz Company has retained the Backstone Group as financial advisors, a group that recently managed the auction process of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
AEG has played a fundamental role in the development of MLS having previously owned half of the club's in the league. MLS recognized Anschutz's contributions by naming the MLS Cup trophy after the 72-year-old in 2008. If a sale were to happen, it would be doubtful that would affect the Galaxy in the short-term, as they would remain owned by AEG. The only change would be at the top of the organization, with the Anschutz Company no longer serving as the AEG's owner.
Leave your thoughts below.
BAYAMON, Puerto Rico -- In his last appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League, LA Galaxy rookie provided stability in the center of midfield in LA's 4-0 victory over the Puerto Rico Islanders and when the two teams meet again on Wednesday, Walker hopes to provide more of the same.
For a midfielder, who has seen scant time with the first team this season, in his CCL debut in August, Walker was truly dominant. Teaming up with fellow rookie Rafael Garcia, the Galaxy overpowered an experienced Puerto Rico side and provided assistance going forward by earning an assist off a corner kick on Tommy Meyer's opening goal. Walker and Garcia may team up yet again in Puerto Rico and if they do, the rookie from Louisville is confident that he can get the job done.
WALKER: "Obviously, they have a couple more players coming back that are different from the last game. We’re going to have mostly the same players out there so hopefully, we play the same style that we did. Just keep the ball, hopefully get an early goal, but it’s going to be different because we’re at their home and there’s going to be a lot of energy so it’s very important during the first 15 minutes of each half to be steady and if we can sneak a goal in."
(On the energy of the reserve team…)
WALKER: "This game is very important especially for the CONCACAF standings. If we win this then we basically win the group and then getting a chance to impress for us reserve guys is important. I expect to be holding, switching the point of attack and hopefully be the rock in the midfield for the guys."
BAYAMON, Puerto Rico --Fresh off his MLS debut, Christian Wilhelmsson may make his debut in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday against the Puerto Rico Islanders.
Tuesday could be Wilhelmsson's first taste of continental competition in North America after appearing in continental competitions in Europe and Asia. Because he made the trip to Puerto Rico, one would expect Wilhelmsson to play some role in Tuesday's match, but even if he does not, the Swede obtained a valuable experience as he looks to integrate into American soccer.
Below are Wilhelmsson's thoughts from Tuesday's training session...
WILHELMSSON: “It’s like any other trip that I’ve been to. When you’re playing a game away, it’s a little bit further, but it went smooth. It’s like any away game.”
On the distance of travel…
WILHELMSSON: “When you play with the national team or the Champion's league then you get these types of trips. You stay in a hotel the day before and it’s the same kind of style. It’s not a big difference.”
(On the conditions at training…)
WILHELMSSON: “There was humidity in the air; the field was spongy with high grass. It’s going to be quite heavy to play the game and the ball will go a little bit slower than normal so we have to be prepared.”
WILHELMSSON: “I don’t know how we will play or who the team is at the moment. I’m just preparing for playing and I'm trying to get myself ready.”
(On his training…)
WILHELMSSON: “I’m playing a little bit right and a little bit left. I’m just trying to get my legs going and my conditioning and it’s working out well.”
(On his conditioning…)
WILHELMSSON: “Physically, I feel better and better. I feel quite good. It’s just the game rhythm that has to grow. Those small things like timing still need to get in rhythm.”
CAROLINA, Puerto Rico -- Here is the second portion of Tuesday afternoon's LA Galaxy press conference featuring Bruce Arena and Landon Donovan.
I'll have more once the club heads off for training later this afternoon...
Below are Donovan's thoughts from the press conference...
(On whether he is capable of going 90 minutes…)
DONOVAN: “I think so yeah. When you’re out awhile, it takes some time to get fit. I was a little tired towards the end of last week when I came out, but I think if I had to go ten or 15 more minutes than I could have gone through it. The only caveat to that is that this is a different environment. It’s hotter, it’s humid and that could play into it.”
(Could Saturday’s match play into that…)
DONOVAN: “We’re fortunate with this club that we’ve got a number of guys that are not only capable of playing, but have kept themselves fit enough to play 90 minutes in any game that we have during the year. A lot of times with guys that don’t play a lot of first team minutes, you lose fitness, but our guys do a really good job and the Reserve League has helped with getting guys a lot of minutes. It gives Bruce a lot of options when he’s choosing his lineup and he doesn’t have to worry about guys that can only play 45 and 60 minutes. It’s nice to have a lot of options.”
On what the young guys bring to the squad…
DONOVAN: “The young guys have been terrific and the older guys who aren’t getting a lot of minutes with the first team have also been terrific. It doesn’t always happen that way. I can’t say that it’s been this way in the past. That game a few weeks ago, Bruce was able to rest a number of guys who have played a lot of minutes in a row and he could put a team on the field that was still capable of doing well. We all saw how well they played in that game. It’s a luxury to have as a coach and as a club. I think that their attitude is great and I think that the Reserve team coach Curt Onalfo has done a great job. Us as players and Bruce would say the same thing as a coach, we have full confidence that any one of those guys could step into any game and be effective for us. It’s good to have.”
(On the attitude of the young guys being infectious and whether he enjoyed playing with them…)
DONOVAN: “I quite enjoyed it, that’s part of my role that I’ve tried to get better at and I think that it’s good for them to see how seriously we take every game regardless of the circumstances. Conversely, it’s good for us to have their energy and their excitement to play all the time. We’ve got a number of guys here that may or may not have been part of a [game day] 18 in other games earlier in the year in league games, but they’re very excited about the chance to contribute. You could tell a few weeks ago when we came off the field off the Puerto Rico game that they had really felt like they made a big contribution and they did to the whole group.”
(On whether the Galaxy have the firepower to win the CCL…)
DONOVAN: “I think so, I think that when you have our league and a tournament like this, the most important thing is having a number of players that can contribute because you can’t play the same 11 guys 45 or 50 times a year. Bruce has done a great job creating a team that has a lot of depth and a lot of guys that can contribute. When it comes down to it, we have enough talented players and enough players with experience and are capable enough to win any game that we play in this part of the world. It doesn’t mean that it happens every time, but we feel confident that we can compete with any team in this part of the world.”
CAROLINA, Puerto Rico -- LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena and Landon Donovan participated in a press conference held at the team hotel in Puerto Rico on Tuesday prior to departing for training.
With Arena and Donovan speaking, I decided to break up the press conference into two blog posts.
Below are Arena's thoughts from the presser...
(On whether he’s expecting a similar match to the last match against Puerto Rico…)
ARENA: “No two games are alike. My expectations are that it will be a very difficult game. Puerto Rico continues to show over the last couple of weeks that they have a good team as they continue to move up the ladder in their league. We continue to improve as a team and my expectations are that it’s going to be a good game and a difficult game.”
(On the possibilities that Arena may opt for a similar lineup as last match…)
ARENA: “We’ll have some different players on the field that we did in the first game. But we’ll have a mixture of players.”
(On the squad brought to Puerto Rico…)
ARENA: “We’ve brought a team here that we think can win. It’s that simple and it’s the same thing as we did some weeks ago. We’re positioning a team on the field that we think can be successful.”
(On balancing the squad due to the playoff chase…)
ARENA: “We’re just in a week where we’re playing three games. We need to turn around quickly and play at home on Saturday. We think that you have to have the right kind of balance in your team to be able to play the three games in a short period of time and that’s what we’re doing.”
(On whether or not Donovan will play against the Islanders…)
ARENA: “We hope Donovan plays tomorrow.”
(On McBean's growth...)
ARENA: 'We feel like Jack is going to be a good player. He's still a little bit young, we haven't had the chance to give him extended minutes this year, but certainly in the game some weeks ago, he played quite well as did Jose Villarreal. We think that an important part of building our league and building our club is to develop players out of our Academy program and that's where Jack and Jose come form and it's important. Not only that, but a lot of local players out of Southern California are becoming important members on our roster, but our vision is ultimately to have Homegrown players playing for the first team and I think Jack and Jose are examples of that."
(On striving to advance...)
ARENA: "We think that the competition is important and that's why we're here. We know that tomorrow's game is not going to be an easy game by any means. We'll put a group on the field that we think can win and are motivated to win. There's a lot of games left to play in the group before it's decided so we're very focused on the game tomorrow and we want to position our team to advance."
CAROLINA, Puerto Rico — Bruce Arena is putting his trust in his youngsters to get the job done against the Puerto Rico Islanders once again.
On the heels of the reserve-laden lineup manhandling of the Islanders, 4-0 on August 29th, Arena has chosen leave behind several key starters for Wednesday’s return leg against the Islanders. Among those left behind are David Beckham, Robbie Keane, Josh Saunders, Omar Gonzalez, Mike Magee and Sean Franklin. Beckham is still recovering from the effects of a left ankle sprain suffered during the club’s 2-0 over the Vancouver Whitecaps on September 1st while the latter five have logged heavy minutes over the last month. With the Galaxy still rising in the Western Conference standings, allowing the core players to rest offers them the chance to be fresh for Saturday's match against Toronto FC.
However, that does not mean that the Galaxy squad is not without quality as the Galaxy have brought several key contributors including captain Landon Donovan, forward Edson Buddle and winger Christian Wilhelmsson.
We’ll have Bruce Arena’s comments on these decisions during his press conference which is scheduled for 9:45 PDT.
Good Morning from Puerto Rico,
We'll have more from the Puerto Rico trip later today as head coach Bruce Arena will have a press conference later this afternoon.
First off, an important MLS note: The LA Galaxy can clinch a spot in the 2012 MLS playoffs with a victory against Toronto FC this Saturday AND a Chivas USA loss against the Columbus Crew on Wednesday OR a Chivas loss against D.C. United on Saturday.