On Tuesday, The Home Depot Center will host its first soccer match of the year when the LA Galaxy host Club Tijuana, which will be the first match on the stadium’s new Bermuda grass surface.
The surface was installed last week and took three days to assemble. I snapped this photo on Monday from above section 139.
A few fun facts about The HDC surface…
*The grass was grown in Palm Springs and 24 trucks were needed to carry the 24 rolls of grass to The HDC. In total the rolls weighed 480 tons.
*Bermuda grass is a summer grass. In order to maintain its green color during the winter the grass is overseeded with a winter ryegrass seed. The process of installing the ryegrass seed was done last October and the seed is expected to keep the surface green until summer. Once the seed burns out, the regular Bermuda seed will keep the grass green through fall.
*Expect a hard surface tonight until the grass fully settles in 10 to 14 days.
CARSON, Calif. – Jose Villarreal may be away on International duty with the U.S. Under-20’s for the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, but once he returns, he’ll have a “big part” to play in the LA Galaxy offense according to Robbie Keane.
Villarreal started and went 64 minutes in the U.S. U-20’s 2-1 victory over Haiti on Monday and is expected to play an important role throughout the tournament as the Americans look to qualify for the U-20 World Cup in Turkey later this year.
Once Villarreal returns to Southern California—which could be as late as March 2 if the U.S. advances to the final—he’ll be expected to play a major role in LA’s forward rotation. With Landon Donovan not returning until late March, Mike Magee is likely to serve as the primary partner alongside the Irish forward, but Keane expects Villarreal to see plenty of minutes.
“I like playing with him, he’s very clever. He has a great left foot and he plays quite similar to where I play in the hole so I think that we can work well together,” said Keane. “I think that we’re quite similar in the way that we like to come off kind of deep and get on the ball. That was the case with me and Landon [Donovan] last year and we worked well together.
“He’s always looking to do something which is always good for me,” added Keane. “You always expect the unexpected with him so it’s good. I really enjoy playing with him.”
It was no surprise that Landon Donovan's scheduled return in late-March was the most talked about issue at LA Galaxy practice on Monday.
After practice LAGalaxy.com videographer Paolo Ferrari provided this video with insight from head coach Bruce Arena as well as defender Todd Dunivant.
Check out the video below...
The U Under-20's began the CONCACAF U-20 Championship with a 2-1 win over Haiti in Group A play on Monday using a lineup with a distinctive LA Galaxy flavor.
Galaxy Homegrown forward Jose Villarreal got the start and went 63 minutes while LA Academy graduate and current UCLA defender Javan Torre went 90 minutes in the back four.
The U.S. took the lead in the three minute when Haiti was whistled with a penalty after a foul on promising Santos Laguna winger Daniel Cuevas in the box. Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil stepped up and put the U.S. ahead. In the 26th minute, Cuevas got on the score sheet himself with a beautiful strike off an assist from former Galaxy Academy product Mario Rodriguez. Haiti pulled one back in 49th minute off a goal from Wilberne Augusmat, but could not find the equalizer to knock off the heavily-favored Americans.
Tab Ramos' side continues their Group A campaign on Friday against Costa Rica. Haiti will take on the Central Americans on Wednesday.
Two teams from the three-team group advance to the quarterfinal round.
CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan will return to the LA Galaxy in late March, but while he is away from the game, LA continue to press forward ahead of the season opener on March 3.
The Galaxy announced on Sunday that Donovan will not return to the club until late March, which means that he will likely miss the first three MLS regular season games as well as both CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal fixtures against CS Herediano. On Monday, Arena admitted that while the Galaxy captain’s return “could be earlier,” but by no means is he displeased with Donovan.
“Am I unhappy? No, I’m not unhappy. Whether I think it is necessary or not, it is not important what I think. That’s the player and that’s how he feels and what he thinks he needs,” said Arena. “It’ll just set him back at the end of the March and he’ll probably be playing somewhere close to the end of April.”
LA’s other Designated Player Robbie Keane—who is likely to take the captain’s armband while Donovan is away — added his own thoughts on Donovan’s absence.
“Of course it’s difficult when you don’t have your best players and you want them here to start the season but if an extra two weeks is going to do him the world of good then good,” said the Irish forward.
With Donovan out of the lineup, the Galaxy will likely turn to their younger attacking options to lead the way. From the outset, Mike Magee seems likely to take over for Donovan alongside Keane while younger alternatives Jack McBean and Jose Villarreal fight for playing time.
As the club accounts for Donovan's absence, Arena admits that there will be a period of transition.
“The more high-quality players you put on the field for your team, the chances are you're going to be a better team, that they'll offer different dimensions. When you take one of those pieces away, you're not going to replace him with similar players. That's the facts of life," said Arena. "You always play games without key players. It won't be the first time, and it won't be the last time.”
Landon Donovan is returning to the LA Galaxy in late March, that much is assured, but when the MLS regular season starts on March 3, just what lineup will Bruce Arena trot out against the Chicago Fire.
Based on five preseason games and with two still remaining—against Club Tijuana on Feb. 19 and Colorado Rapids on Feb. 22— these are the lineups that I see as the most likely for opening day.
One of the major questions of the preseason remains just who partners with Omar Gonzalez in central defense. Both Tommy Meyer and A.J. DeLaGarza have started alongside Gonzalez this preseason and have enjoyed success alongside the reigning MLS Cup MVP.
This formation allows midfielder Michael Stephens to move out to the right side of midfield while Colin Clark is stationed on the left side. Clark has been very influential going into the attack in four starts on the left side and seemingly has a lock on the position. Meanwhile, Stephens remains his energetic self and has formed a solid partnership with Sean Franklin that provides an attacking presence but also bite on defense.
Up top, Mike Magee is expected to start alongside Robbie Keane. The Galaxy’s forward line has been depleted as of late after an injury to Gyasi Zardes has put the rookie forward on the shelf until April while Jose Villarreal remains on international duty with the U.S. U-20 and may not return in time for the season opener.
This starting lineup allows Arena to place both Meyer and DeLaGarza on the field at the same time while pushing Franklin up into right midfield. Both DeLaGarza and Franklin have held manned these positions in the past, but both admit that they are more comfortable in the defense.
And when Donovan returns to action, which is likely to happen sometime in April?
Following LA’s scoreless draw with K-League side Gangwon FC, Arena told reporters that Magee is likely to play more time in the midfield once the team reaches full health, which leads to this possible squad:
What is your ideal lineup? Who do you want to see start for the Galaxy on opening day? Or once Donovan returns?
Share your thoughts below…
We know that Landon Donovan will be returning to the LA Galaxy this year and now we know when.
The Galaxy issued a statement on Sunday stating that Donovan will be returning to the club during the last week of March. Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena had told reporters at the start of the preseason in January that he would return to the club at some point this year after a brief hiatus.
“After a series of collaborative discussions between Landon, his representative and our key club leaders, we have agreed to allow Landon to remain on an extended leave of absence and return to training with the team during the final week of March,” Galaxy General Manager and Head Coach Bruce Arena said in the statement. “We understand this arrangement is not ideal, but we are confident it will allow Landon the time he needs to be both mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming season. We remain focused on our preparation for the start of the 2013 season and look forward to Landon rejoining us next month.”
The announcement means that Donovan will miss LA's first three league matches and the entire CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against Herediano. Donovan's return date also means that he will likely not factor in the U.S. national team's World Cup qualifying matches against Costa Rica on March 22 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park and against Mexico at Estadio Azteca on March 26.
What are your thoughts on Donovan returning at the end of the March? What is the lineup that the Galaxy use to start the season? Can they advance to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals without him?
Share your thoughts below.
LAGalaxy.com video man Paolo Ferrari has provided the following recap video of Saturday's scoreless draw with Gangwon FC.
Check it out below...
CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy continued their preseason preparations on Saturday by battling a new type of opponent, K-League side Gangwon FC to a scoreless draw.
LA dominated possession for much of the first half with the Koreans presenting an organized shape that proved difficult to break down. The best chances of the first half came in the 27th minute when a Juninho free kick set up a corner that eventually fell for Mike Magee, who fired the chance over the bar.
In the second half, the Koreans received more of the run of play, forcing Carlo Cudicini to make a pair of saves late. Gangwon nearly stole a win late however, when Kim Eun Jung rattled the post with a shot off a corner kick, but Cudicini collected the rebound preventing any further danger.
The full recap from the match can be found on LAGalaxy.com
A few notes from the match…
*The Galaxy started the match in the following formation:
*For the second straight match, Jack McBean and Mike Magee started up top with Robbie Keane still away attending to a family death in Ireland. With Landon Donovan still away from the club, it is looking increasingly likely that Magee may be the Galaxy's first choice strike partner alongside Keane once the season begins. However, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena told reporters that once the team is fully healthy, Magee will be used as a midfielder rather than as a forward.
*The match was the first time that A.J. DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez started together in central defense this preseason.
*Throughout the 90 minutes, Gangwon’s organization provided a test for LA. I spoke to Gonzalez and Magee afterward to get their perception of how facing a new style of play benefited the Galaxy.
*In the 47th minute, a Juninho free kick from nearly 20 yards out made contact with the head of Gangwon’s Denis Laktionov. The Gangwon midfielder was carted off the field by paramedics. Play resumed after an eight minute delay.
*LA ended the match with the following lineup on the field:
*Five players (Cudicini, Gonzalez, Sean Franklin, Todd Dunivant, and Mike Magee) went the full 90 minutes.
*Arena offered the following comments on the match: “It was a good exercise for us with the heat; it was a little challenging on guys. We pushed five guys to go 90 minutes for the first time this year and it was good. It was a little bit warmer than we thought it would be. I thought in the first half, we looked pretty sharp and moved pretty well. In the second half as we got fatigued, the quality started to disappear a bit, but that’s okay and it’s all part of the exercise of moving guys forward individually and as a team.”
CARSON, Calif. – Among the accomplished members on Bruce Arena’s LA Galaxy coaching staff, one of the most distinguished is goalkeeper coach Ian Feuer. After an impressive 14-year career that included stops across Europe and the United States, Feuer joined the Galaxy in 2007 as the club's goalkeeper coach and has held the position for six years.
This preseason, LA’s goalkeepers have drawn impressive reviews from the coaching staff and players as many have lauded new number one ‘keeper Carlo Cudicini for his poise and experience while backup Brian Perk has been labeled as one of the bright spots of training camp by Arena. Meanwhile, many have been impressed with the development of third string Brian Rowe, who is entering his second year as a professional.
I recently caught up with Feuer to discuss how his goalkeepers are performing this preseason and his perceptions of the three men between the pipes.
Check it out below…
(On how his goalkeepers are coming along this preseason…)
FEUER: It’s going really good. Obviously, I didn’t have Carlo last year and the only comparisons that I can make are on Fox Soccer Channel. But Perk has come along really well especially in the mental department. He’s a lot steady with decisions, his confidence, and everything. Meanwhile, the difference with Rowe is huge because all of the stuff that we worked on from last year to this year has come into fruition. I’m excited because they both have a lot of incredible potential and now that they can see someone like Carlo everyday who has been there and done that, it’s a great learning tool for him.
(On the way that Rowe has developed this preseason…)
FEUER: “Just maturity. Last year, he struggled with the pace of things and he’s getting used to the pace now, but [at 24] he’s still very young for a goalkeeper. He’s learning, but he has a really great attitude and is learning all the time.”
It’s great. Funny enough, I played against him a couple of times [in England]. To have someone of his stature and experience, it spreads throughout the whole team. I played with him when I was at West Ham and he was at Chelsea and I really liked him then because he’s calm and always has a great demeanor. That’s great to have around.”