CARSON, Calif. –When the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake take the field on Sunday to start the Western Conference Semifinal series, two of the finest coaches in MLS will be leading them on the sidelines.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena and RSL boss Jason Kreis have led their clubs to the highest point totals in MLS since they met in the 2009 MLS Cup final with the Galaxy holding a 233 to 222 advantage on Salt Lake while also winning three of the last four MLS Cup trophies.
Kreis, who took over as RSL head coach in 2007 after a successful 11-year career as a player admitted that Arena has been a source of inspiration as he’s shaped Salt Lake into one of the prominent clubs in MLS.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Bruce is the best coach in the history of soccer in this country. I certainly have tried to pick his brain any chance I get, to ask him to gain some nuggets of knowledge along the way,” said Kreis in a media conference call on Thursday. “I think there’s no question again that he gets it right at the right time otherwise he wouldn’t have five MLS Cups to his name already.”
Meanwhile, Arena was just as quick to admit that Kreis has blossomed into one of the bright young coaches in MLS.
“I think he’s grown into a terrific coach,” said Arena. “He had to learn on the job, it took him some years to get grounded and now I think he’s real comfortable in the way he goes about and does his business and gets his teams ready. So we’ve seen consistently over the last three or four years that Salt Lake has a good team year in year out.”
Are one of these two men the best coach in MLS?
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CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy won the regular season series against Real Salt Lake 2-1-0 and because of that stat, RSL head coach Jason Kreis believes that it will make LA favorites to win the Western Conference Semifinal.
LA picked up two wins against RSL this season winning the first meeting 2-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on April 27 before falling in Sandy, UT 3-1 on June 8th. The Galaxy then clobbered RSL 4-2 on Aug. 17 in the lone game at StubHub Center.
Although the Galaxy outscored his side seven to three in 2013, Kreis is confident in RSL’s ability to disregard their regular season struggles against LA.
“I think [the regular season record is] relevant in some ways that it makes them the favorite. But do I think that will be the end all be all to determine the playoffs? No I don’t,” said Kreis. “I think that when players get into the playoff situation they quickly forget what records were like during the regular season and I think all of look at the playoffs as a completely new and fresh opportunity so records sometimes go out the window.”
As for Kreis’ gameplan to stop the two-time defending MLS Cup champions, he believes that it will depend on his ability to stop the Galaxy’s dangerous forward pairing of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane.
It’s the best forward partnership in the entire league with Donovan and Keane if that’s who they choose to play there. I think that for me, Robbie Keane is probably the MLS MVP this year,” said Jason Kreis. “He’s been the most consistent and best player this year and so those two players we have to be mindful of all the time. And then they have some other guys that mix in well and come in late with the central midfielders so we’ve got to be mindful of them.
“We always have to be concerned with the potential of a team like LA because they get it,” Kreis added. “They put things together in the playoffs, players that have been there and done it so many times that they know what they’re capable of and often times will be playing there absolute best so we need to be worried about their potential, not necessarily what we’ve seen over the last week or two.”
Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas "two pieces of the puzzle" for the LA Galaxy ahead of Real Salt Lake match
CARSON, Calif. – There’s no doubt that Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane provide the skill and cunning for the LA Galaxy, but in the center of the park beats a Brazilian heart fueled by Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas.
“I think that we are doing well [in midfield]. I think that we are responding well to the expectations of the team. We know each other so it’s easy. Our relationship outside the field makes everything easy,” said Sarvas. “The way that we think about soccer is the same so it’s easy to click on the field. In the same way, we’re two pieces in this puzzle in a team that everyone is doing well.
Sarvas’ energetic style of play has quickly endeared him to teammates and fans alike with Galaxy supporters group LA Riot Squad naming him their player of the year while LAGalaxy.com voters voted him the runner-up to Robbie Keane as the team's MVP.
Although Sarvas’ popularity may be hard to understand for outsiders, the Brazilian believes that his style of play allows for such a close relationship with fans.
“I think that with the way that I play and show myself on the field, it’s easy for me to make this indent between me and the fans because they are people who have passion for the team before players and everything,” said Sarvas. “When they find someone who shows the same passion that they have it is easy. This is the type of player that I am and it’s not just here, but it’s everywhere they I've been.”
CARSON, Calif. -- LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena spoke with local and national media on a conference call on Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Western Conference Semifinal first leg against Real Salt Lake.
Arena’s comments are below…
(On the development of Omar Gonzalez…)
ARENA: “He’s had a solid year with a few injuries. I think that the national team call-ups have been challenging for him. It’s hurt his contiguity with our team and as well as with the national team. Those are things that happen with young players in their initial outings with trying to balance their club careers and international careers. It’s been challenging for Omar, but I think that as of late, he’s gotten his feet on the ground and is ready to go. He’s a great person, but it’s challenging for anyone and he’s gone through experiences throughout the year and now that we’re at the end of the year, he’s settled in. He’s using the experiences to get better as a player and as a person.”
(On the differences of the Galaxy since August…)
ARENA: “We’re a little bit more consistent on both ends of the field. We were fairly erratic in the first half of the season and solidified ourselves on both ends. Part of the reason is our performance, which has not been as consistent as I’d like, is that we've just had a difficult time this year getting our whole group together for any extended period of time. As of late, we've been able to do that with a little more consistency and it’s obviously helped us.
(On the influence of [Gyasi] Zardes and [Jaime] Penedo…)
ARENA: If we were going to play Landon and Robbie as forwards, we had to make the decision of what to do with Gyasi, so we made the decision to play him in midfield. That was big for our team. Penedo has come in and given us more consistency in goal. He’s capable of making big saves in games to preserve game. A.J. [DeLaGarza]’s injury has been unfortunate, but I think that the moves have helped us. As well as the fact that we've had Robbie and Landon together as strikers, but during the playoffs, I’d imagine that we’ll move that around as well.”
(On Real Salt Lake…)
ARENA: As usual they have a very good team and I think that they’re solid on every end of the field. Nick Rimando has been an outstanding goalkeeper for them this season as he has been for the last five, six, seven years. [Alvaro] Saborío is an excellent goal scorer for them up front. The midfield of [Javier] Morales, [Kyle] Beckerman, [Ned] Grabavoy, and [Luis] Gil is outstanding. The return of [Chris] Schuler helps them in the back; [Nat] Borchers is an excellent leader for them in the back as is [Chris] Wingert. They’ve got a nice team and an experienced team. It’s a team that is very talented.”
(On how important it is to figure things out before the playoffs and get through...)
ARENA: The little that I understand with this thing is that you can’t win the MLS Cup unless you’re in the tournament, so that’s half the battle to start. This year was very competitive from start to finish in the league as we know. It’s challenging and I don’t know if anyone has the formula for success. It’s going to be very competitive. I like the home-at-home leg that we have; it’s something new over the last couple of years. The schedule is very awkward, the play-in game could take its toll on some teams because they’re going to be a number of games over a period for those teams as well. Every step of the way, it’s going to be challenging and this is new territory for everybody. There are a lot of games that are coming quick and the teams that are successful and reach the conference final will have to deal with a long layoff between the first and second legs of the conference final and the MLS Cup final. There are a lot of challenges ahead. It’s uncharted waters for everyone so it will be interesting to see how everyone comes out of it. It’ll be interesting and challenging for sure.”
(On the impact of the international break scheduled in the middle of the postseason...)
ARENA: “It makes it more crowded and more open. I think that it’s going to be real difficult for the teams and the team coming out of the semifinals not knowing where they’re headed for the next game and waiting for teams to prevail. It’s going to be difficult and recovery time is very difficult in this schedule. It’s going to be interesting. I don’t think anyone knows how it is going to play out.”
(On the measure of success of the first leg…)
ARENA: “I don’t think that we know the formula for success, but one would think that it would be to start the competition with a win, having said that, we didn't do that last year [in the Conference Semifinals] with the San Jose Earthquakes. Anything goes. It’s a 180 minute plus competition right now and if you prevail in the first 90, it doesn't mean that you’re going to come out on top after 180 plus minutes. Every step of the way is going to be challenging and it’s important that you get off in good form in the first 90 minutes. However, we know from experience that it is not all said and done after 90 minutes.”
(On the tactical flexibility that his team has…)
ARENA: “We’re playing two games in [five days] and if we prevail than it is three games in seven or eight days then it gets a lot more difficult. That’s where there could be changes. And the play-in teams, that’s where it can be really difficult. In the beginning, I don’t think that anything is different, but as you move on and you have a lot of games with a lot of travel, it’ll be challenging. We’ll have to see players and how they’re doing and make decisions based on that.”
CARSON, Calif. – Robbie Keane has stated a firm case for the 2013 MLS MVP, but will the Irishman win the award once he it is announced in December?
Despite missing time with injury and international duty, Keane tallied 16 goals and 11 assists this season for the Galaxy in just 22 games played. Keane was one of just two players in MLS –Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri being the other—who tallied double digit goals and assists this season.
Although his numbers are high, the impact that he has when he is on the field is even greater. In his 22 games played, the Galaxy tallied a 12-7-4 record with Keane on the field while going 3-8-0 without him.
So is Robbie Keane the MLS MVP?
BRUCE ARENA: “I would think so. Not to be belittle anyone else’s performance, but to me, Robbie has been the best player in the league. His numbers prove that in terms of his goal production and in terms of the team success. The numbers tell you that when he’s on the field, we’re clearly a better team. It’s his ability, his spirit, his leadership."
LANDON DONOVAN: “I think that it’s hard to argue that he shouldn’t be. I would say that Mike [Magee] has been the most valuable player to any team in MLS, but it’s hard to select a player whose team didn’t make the playoffs as MVP. That being said, I think that everyone in this locker room knows the impact that Mike has and what he’s done for Chicago. Robbie has been terrific from game one and again scored a goal [on Sunday] that meant so much for us. I think it’db be hard to argue that he’s not MVP. This year he’s taken a lot more leadership and he’s just a battler. When it comes to game time, he’s competitive and he’s carried us through a lot of situations and he’s been fantastic. He’s the most clever player in the league. …I don’t think that I’ve ever played with a forward that creates that many chances in a game. It’s remarkable what he does in every game.”
TODD DUNIVANT: “He’s got a great case for it. There’s probably two on this team who are the top two in the league in Mike and Robbie Keane. For 23 games, he’s scored 16 goals with 11 assists so it’s a goal or an assist per game and that’s crazy. With what Mike has done in Chicago was incredible. He came within a hair of winning the golden boot and really turned that team around into one that was an inch from the playoffs. I think those are your two front runners. He’s a difference maker for us. He’s our captain and we need him out there.”
OMAR GONZALEZ: “For sure. He’s been great for our team and he’s played a lot less games than the other guys who are considered MVP candidates. He’s scored a lot of goals for us and he’s gotten us a lot of points. He’s been a great leader on this team and he helps us get ready and pumped up for games. …He’s just has this fighting personality. He just gets us ready. He’s got spirit and when he speaks –and the way that he speaks with that accent—gets us all ready to play.”
DAVE SARACHAN: “I’m biased, but I would say yes. With the number of starts and the amount of production that he’s had when he’s been involved with us, for me, scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in our sport and not only does he score goals, but he creates so much every time he’s out there. When you put it out together, he’s the most valuable player. You throw in all ingredients of what a top pro does as far as intangibles, but as far as the tangibles—the movement, the activity on the field, and the cunning [nature] with how he creates space and works with partners—he’s got all the attributes to make it difficult for him to be bottled. Because he’s Robbie Keane, it’s harder [to produce] and there is a target on his back every time that we play. ”
And then there were four in the Western Conference.
Seattle Sounders FC defeated the Colorado Rapids 2-0 at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday to qualify for the Western Conference Semifinals for the fifth consecutive season. Brad Evans put Seattle ahead in the 28th minute before Eddie Johnson doubled the lead in the third minute of second half stoppage time to set up a Cascadia Semifinal match between the Sounders and the Portland Timbers.
The Sounders didn't leave the match unscathed, however, as right back DeAndre Yedlin suffered a sprain right ankle injury that forced him to exit at the half. Yedlin's status may be in doubt for Saturday, but goalkeeper Michael Gspurning will not take part after being shown a straight red by referee Silviu Petrescu for catching a clearance outside the penalty area. Former U.S. international Marcus Hahnemann will serve as the Sounders goalkeeper for the first leg on Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
The second leg will take place on Nov. 7 at JELD-WEN Field.
Only four teams left in the West.
Who you got?
The LA Galaxy’s “Quest for Three” straight MLS Cups is the main theme as we head into the MLS Cup playoffs, but as they attempt to do something that has never been done before in MLS, let’s look at some of the threepeats from major sports across the world.
Check out this infographic of teams that won consecutive titles across the globe:
Threepeats by the numbers:
*ZERO – The number of threepeats in MLS history.
*ONE—The margin of point victory during the final three titles for FC Barcelona’s famed “Dream Team” which won four consecutive La Liga titles from 1990-91 to 1993-94. The last three titles were each won on the last day of the season.
*THREE – The number of NBA Final MVPs won by Shaquille O’Neal during the Los Angeles Lakers threepeat from 2000 to 2002.
*FOUR – The number of threepeats or more titles for Real Madrid, who have pulled off the feat more than any team in a major league across the world. Madrid have won the La Liga title 32 times.
*4-2-4—The formation of the Il Grande Torino side that won five titles in the forties. This was the first time that such an attacking formation had been used in global football. In the midst of their run, however, the bulk of the team was killed in the Superga air disaster.
*SEVEN – The number of World Series titles by New York Yankees managers Casey Stengel and Joe McCarthy, which is a major league baseball record. Both managers led the Yankees to consecutive titles.
* EIGHT –The number of consecutive titles for the Boston Celtics, which is the longest streak in American professional sport history. During the time, the Celtics were led by legendary head coach Red Auerbach and Bill Russell.
*TEN – The number of regular season losses during UCLA Men’s Basketball head coach John Wooden’s unprecedented seven consecutive NCAA titles between 1964 and 1976. During that span, UCLA lost more than two games only once—coming in 1975 when they lost three games. Wooden won 10 titles in 12 years.
*22—The number of titles won during the era of Liverpool FC from 1974 to 1984. Bob Paisley won two straight league titles from 1982 to 1983 before Joe Fagan completed the triple in 1984 after Paisley stepped down.
*19 – the number of consecutive series victories by New York Islanders as they won four straight Stanley Cup titles in the 1980s. The Islanders would win 16 consecutive playoff series, but moved their record to 19 in 1984 when they fell to the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup final to fall short of five straight.
*20.9—George Miken’s average points per game while leading the Minneapolis Lakers to the NBA’s first ever threepeat.
*22 --The number of goals scored by Internazionale’s Diego Milito in Inter’s 2009-10 season as he sealed the team’s third straight Serie A title.
*25—The percentage of Stanley Cup titles won by the Montreal Canadiens since 1914. The Habs won five straight titles from 1956-60 and four in 1976-79.
*33.6—Michael Jordan’s points per game during the NBA Finals. Jordan won six NBA titles with two threepeats.
*66—The Number of goals scored by Cristiano Ronaldo during Manchester United’s latest three-peat from 2006-07 to 2008-09.
*88—The number of goals scored by Lionel Messi during FC Barcelona’s La Liga threepeat from 2008-09 to 2010-11.
*92—The number of appearances for David Beckham as Manchester United completed the club’s first ever threepeat in 1998-99 to 2000-01. During that span, Beckham scored four goals for Manchester United.
*126 – The goal difference for Arsenal during their threepeat from 1932-33 to 1934-35. Arsenal’s threepeat was the second ever occurrence in The Football League with Huddlesfield Town pulling off the feat from 1923-24 to 1925-26.
*300—The number for amount of bonus money offered by Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley to members of his “Swingin’ A’s” sides in the 1970s that were the only team not named the New York Yankees to win three straight World Series titles.
We've got the date of the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal between the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake.
RSL announced late on Tuesday that the match will take place on Thursday, November 7 at 6 p.m. PT on ESPN2, giving the teams just three days to prepare between matches.
Heading to Salt Lake City?
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Tuesday Notes: David Beckham still eyeing Miami for MLS expansion franchise, Rennie dismissed by Vancouver
CARSON, Calif. – The clock is ticking ahead of the LA Galaxy’s match against Real Salt Lake this weekend, but there was considerable movement in North American soccer on Tuesday.
*Former LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham has selected Miami as the location that he’d like to exercise his option to become an MLS owner according to the Associated Press. However according the Miami Herald, the move is not set in stone, but is “looking promising."
*LA’s opponent in the Western Conference Semifinals Real Salt Lake locked down a new jersey sponsor with Sandy, Utah-based LifeVantage Corp. signing a 10-year, multimillion dollar deal. The LifeVantage logo will be on the front of RSL’s kits at the start of the 2014 season.
*Vancouver Whitecaps FC dismissed Martin Rennie as head coach after a 13-12-9 MLS regular season that saw the ‘Caps fall short of the postseason while also failing to win the Canadian Championship. In a press conference on Tuesday, club President Bob Lenarduzzi stated that the team is interested in former San Jose Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop.
CARSON, Calif. – Back from injury and feeling healthy, Robbie Rogers is beginning to progress into a genuine option for LA head coach Bruce Arena, but to get over the hump, he’ll need to improve in the final third.
Given a chance to start after Pablo Mastroeni suffered a late injury, Rogers went 78 minutes on the right side of the Galaxy midfield in LA’s 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders FC last Sunday. The start was Rogers’ first league start since July 13 and his second appearance in a week after going 45 minutes in LA’s 4-0 defeat to El Salvador's Isidro Metapán in CONCACAF Champions League.
As he aims to regain a consistent starting role with the Galaxy, Rogers admitted that it was
“[The game was] important for me because I haven’t played a game like that for a long time, so it’s important for my growth and just my development,” said Rogers, who nearly found the back of the net in the 40th minute when he his shot was saved by goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. “I've been trying to focus on every day just improving a little bit and I haven’t played that many games in two or three months, but I think that each game I've gotten a little better.
“I think that it’s good time that I’m a little bit more fit and stronger heading into the playoffs.”
LA associate head coach Dave Sarachan, who a week earlier heralded Rogers as a potential third attacking option behind work horses Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, admitted that he did well on the turf at CenturyLink Field.
“I think that he’s turned a corner physically,” said Sarachan. “We were pleased with the effort that he gave in Seattle. Going forward, there wasn't a lot for him or other players, but as far as the dirty running, tracking back, and defending, he seemed to do well… Now he has to get it going in the attacking third a little more that part needs to get a little cleaner.”
“[The Seattle game] was a difficult one, so that’s definitely one think I need to do when we’re playing at home, on such a big and with the way that we play,” said Rogers. “That would be combining a good defensive effort with creating chances [offensively]."
Want Rogers to start on the right side of midfield? Think he’ll find a goal in the postseason?
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