The axe fell for two MLS head coaches on Friday.
The New York Red Bulls announced on Friday that the contracts of head coach Hans Backe and assistant Jan Halvor Halvorsen would not be renewed for the 2013 season while also announcing the appointment of Andy Roxburgh as the club's new Sporting Director. The Swedish manager will be replaced by Mike Petke on an interim basis.
Meanwhile, Soccer By Ives reports that Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser and his assistant Greg Vanney have been let go by the Rojiblancos. Speculation has swirled around the former Galaxy defender after Chivas de Guadalajara owner Jorge Vergara took sole ownership of the club earlier in the year. Vergara is scheduled to speak to the media at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills next Tuesday.
If Fraser joins Backe, it will bring the total of MLS coaches relieved of their duties this offseason to three after the Montreal Impact parted ways with Jesse Marsch last week.
In other news, the MLS Disciplinary Committee suspended Andy Najar for the entire Eastern Conference Championship series and fined him an undisclosed amount for hurling a ball at Jair Marrufo -- who will officiate this Sunday's Western Conference Championship Final -- after being awarded a yellow card for a hard challenge on Red Bulls midfielder Joel Lindpere in the 71st minute of the Eastern Conference Semifinal First Leg last week.
Also, Seattle Sounders defender Marc Burch offered an apology for directing a homophobic slur at Real Salt Lake midfielder Will Johnson in the 75th minute of their Western Conference Semifinal Second Leg at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday night. No word yet if Burch will be suspended, but Houston Dynamo midfielder Colin Clark was suspended three games for using a similar slur toward a ball boy during a game in Seattle earlier in the season.
CARSON, Calif. -- Below are LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena's comments from training on November 9.
(On being surprised that Seattle got through over Salt Lake…)
ARENA: “I’m not surprised at all. The way those teams played this year that was the only goal scored in their four games. Obviously don’t expect a low scoring game, a close game.”
(On what Seattle does well…)
ARENA: “Their defending has been an important part of their planning on how they’re going to win games. On the road they really put an emphasis on defending as a team.”
(On how confident the Galaxy are against Seattle…)
ARENA: “We’re going to step on the field ready to play and win on Sunday.”
(On having the last laugh at team’s critics…)
ARENA: “I don’t pay attention to a whole lot that’s said and written.”
(On if there was any advantage over Seattle from past series…)
ARENA: “It’s immaterial. We’re just trying to win a game, win and move on to MLS Cup final…You can wipe the slate clean on all of these series. What happened in the previous ones is immaterial.”
(On what it takes to beat Seattle…)
ARENA: “Probably score more goals than the Sounders…You have to play well, concentrate on the fact it’s two games, maybe two games plus 30 minutes, maybe two games plus 30 minutes and penalty kicks. Anything can happen. You got to hang in there at all times and no lead is safe.”
(On how well the Galaxy is playing now…)
ARENA: “We’re playing well enough to win this competition.”
(On Mike Magee’s knack for scoring big goals…)
ARENA: “That’s the qualities of a good player. He’s always been a player that’s been good in and around the penalty area. When he gets a look at the goal, he’s pretty good getting his shots on the frame. Half the battle of scoring is if you can’t hit the goal the likelihood of scoring is diminished greatly.”
CARSON, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes series behind them, the LA Galaxy have turned their focus on Seattle Sounders FC, who they will face in the Western Conference Championship.
Seattle won the season series 2-1-0 with the Galaxy, earning two victories –both at CenturyLink Field in Seattle—by a combined score of 6-0 before LA won the season finale at The Home Depot Center 1-0 in August. While Seattle has enjoyed success this season, LA have the edge in postseason matches with Seattle after defeating the Sounders in the 2010 Western Conference Semifinal.
Although the Galaxy have displayed success against Seattle in important matches, Magee believes that LA are facing an uphill battle in the two-leg championship series.
“No, they have the advantage. They have more points than us and they get the second leg at home so I think that the pressure is on them to win,” said Magee. “They’ve obviously proved that they could go to Salt Lake and get a result which is extremely hard to do. I definitely that say that they’re favorite at the moment.”
The Sounders will arrive at The Home Depot Center with one of the stingiest defenses in MLS, having only conceded 33 goals all season –the top mark in the Western Conference and second in MLS—due to the steady play of goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. However, that isn’t the only weapon that the Sounders carry as Seattle boast a plethora of talented attackers like Eddie Johnson, Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales, among others.
And just how does Magee think that the Galaxy defeat Seattle?
“We just have to want it more,” Magee said. “I think they’re a team that is playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of motivation Especially, playing against us, like San Jose, they’ve always wanted to beat us and they’ve judged themselves based on their successes and failures against us. This is their MLS Cup and it’s going to be very big for them.”
One thing is certain for Magee, who expects more of the physical play that epitomized LA’s series with San Jose.
“It’s going to be more,” Magee said. “As you get closer to the MLS Cup Final, it’s going to get more important and more physical. I’m expecting an all-out battle.”
Below is Mike Magee's appearance on MLSsoccer.com's ExtraTime Radio.
Seattle Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid seems to have gotten a little extra motivation on Thursday night from the LA Galaxy.
On Thursday afternoon, the Galaxy Communications department released a training schedule that mistakenly labeled Sunday’s Western Conference Championship as “LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake.”[the image can be found here along with another foible by the league office]. The ex-Galaxy boss took notice of his mistake and made sure to use it to his team’s advantage before their decisive Western Conference Semifinal Second Leg.
"LA thought they were playing Salt Lake,” Schmid told reporters on Thursday.” They put out a press release and said they were playing Salt Lake, so we hate to disappoint them. That's motivation enough for us right now."
The Professional Referees Organization announced that referee Jair Marrufo has been chosen to officiate the Western Conference Championship First Leg at The Home Depot Center on Sunday.
Marrufo officiated five games Galaxy games with LA earning a record of 2-1-2 meanwhile he also officiated two Sounders matches with Seattle going 1-0-1 in those games. Marrufo has had some past with the Galaxy in that match with the Earthquakes as David Beckham labeled Marrufo "the star" after his ruling to award a penalty kick due to a questionable handball by David Beckham.
The breakdown of Marrufo’s officiating for Sounders and Galaxy games is below
4/12 – LA 3 Portland 1. Fouls: 16 (eight each); Cautions: 2 (both for Portland)
5/23 – LA 2 San Jose 3. Fouls: 25 (15 for LA and 10 for SJ); Cautions: 4 Yellows (2 for LA and 2 for Seattle) 1 Red (for LA); Penalties: 1 (for San Jose)
7/8 – Chicago 0 LA 1. Fouls: 21 (14 for LA and 7 for CHI); Cautions: 3 Yellows (2 for LA and 1 for Chi); Penalties: 1 (for LA)
8/5 – Chivas USA 0 LA 4. Fouls: 20 (9 for CHV and 11 for LA); Cautions: 1 Yellow (for CHV)
10/21 – San Jose 2 LA 2. Fouls: 26 ( 11 for SJ and 15 for LA); Cautions: 1 Yellow (for LA)
6/20 – Seattle 1 Sporting KC 1. Fouls: 27 (9 for Seattle and 18 for SJ); Cautions: 4 (1 for Seattle and 3 for SKC), 1 Red (for Seattle)
10/7 – Seattle 3 Portland Timbers 0. Fouls: 20 (11 for Seattle and 9 Portland); Cautions: 2 (1 each)
Marrufo’s complete crew is:
Mario Martinez's wonder strike propelled Seattle Sounders FC to their first-ever Western Conference Championship against the LA Galaxy, but the goal should have looked a bit familiar to Galaxy supporters.
Martinez's goal in the 81st minute appeared to mirror Robbie Keane's own strike against Real Salt Lake back in October. Both goals came against RSL and both started on the right flank before ultimately leading to a left-footed volley that sailed into the lower right corner.
The two goals are below, agree that they are similar?
The LA Galaxy knew on Wednesday evening that they'll be making their fourth straight Western Conference Championship appearance in 2012, and now they know who their opponent is.
LA will take on Seattle Sounders FC, who are making their first ever appearance in the West Conference Championship. The Sounders advanced by defeating Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Semifinal match up as Honduran midfielder Mario Martinez scored a stunning goal in the 81st minute to give the Sounders the victory at Rio Tinto Stadium as well as the aggregate lead.
The first leg will take place on Sunday, Nov. 11 at The Home Depot Center before traveling to CenturyLink Field for the second leg on Nov. 18.
The Sounders won the season series with the Galaxy going 2-1-0, earning both of their wins at CenturyLink, defeating LA 2-0 on May 2 and 4-0 on Aug. 5. The Galaxy won the final game of the season against the Sounders 1-0 at The HDC. While Seattle have the series lead this regular season, the Galaxy have had success against the Sounders in the postseason, defeating the Sounders in the 2010 Western Conference Semifinal.
Regardless of the match up, Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant is proud of LA's four consecutive West Final appearances.
"It's a testament to keeping this group together. Successful teams in this league are successful teams, consistent teams and teams that have stability. We've had the same core group for four seasons and the results have spoken for themselves. This is what happens when you get a good group together and you keep them together," Dunivant told LA Galaxy Insider on Thursday. "It's a testament to our club and everybody for doing that because it could have been easy to push the panic button at 3-8-2 and start to blow this thing up but they didn't do that. I think we rewarded them with the best second half of the season of any team in the league and now we're pushing through the playoffs. It's great for the whole organization."
After seeing off the San Jose Earthquakes in the Western Conference Semifinal, the LA Galaxy will spend Thursday awaiting their opponent in the Western Conference Championship.
Seattle Sounders FC takes on Real Salt Lake on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. PT at Rio Tinto Stadium in the decisive second leg. The series is currently scoreless after goalkeepers Nick Rimando and Michael Gspurning combined for nine saves at CenturyLink Field last week.
The winner will take on the Galaxy in LA’s fourth consecutive appearance in the Western Conference Championship, but before LA can prepare for that match, the Galaxy will place a keen eye on Thursday’s match.
“We’re definitely going to watch it, but honestly, it’s a real toss-up. They’re two really good teams and they both had good seasons and finished very closely to each other,” Defender Todd Dunivant told LA Galaxy Insider on Thursday morning. “If I was betting man, I wouldn’t bet this game because I honestly don’t know and honestly have no preference, they’re both good teams and we’ve battled with both of these teams over the last four years, it’s going to be a great series either way.”
During the 2012 Regular Season, the Galaxy went 1-2-0 against both Salt Lake and Seattle. Regular season results aside, LA have had postseason success against the two teams as LA defeated Seattle in the Conference Semifinal in 2010. The Galaxy’s history with RSL, however, is much longer as Salt Lake knocked off the Galaxy in the 2009 MLS Cup Final in Seattle before LA defeated Salt Lake in the 2011 Western Conference Championship.
But what issues do the two teams pose for LA this season?
“They both present problems, they both have injury concerns which at this time year a lot of teams will,” said Dunivant. “Obviously, with Seattle, they have Johnson and Montero healthy, they’re as dangerous a duo that there is in this league. Rosales is another one that has been hobbled, but he’s the main source of all their goals, they have a lot and they're good defensively.”
“Same goes for Salt Lake,” Dunivant added. “It starts with their defense and they also have a lot of dangerous players in the attack, [Javier] Morales is unpredictable, [Fabian] Espindola, and [Alvaro] Saborío are great goal scorers. There are a lot of similarities between both teams to be honest.”
The first leg of the Western Conference Championship begins at 6 p.m. PT at The Home Depot Center while the second leg will take place on Sunday, Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. PT at the winner of RSL/Seattle.
Three LA Galaxy Players have been nominated for Futbol MLS' Latino del Año or "Latino of the Year."
Brazilian midfielders Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas are joined by defender Omar Gonzalez as well as 21 other Latino players for the 24 player, six group contest. The top two seeds from each group advance to a playoff that will decide a Latino player of the year on December 3.
Gonzalez is in Group C with Seattle Sounders forward Fredy Montero, San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Marvin Chavez, and FC Dallas' David Ferreira. Juninho is ranked as the top seed in Group E with New England Revolution forward Jerry Bengston, Real Salt Lake's Fabian Espindola, and Philadelphia Union midfielder Michael Farfan. Meawnhile, Marcelo Sarvas is in Group G with RSL's Alvaro Saborio, New York Red Bulls midfielder Rafael Marquez, and Chivas USA midfielder Oswaldo Minda.
A day after notching a brace against the San Jose Earthquakes that helped propel the LA Galaxy into the Western Conference Championship for the fourth consecutive year, forward Robbie Keane was crowned as the 2012 Castrol Index Top Player.
The Castrol Index is MLS’ official performance index that assesses each player and judges how positive or negative their impact has on their individual team’s success.
Keane finished with a total of 854 points in 2,520 minutes of action during the regular season, edging out the 2011 Castrol Index Top Player Chris Wondolowski by 18 points. The Irishman earned the nod over Wondolowski due to his success in target shots, winning duels, good passes, and the fact that only 7% of his goals came on penalty kicks compared to 23% for Wondolowski.
The nod for Keane is no surprise after Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was quick to laud the Irishman on Wednesday.
"Robbie, since he’s come back from the European Championships has been the best player in the league," said Arena after LA's 3-1 win. "He’s been great. He scores big goals, he’s competitive, he’s bought into MLS, he likes L.A., he’s a great leader on our team. When the whistle blows he’s ready to play, he’s a real great competitor."