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.
A sports agency has filed suit against the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer, claiming it is owed $385,000 for its role in LA's acquisition of Robbie Keane.
According to the news agency Reuters, the complaint, filed by Real Time International Ltd (RTI) states that the Galaxy and MLS "exploited information" given by the Agency "without compensation" to complete Keane's reported $5.7 million transfer from English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur. A spokesman from the Galaxy stated that it is the club’s policy to withhold comments on pending litigation.
In the Reuters report, the lawsuit which was filed last Friday in a Manhattan federal court states that a senior member of the Galaxy approached RTI for aid in finding a player that the club could acquire in a ten day span. When RTI identified Keane, the Galaxy entered in negotiations with Tottenham. When the signing was completed, RTI claims that it sought a percentage of the reported $5.7 million transfer fee for its role in the signing, but the Galaxy refused to pay.
Keane has become a key member of the Galaxy since his signing, scoring three goals in eight games last season among regular season and postseason as well as 12 goals in 23 games during the 2012 season.
NEW ORLEANS— While the LA Galaxy’s flight refuels in New Orleans on the way to Puerto Rico, reporters caught up with LA Galaxy forward Edson Buddle to discuss his return to the lineup.
Buddle went 12 minutes in an effective substitute stint during the Galaxy’s 2-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids last Friday.
Buddle's quotes are below...
(On his rehab…)
BUDDLE: “Every day, I feel like my knee is getting stronger. Some days a little sorer than others, but each and every day I feel more comfortable on the field.
(On getting used to being out on the field…)
BUDDLE: “Getting used to the timing, getting used to everything. My knee is still not as strong as my left. I think that I have to keep strengthening it and work on my balance. It’ll all come together.
(On whether getting his game time in spurts is helping his recovery…)
BUDDLE: “That’s what it is going to take. You can’t just throw me in there for 90 minutes; you have to build up the minutes. I think that’s what Bruce is doing.”
(On the most that he could play at the moment…)
BUDDLE: “Right now, the most I’ve played is sixty minutes and hopefully I can get 80 or 75 minutes. I lasted sixty, but as a player, you always want to play the whole game.”
(On understanding that he has to play in increments…)
BUDDLE: “Yeah, my mind tells me one thing, but my body says the other.”
(On potentially getting a start soon…)
BUDDLE: “We’ll see how Bruce does it. Anytime that he wants me, I’m available and I’m ready.”
(On facing Puerto Rico and what he remembers about his last trip to Puerto Rico…)
BUDDLE: “It was a tough game, we had to win. It was humid, the field was very bumpy and I know that it won’t be an easy place to play. I was surprised about how many people came out to watch the game so I’m expecting a good crowd.”
(On whether this trip is a happier one than the one in 2010…)
BUDDLE: “I agree. The tables are turned, it’s the other way around. It’s a different team and a little more experienced.”
(On the importance of road victories in the new CCL format…)
BUDDLE: “Every win and every goal counts. You just want to win and advance.”
(On Puerto Rico being one loss from elimination…)
BUDDLE: “They have a lot to play for. I’m sure they remember the loss in LA so I’m sure that it’s going to be hard game…I know that it didn’t rub them the right way, us beating them 4-0.”
In my feature profiling Rafael Garcia, there were tons of great things said about the midfielder that didn't make the piece.
Below are a selection of quotes from Garcia, Sean Franklin (who was Garcia's teammate during his first season at Cal State-Northridge), his Canoga Park High School coach Jake Gwin and his father also named Rafael Garcia.
(On being a father and a pro athlete...)
GARCIA: "It’s awesome. I love every single second of it. It was hard especially in my college years when I was finishing up school, but now, I have a lot more time which is great when we’re around because when we travel I don’t get to see my son or my girlfriend as much. It’s great I love it, I get a lot of time with my son and it’s a lot of trips to the park and the beach. It’s been great, nothing has been easy, but now I’m at a point where I’m able to balance everything in my life as far as my personal life and my professional life and my social life. It’s all very new in a way, but I just take it day by day and the time that I spend with my family is the time that I cherish the most."
(On people describing him as a hard working person...)
GARCIA: It’s very flattering that people consider me a person that is hard working, ambitious and won’t take no for an answer. I feel like that has been my goal from day one to be that person that never gives up and is persistent. For me, it’s very flattering and humbling and I have to keep that mentality if I do then who knows what will happen. The sky is the limit.
(On his perception of Garcia...)
FRANKLIN: "To see him get to where he has and work hard and now be one of my teammates is great. It's good to see a fellow Matador in the league. All credit to him, he's a humble person a hard worker and he deserves to be here."
(On his excitement to see Garcia become a professional...)
GWIN: "When he came to me and told me that he and Lilly were having a kid. I took a deep breath and I shook his hand and said to him that 'you’re going to be a great father.' I knew that he was going to raise a great kid and provide for him. I was obviously worried that my other kids weren’t able to do that. I was never concerned for him. He would be great, he has a greet family that supports him. He has a great kid and a great structure around him and I’m just proud and when he first signed his contract, I texted him obviously congratulations, but also ‘I’m happy for Isaiah” that he gets to grow up watching his dad play professional soccer and that is unique and rare. I was as much as happy for Isaiah as I was for him."
(On Garcia's family oriented lifestyle...)
R. GARCIA Sr. "Every day, he goes to the practice and then comes back to the house. He loves his family and he wants to stay with them all the time. I always told him ‘God, family and work’ were important and if you can do your job then your family will be okay. "
There are some stories that you just enjoy telling and I can honestly say that my piece on LA Galaxy rookie Rafael Garcia is one of those.
Feel free to comment on the piece below.