Preseason Notes: LA Galaxy nearing full fitness; Arena says CONCACAF Champions League schedule must change
CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy open the 2015 MLS regular season on Friday, and will do so with a near clean bill of health.
First team regulars A.J. DeLaGarza, Baggio Husidic, Jaime Penedo and Gyasi Zardes as well as trialist Edson Buddle missed out on the Galaxy's final preseason game of 2015 on Saturday, but Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena says that the team will be close to full health when they open the season on Friday against the Chicago Fire.
"I think that we're in good shape heading into the first game. We've been very conservative with our players this preseason. Given that we had such a long year last year, we didn't want to kill anybody. We're just taking it in stride. We'll be fine... They're all here training."
TIME TO CHANGE THE SCHEDULE FOR THE CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SAYS ARENA
The Galaxy will not begin their CONCACAF Champions League campaign for nearly five months, but Bruce Arena says that the club will do their best to win the continental tournament.
Currently, MLS entrants D.C. United and the Montreal Impact are long shots to reach the semifinals of the now rebranded Scotia Bank CONCACAF Champions League which may force MLS to wait another year for the a team to challenge for the regional championship. During the 2015-16 tournament, the Galaxy will be joined by D.C. United, Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders FC who will attempt to become the first team to win the title.
Winning the Champions League has been a tall order for MLS clubs, and according to Arena, it will continue to be a challenge for MLS teams if the schedule remains the same.
“We want to win it,” said Arena. “Unfortunately for our league, it’s not fair for our teams to play this competition in February. We’re put behind the eight ball right away. It’s the job of U.S. Soccer and MLS to work with CONCACAF and provide some dates that allow us to be more competitive in the competition.
BRUCE ARENA TELLS MLS TO "BRING IT ON" AS LA LOOK TO REPEAT
The LA Galaxy will begin their MLS regular season campaign on Friday with 19 teams gunning to take away their title as MLS Cup champions. Typically that places a bulls-eye on the winning team, but that's of little matter to Bruce Arena.
When asked on Monday if the Galaxy will face considerable pressure this season to repeat as champions, the LA head coach and general manager responded in his typically glib manner.
"Yeah, bring it on. Whatever. I think that's what I signed up for," Arena said.
Even if the Galaxy will head into the season as the favorites to repeat as MLS Cup champions, Arena is eager to get the season started.
"We don't need anymore preseason," Arena said. "I'm sick of it. I'd rather be criticized right away."
HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. –Rob Friend is hanging up his boots.
The little-used Canadian forward announced his retirement on Monday at the club’s MLS Cup championship rally in Hermosa Beach. Friend made just 12 appearances for the Galaxy in all competitions while tallying just one assist for the club after joining in January.
Friend’s injury troubles began in July following the club’s friendly with Manchester United in what he described as a “freak accident” that occurred when a ball struck him in the forehead during training when he wasn’t looking. Since the injury, which he believes was only made worse due to repeated head injuries during his decade-long career; Friend has tried to make a recovery, but fallen short each time.
“I made a few attempts at a comeback, but it’s my body telling me that I’ve taken one too many hits to the head. I’m still struggling with a few symptoms and a lot of headaches. It’s a combination of that it is not worth it to maybe take one more hit,” Friend said. “I have to make that decision for myself and my family. I have hopefully a very long life ahead of me and I need to be a good father and a good husband to take care of my family. I don’t ever want to go through what I’ve been through with this concussion again.”
Although the decision seemed inevitable given his inability to return to the field, the striker admitted that he didn’t come to decision lightly as he saw specialists across North America as he considered returning to the game. But despite the bittersweet ending to this chapter in his life, Friend still admits that he can hold his head up high given his success across Europe throughout his career.
“It’s unfortunate. I wish the fans and the organization could have seen me at my best,” said Friend. “I’ll always take pride in my work ethic and attitude. I wasn’t a fancy player but I think that I have a lot of respect from every player and organization. I had a lot of highs especially playing in the Bundesliga and coming from a small town in Canada, I had a lot against me and I succeeded.”
As for what’s next for the newly retired Friend, the 33-year-old now hopes to move into the business of soccer in some respect which is fitting for the Canadian who holds a degree in Business Economics from U.C. Santa Barbara.
One avenue that may be worth exploring for Friend if he is up for consideration is with the Canadian Soccer Association, a group that the former national team forward believes needs considerable reforms.
“I would love to change the entire dynamic of the Canadian Soccer Association. We’re 20 years behind the U.S. and I think there is a lot of ideas and tips that we can take from them. We’re just too far behind and it takes guys who have been outside of Canada and made it around the world to change the mentality and the system. It takes a lot of work and not one man is going to change it, but I would love to help out.”
The LA Galaxy are headed back to the CONCACAF Champions League.
By virtue of Real Salt Lake's 1-0 defeat to Chivas USA, the Galaxy can finish no lower than second in the Western Conference which will allow LA to clinch a berth in the 2015/16 CONCACAF Champions League even if they are not successful in their bid to win the Supporters’ Shield.
With at least a second place finish in the Western Conference assured and Seattle already holding a CCL berth after winning the 2014 U.S. Open Cup, the Galaxy will hold a CCL place even if the Sounders win the Supporters’ Shield. The Galaxy will also still hold the place even if they finish in third in the shield chase to current Eastern Conference leaders as both Seattle (USOC) and DCU (Eastern Conference) will already possess CCL berths.
CONCACAF’s official verbiage on what occurs when a team holds two CCL spaces is as follows, “If a single MLS team occupies more than one of the U.S. slots, or a Canadian team captures any of the above (Canada has one CONCACAF Champions League berth awarded to the Canadian Championship winner), the berth would go to the next best US-based MLS team based on regular-season record.”
In addition to clinching a berth in next year’s CCL, the Galaxy will also host at least one second leg match in the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs.
LA Galaxy midfielder turned defender Robbie Rogers spoke in a public service announcement for YouTube entitled "#ProudToPlay" along with a number of prominent athletes.
Check it out below.
CARSON, Calif. -- LA Galaxy center back Leonardo took plenty of flak his second half defensive error in LA’s draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, but the Brazilian defender believes that he’ll rebound.
Following training, I asked Arena about how Leonardo moves forward and whether he simply needs to have a short memory or should focus on correcting the concentration error. The response from the Galaxy boss was worth noting.
“It has to be a little of both. I’m sure you’ve made mistakes in your life. Fell off your tricycle at some point and had to learn from that. You put the Band-Aid on and you get on with business,” Arena said. “That’s basically what we’re doing. It’s all part of life, but unfortunately for athletes especially defenders or goalkeepers, when they make a mistake, everyone is an expert and has it all figured out. Leo was involved in a lot of plays in that game where he was excellent. However, he did make a crucial error; we learn from it and move on.”
As for Leonardo, the center back is bullish about his ability to recover from performances like the match against the Whitecaps and the Club Tijuana defeat earlier in the year.
“It happens to players,” Leonardo admitted. “I think the thing to understand that when we face more complicated games you learn from your mistakes.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dos a cero.
Chris Wondolowski put the United States up 2-0 with his clinical finish off a Tony Beltran cross.
Check it out below.
CARSON, Calif. – Another year, another CONCACAF Champions League semifinal that will be dominated by Mexican clubs.
A day after the LA Galaxy fell 4-3 on aggregate to Club Tijuana, the San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City were also eliminated with defeats to Mexican clubs Toluca and Cruz Azul. The results all but assure that the competition will have an all-Mexican final for the sixth time in the competition’s history unless Central American underdog Alajuelense can upset Toluca.
Following the loss to Tijuana, Galaxy attacker Landon Donovan stated that the wage disparity may have played a part in LA’s defeat and veteran Todd Dunivant was quick to agree after LA training on Thursday.
“Our owners are competitive and we want to be the best league in this region and I don’t think that’s too far off to be honest. We’ve made big strides and we’re closer and closer. I think even two or three years ago, you see all Mexican teams playing second teams in these games and now you don’t see that,” said Dunivant who played 45 minutes in the loss. “At the end of the day, we’re still a ways away, but the funny part is that we’re really close. … It’s not that far off, but the difference is pretty big in terms of the depth of the roster and the economics between the two league and, at the end of the day, that makes enough of a difference to consistently get the same results.”
While Dunivant believes that there are “no easy answers” to the league's failures in CCL, but was quick to admit that the wage disparity between MLS and Liga MX “might be brought up” as the players union heads into negotiations for the new CBA at the end of the year.
“Everyone out here is trying to put a 1000 percent into this and we’re not making excuses before about losing, but at the end of the day, when you keep seeing the same results, it’s difficult to argue with the conditions that we have,” said Dunivant. “We’re competitive and we’re going to do everything that we can, but the disparity is pretty obvious.”
In the latest edition of "Kickin' It With Kelli," Time Warner Cable SportsNet sideline reporter Kelli Tennant speaks to A.J. DeLaGarza about life in Los Angeles, the Galaxy and his dog Diesel at Silvio's in Hermosa Beach.
Check it out below.
CARSON, Calif. – The bitter taste of Tuesday’s disappointing defeat to Club Tijuana has not yet dissipated for the LA Galaxy, but now as they look ahead to their match against Real Salt Lake on Saturday, they’re hoping to use their poor showing as motivation as they return to league play.
With the nightmare opening 30 minutes that led to a 4-2 loss to Tijuana still in their mind, LA understand that a strong start at Rio Tinto Stadium is vital if they’re going to earn their first league result of the year.
“If our mentality is better from the start, we’re very capable of getting a result there [in Salt Lake],” said Landon Donovan who started LA’s 4-2 defeat to Club Tijuana on Tuesday. “I think the guys are fired up and disappointed form Tuesday and we want to go put in a real good performance in Salt Lake.”
The match against RSL marks the second time in a two week span that the Galaxy will on Jeff Cassar’s side after LA dropped a 1-0 result in their home opener on March 8. In that match, the Galaxy outplayed Salt Lake, but ultimately poor finishing proved to be their undoing in the defeat.
As frustrating as that defeat to RSL may have been, it won’t be on the mind of Donovan once the Galaxy kick off on Saturday.
“What is fresh in our mind is Tuesday. The way that we started that game is not indicative of the team that we are,” said Donovan. “We’re very talented and we know that, but if we don’t compete then we can get beat especially against good teams."
TIJUANA, MEXICO – The LA Galaxy players differed about the timing, but all admitted that LA surrendered their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series with Club Tijuana within the opening 30 minutes.
LA conceded three times in the opening half hour as Tijuana pressed mercilessly, but nearly leveled the tie thanks to a Robbie Keane second half brace, that ultimately was not enough. Following the match, the Galaxy admitted their slow start in Tijuana cost them the series.
“The game was over in the first 10 minutes. It’s as simple as that. We started off slow and when you concede a goal in the space of 57 seconds; you can’t start away from home like that especially in a game like this and go on and expect that everything is going to be okay,” said Robbie Keane. “Once you concede one goal then you have to get organized and concede again, then five minutes later, you concede again. It put our backs against the wall and when we had to fight to get back in the game.”
Galaxy attacker Landon Donovan agreed.
“When you start a game like that then you don’t deserve it. We lost the game in the first 25 minutes, we know that,” said Donovan. “It’s disappointing because we know what we’re capable of, we showed what we’re capable of, but unfortunately for us, we were a little naïve and it showed.”