Galaxy Preparing for 2010 Home Opener
The LA Galaxy returned to training Tuesday at The Home Depot Center with a two-fold purpose: prepare for Saturday's MLS regular-season opener against the New England Revolution and learn more specifics about the new collective bargaining agreement between owners and players.
The Galaxy's Chris Klein, who sits on the players' executive board with Landon Donovan and along with Todd Dunivant represented the Galaxy at the talks, said he finally was able to discuss specifics with his teammates on the five-year deal. That a contract even was reached came as great news for the rest of the Galaxy, who closed their unbeaten preseason with Sunday's 0-0 tie against El Salvador's CD Aguila.
Klein, who had been relaying news to the Galaxy's Eddie Lewis and Alan Gordon as the marathon bargaining sessions went on in Washington, D.C., said he was happy the players can do what they do best: play.
"In our heart, we're not negotiators. We're soccer players," he said. "We want to be on the field. We feel we owe the fans that, and we're excited for Saturday night."
The agreement's finalization on Saturday capped a grueling week for Donovan, who returned a week ago Sunday from England, where he spent 10 weeks on loan with Everton of the English Premier League, played a full 90 minutes in a scrimmage three days later, flew to Washington, D.C., on Thursday to take part in the talks, returned Saturday after the deal was reached and then went the distance in Sunday's friendly.
"I am tired, but I'll rest this week," he said after Sunday's game. "I knew it was going to be a tough week. Now I just need a few days to figure out where I am and get my body back on West Coast time and I'll be fine."
Lewis, who turns 36 in May and is entering his third season with the Galaxy, is no stranger to sometimes difficult owner-player relations. He was with Leeds United when the English club went into administration at the end of the 2006-07 season and remembers it as a particularly trying time. Players had to sign agreements to defer their wages, for example, while the club went through financial reorganization.
Lewis said the game's off-the-field struggles often get lost in the bright lights and popularity.
"Although it's very glamorous and exciting and it gets a lot of attention," Lewis said. "It can get difficult to predict, too. (Leeds' administration) was a tremendous lesson for me in terms of labor agreements and laws."
Dunivant said the players never completely lost hope, although he did admit things looked bleak for a while.
"There were so many meetings that ended in frustration. Nothing was getting done," he said. `"We were going back and forth hearing the same arguments on both sides over and over, and that wears on you. I think there was a very real possibility the season wasn't going to start on time. That wouldn't have been good for anyone, but it was a reality."
But now, at long last, there is a season opener to prepare for. Lewis, for one, said the Galaxy are in good shape. He attributed his optimism to the direction of head coach Bruce Arena, who is in his second year of restoring the club to its former place among the league's powers. Arena also apparently has an uncanny ability to forsee the future.
"I don't know the status of all the clubs," Lewis said, "but I'd have to say we're as well-prepared as any team. From the very beginning, Bruce has specifically geared us toward the 24-man roster, which is exactly what the new rules state. He had a good idea how this whole thing would play out and I think it's come very close to what he's predicted.
"We've had to make no drastic changes, and in the offseason we've only managed to strengthen the squad. As far as prepartion, certainly I think everyone is as well-positioned as we can be."