Galaxy return from 10-day training in AZ

Club looks better and more cohesive than last preseason

Alan Gordon at MLS Cup

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

The Los Angeles Galaxy returned to the Home Depot Center practice field
on Tuesday, fresh from 10 days of workouts and scrimmages in Arizona and
continuing to make the kind of progress head coach Bruce Arena had been
hoping for.

Make no mistake, the Galaxy are far from a finished product heading into
their March 27 regular-season opener against the New England
Revolution, but there are plenty of positive signs regarding the
defending Western Conference champions.

To gauge the state of this year's team, one must go back to this point
during preseason a year ago. Arena was deep into his roster makeover --
one that eventually brought in more than a dozen new players -- in March
of 2009 and teammates were learning about each other on the fly.

But no longer. Only five players -- Stefani Miglioranzi, Kyle Patterson,
Julian Valentin, Tony Sanneh and Leonard Griffin -- did not return from
last season and players admitted the continuity has helped
tremendously.

"Last year, everyone was trying to come together," said midfielder Mike
Magee, who was brought in from New York and went on to tie for the team
lead in assists. "Everyone was brand new, nobody really knew their roles
and were trying to solidify themselves.

"Everything's kind of taking another step. Last year it was square one."

The Galaxy returned from Arizona, where they went 2-0-1 in scrimmages
against Columbus, Colorado and Kansas City. Arena said he's generally
pleased with how things are going as they prepare for their next
preseason game on March 10 against Costa Rica's Puntarenas FC at nearby
Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium. The Galaxy's preseason finale will
be against 14-time Salvadoran Liga Mayor champion CD Aguila on Sunday,
March 21 at The Home Depot Center.

"We were pretty crappy at this time last year," he admitted. "We're only
a month in, but obviously I think it's been a better start this year
than last year. I think we're farther along in every area ... our
goalkeeping is very strong, our back lines are good and we have depth
and the midfield is a little bit better.

"Hopefully we can make some progress in March and get ourselves ready
for the first game."

Defender Todd Dunivant said the improvement in this year's preseason
compared to that of 2009 is unmistakeable.

"It's miles further along," he said. "We have the same group, more or
less, from last year, and it gives you such an advantage day in and day
out. You can start so much further ahead, and I think that's really
helped us. You've seen the results in preseason ... we've beaten pretty
much everyone we've played.

"Once the season gets going that will give us our real indication of
where we are. You can win all the preseason games in the world, but if
you don't get it done in the (regular) season it doesn't really matter.
But I like where we are at this point."

Dunivant said the trip to Arizona was informative.

"I learned we have a deep team," he said. "We probably have a fewer
amount of guys than most teams at this point, but that's because we have
such a deep team. We have a lot of guys that can contribute. We're
going to need that, with the Champions League and the heavy schedule we
have, especially toward the middle part of the season."

Defender Gregg Berhalter, preparing for his second season in MLS, said
the team "is getting there."

"I think we're headed in the right direction," he said. "I'm not ready
to say we're 100 percent there yet, but we're getting there.

"It seems like things are a little more settled now and I feel we're
pretty far ahead than where we were last year. We still have a ways to
go, but it's getting closer."

Larry Morgan is a contributor to MLSnet.com.