Birchall Provides Stability to LA Midfield

Trinidad and Tobago international holds down the LA midfield

Birchall vs RSL

Photo Credit: 
Victor Decolongon

Chris Birchall has yet to
score his first MLS goal and has exactly one assist since joining the LA Galaxy
last summer, but don't discount his impact on the Western Conference
front-runners.

Faces seemingly change almost
every week on the Galaxy, with Birchall among the exceptions. Take the
midfield, for example. Veteran Eddie Lewis is sidelined with a bruised foot.
Dema Kovalenko has a strained hamstring. Jovan Kirovski only recently returned
to action after recovering from a knee injury. Juninho is a newcomer to the
midfield, not to mention the rigors of MLS, but has been impressive since being
brought in during the offseason from Sao Paulo
in Brazil.

Things have gotten so
unsettled that head coach Bruce Arena started rookie Michael Stephens in
midfield last Saturday against Real
Salt Lake.

But the one constant in the
midfield reshuffling -- "Maybe it's because I'm the only one not getting
injured," Birchall said with a grin -- has been the 5-foot-9, 180-pounder
who joined the Galaxy last July from Brighton and Hove Albion in England.

The 25-year-old has been a
steadying influence, to say the least, as the unbeaten Galaxy (4-0-0) head into
this weekend's game in Kansas City
against the Wizards.

"He's the kind of guy
who holds down the fort," forward Mike Magee said. "Some of us run a
little freely. Juninho likes to step on the gas and go forward. Myself, Mikey
(Stephens), we like to play box to box. Chris stays centrally and makes sure if
any of us get way out of shape he fills those holes.

"He's kind of the one
to hold everything together."

Birchall downplayed his
contributions -- although he is an impressive 11-1-1 in the games he's
played since coming to the Galaxy -- but he also admitted he does things most
fans might not be aware of.

"Maybe it's the dirty
work which I do a bit more of," he said.

"Juninho is a great
talent and we try and get him the ball as much as possible. With me, it's
putting pressure on players, trying to make tackles and putting players out.

"The important thing is
getting results. When you get results, people say you're playing well."

Birchall made his Galaxy and
MLS debut as a second half substitute in a 3-1 victory over the New York Red
Bulls last July 16 but was not used in four of the next seven games. He got his
first start of the season last Sept. 19 at The Home Depot Center in a 2-0
victory over FC Toronto. That also happened to mark the occasion of his only
assist of the year, on a goal by David Beckham. Birchall was a fixture in the
lineup the rest of the season and playoffs and has played in all four games
(starting three) in 2010.

Birchall said his fitness
wasn't where he wanted it to be when he first arrived in Southern
California, but it's not a problem now.

Arena even took notice in
training camp.

"He came in much fitter
this year," he said. "Over the last six weeks or so he's played real
well."

Birchall said the chemistry
with his fellow midfielders is strong.

"It's because we're
confident we're at the top of the league," he said. "This is the best
start we've had in many years. As long as we keep it going and try to not
really get away with ourselves and think we're better than anybody else we can
carry on.

"It's
always nice when you get into a team that's winning. Many times in my career
I've gone into a team that's winning, then lose a game and I was the one
dragged out. I love it here."