Klein bides his time

Veteran midfielder provides leadership after making his season debut last weekend

klein

Photo Credit: 
German Alegria

The LA Galaxy's 0-0 tie with
the Kansas City Wizards last Saturday was notable for several reasons.

It not only kept the Galaxy
(4-0-1) undefeated this season entering Saturday's game against the expansion
Philadelphia Union at The Home Depot Center, but it also maintained their run
of eight straight games regular season games without a loss (6-0-2) dating back
to October 2009. Los Angeles
has recorded a shutout in seven of those games and has not trailed in any of
them.

Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts
also lowered his MLS-leading goals-against-average to an impressive 0.20 and
has allowed just one goal in five games this season.

The tie in Kansas City also marked the season debuts of
veterans Gregg Berhalter and Chris Klein. Berhalter had missed the first four
games of the season with sore knee. Klein, on the other hand, had been an
unused substitute.

It admittedly has been a
difficult time for the 34-year-old Klein, one of the Galaxy's most popular
players who holds the league record for the most consecutive games started at
118 and the most consecutive games played at 141 until both were broken last season.
The 6-foot, 185-pounder patiently has waited for his opportunity, which finally
came last Saturday in the 75th minute when he replaced Juninho in the midfield.

"It was nice to look up
and see him come into the game," the Galaxy's Landon Donovan said.

Klein said his lack of playing
time has been no big deal, as far as he's concerned. It definitely hasn't
changed his training habits or his belief that he's going to go the full 90
minutes every week.

"I've been doing this a
long time," Klein said. "You keep your mind right and always be ready
to contribute, and that's what I've done since the beginning of the preseason.
It was definitely nice to get on the field and I'm here to help this team in
any way I can."

If that means sitting on the
bench, watching younger players take his place, that's fine with him. Klein
always has been a team-first kind of player anyway. He does have 49 goals and
67 assists in a solid career that is in its 13th season, but his teammates
appreciate his leadership more than anything.

"Off the field and in
the locker room you have a guy that can set the tone around the club,"
head coach Bruce Arena said, "and he's done a real good job of that."

Klein's daily preparation
never goes unnoticed.

"The good thing about
Chris is if he doesn't play for three or four games and you put him on the
field you're not worried about him,"

Donovan said. "He's
always fit, he keeps himself ready and he prepares the right way. During the
summer when there's a lot of games he's going to play a lot.

"It's good to have a
guy like that."

Klein, who played in 28
games in 2009 (including 10 starts), said it doesn't get any easier looking on
from the sideline, but winning has helped alleviate the frustration. It also
involves proper training, taking care of himself and staying mentally sharp in
case Arena does call for him.

"You have to stay
involved in the game and think about how you would respond to different
situations," he said. "You look and encourage the guys to do whatever
they can. Every player, whether you play or not, has a part in this team. We
have to believe that going forward because we have too many guys that have good
experience that can play and play well in this league. Some are playing and
some aren't.

"You have to go into
every game thinking that I'm going to play a lot. When I don't, it's a
disappointment, but when the time comes you have to be ready. You can't be
surprised by that opportunity."

Klein did admit his current
role as a substitute takes getting used to.

"It never gets easier
sitting on the bench," he said. "When it does, that's when it's time
to stop."