All-Star gaffer Arena set for delicate balancing act
CARSON, Calif. – Earlier this week, four Los Angeles Galaxy players were selected to Major League Soccer’s First XI and, along with coach Bruce Arena, will represent the Galaxy in the MLS All-Star Game.
And while the league as a whole has been captivated by the All-Star Game, to be played against Manchester United in Houston on July 28, the Galaxy’s excitement for the match is tempered somewhat.
The Galaxy, after all, have an important fixture on July 27 when the club is scheduled to play against the Puerto Rico Islanders in a CONCACAF Champions League qualifying match.
Having to compete in an international match in Southern California one night and then against Manchester United is, after all, challenging.
“It certainly is a challenge," Arena said. "It’s pretty difficult. There are going to be five first-team all-stars who are going to be in that position – Dwayne De Rosario with Toronto will be in the same situation and then on Wednesday night Seattle plays so Seattle will be excluded from the All-Star Game.”
MLS clubs are starting to face the usual summer challenge as the schedule is suddenly congested for most teams. The Galaxy, for instance, will play two league matches, two Champions Leagues games and a friendly in a span of 17 days, beginning with a July 22 game against San Jose.
Adding the All-Star Game to the equation makes the travel and fixtures a bit more of a challenge.
“I think it’s difficult but I’d like to see down the road if we wish to continue to do this that we can find a time when it doesn’t conflict with league competitions or outside competitions,” Arena said.
While the Champions League match is more than 10 days away, Arena said he will have to monitor the First XI players – Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle, Omar Gonzalez and Donovan Ricketts – and how they fare against Puerto Rico before he figures out how many minutes they can play against Manchester United.
It's likely the Galaxy will use many of their first-team players – Gonzalez said he is "definitely" playing against Puerto Rico, for instance – and what condition the First XI quartet, and any others who may make the team as reserves, will be taken into consideration come the All-Star Game.
“It’s likely the players who are playing the night before will have minutes substantially lower than some of the other players," Arena said. "We’ve got to do what makes sense. We’ve got to get those players through the game on Tuesday and then see what kind of shape those players are in on Wednesday in Houston and see if they can play at all.”
Still, having the chance for MLS players to compete against the likes of Manchester United is a unique opportunity.
“It’s great," Arena said. "I think people in this country recognize that brand and there are perhaps three or four club teams from around the world that are highly recognized in this country and I think Manchester United is one of them.
"I’d say Real Madrid and Barcelona are two others and we just happen to be participating with Real Madrid on Aug. 7. So there are a lot of highlights ahead in this season and we’re looking forward to the challenges in this league or our outside competitions as well.”