Arena calls RFK “a 12th man for D.C. United”

RFK Stadium still holds a special place in their hearts of Bruce Arena and Dave Sarachan

RFK Stadium

Photo Credit: 
Ned Dishman / Getty Photos

The LA Galaxy will play the
final of three consecutive road games on Sunday when they take on D.C. United
at RFK Stadium.

The trip will mark a
homecoming of sorts for head coach Bruce Arena and assistant Dave Sarachan, who
coached D.C. United in the late 1990s. Arena was there as head coach from
1996-98, when he won two consecutive MLS Cups and lost in the final of a third,
and Sarachan was an assistant there from 1997-99.

RFK Stadium, which opened in
1961 and has hosted major competitions ranging from matches during the 1994
World Cup to the 2003 Women's World Cup, has always been a special place to
those who have been in it.

"For me, I think I
would say it's one of the original, true great soccer venues," Sarachan
said. "What makes it great is not only the physical layout but the people
in that building. They do have a great fan base, and it resonates in there. You
throw in the heat and usually the humidity and it's not an easy place to play.

"I love going in there.
RFK brings back so many memories; some venues I'm not crazy about but this one
I enjoy going back to."

Arena went so far as calling
RFK, also the former long-time home for the NFL's Washington Redskins, "a
12th man for D.C. United."

"It's a great
environment," he said. "When they have a good crowd in that stadium
it rocks. Over the years it's gotten beat up a little bit and it is getting on
in years, but when you step on the field it's still a special place for a game
in MLS."

And one that has been tough
on the Galaxy. Los Angeles
is 8-8-2 all-time at RFK and has not won there since a 5-2 victory on Aug. 26,
2006. Last year's match, on Aug. 21, 2009, ended in a 0-0 tie. The Galaxy are
1-0-2 with United in their last three meetings at RFK.

STILL HOPEFUL

The MLS All-Stars First XI
were announced earlier this week, with the Galaxy's Edson Buddle, Landon
Donovan, Omar Gonzalez and Donovan Ricketts receiving honors. Center back Gregg
Berhalter could be another addition to the roster that will face Manchester
United on July 28 at Houston's
Reliant Stadium.

"I don't see why
not," Berhalter. "I've had a good year so far. As a team, we have the
best defense in the league, so I think it's a good possibility. But I don't
know what's in the mind of the coaches, so we'll see.

"It would be a great
honor."

Berhalter, who turns 37 on
Aug. 1, arguably has been the Galaxy's best defender this season on a team that
has allowed only seven goals in 16 matches. The next closest is Real Salt Lake, which have allowed 11; Columbus,
FC Dallas and Colorado
are tied with 13 goals against.

Berhalter said he would be
happier if the Galaxy continues their stinginess on defense. Personal
accolades, as far as he's concerned, are not one of his more popular topics for
discussion.

"I don't like to talk
about my game personally," he said. "We just want to keep working
together, being a tough defense and not giving up any goals."

The final 12 All-Stars,
including 10 coaches' picks and two commissioner selections, will be announced
on Monday.

PAYING TRIBUTE

Arena, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y.,
in 1951, was saddened by the news earlier this week of the death of long-time
New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

Arena said he didn't know
Steinbrenner, who passed away at the age of 80, but he did come into contact
with him over the years.

"As a New Yorker and a
Yankee fan, he certainly turned around that franchise when he purchased
it," Arena said. "The New York Yankees have been first class. He's an
owner that was very demanding on his players, but he always put his money where
his mouth is.

"He brought back the
Yankee tradition and has produced great teams, and obviously the new Yankee
Stadium is a fitting venue for a great owner and a great franchise."