Crowded Calendar

Galaxy to rely on depth as schedule gets busier

Leonardo vs SJ

Photo Credit: 
Robert Mora

Successful teams usually
don't like to tinker with winning formulas, but the LA Galaxy don't have a much
of a choice.

Head coach Bruce Arena made
two significant changes to his starting lineup ahead of Thursday's 2-2 tie with
the San Jose Earthquakes at The Home Depot Center, part of what appears to be
his grand master plan for a heavy schedule of upcoming matches.

Leonardo replaced Gregg
Berhalter in central defense on Thursday and Dema Kovalenko took over for Chris
Birchall at holding midfielder. Arena's idea is to get as many players ready as
possible for what is shaping up to be the team's busiest portion of their 2010
schedule.

Following Thursday night's
hard-earned draw the Galaxy return to action on Tuesday when they host the
Puerto Rico Islanders in the first leg of their Preliminary Round series of the
CONCACAF Champions League. Arena and the Galaxy's four All-Stars -- forward
Edson Buddle, midfielder Landon Donovan, defender Omar
Gonzalez and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts -- then fly to Houston for the MLS All-Star
Game against Manchester United on Wednesday. Those five will return home the
next day to prepare for an MLS game against the Chicago Fire on Sunday, Aug. 1,
followed by a trip to Puerto Rico for the return leg of their Champions League
series in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday, Aug. 4 and finally the
much-anticipated friendly with Real Madrid at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, Aug.
7.

Counting last Sunday's 2-1
victory at D.C. United, that's a staggering six matches in just 17 days.

"We have a lot of games
ahead of us," Arena said. "There's no other way to get guys minutes.
Kovalenko hasn't played in a long time" -- his last appearance was in the
second game of the season on April 1, when he suffered a strained right
hamstring -- "and we have no other way to move him along and get him ready
and play and contribute. He has to play.

"Leonardo is an
excellent defender and we need to put him in there.

There's going to be
situations in a couple of months where we need to rotate our center backs and
our holding midfielders. We have to play these players ... there's no other way
to get them in position as we move forward to help our team. We can't have a
situation where six weeks down the road we have a suspension or injury and
expect our guys to step on the field and not miss a beat. They had to play.

"It killed me to have
to take Gregg out," Arena went on. "He's been excellent, but he
understood the situation. It's something we're trying to do as we move our team
forward."

Midfielder Eddie Lewis, who
made his sixth league appearance of the season, was a second-half substitute
for Todd Dunivant at left back. Tristan Bowen took over for Kovalenko at the
60-minute mark and helped set up the game-tying goal in the final minute. Jovan
Kirovski was a late substitute for Alan Gordon
and was praised by Arena for his brief performance.

The Galaxy have taken great
pride in their depth this season, and these 2 1/2 weeks definitely will test
them -- ready or not.

"I didn't know that
until you told me. Thanks," Ricketts said with a grin when told of the
upcoming schedule. "It's important we take them a game at a time. It's a
big squad and a good squad.

"I think we'll be fine.
We have pretty good depth and good replacements at every position on the field.
It's good and a coach's nightmare at the same time."

Landon Donovan, who scored
the tying goal Thursday in the 90th minute, said he is confident the team is
ready for what lies just ahead.

"The beauty of this
team," he said, "is that we have 24, 25 guys that are very capable of
playing and contributing. Throughout the year you've seen all sorts of guys
step in and help and make a difference.

"It's going to continue
that way. We have a lot of games coming up, we're all prepared for it and
everybody's got to be ready to play."