Kovalenko could replace Birchall vs. Seattle

Though Birchall wants to return, Kovalenko has the momentum

Chris Birchall

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SEATTLE – For most of the 2010 regular season, Chris Birchall was an integral part of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s midfield.

Birchall compiled 1,973 minutes over 25 games as he provided some defensive cover and toughness in the center of the field. His contributions, however, may not extend into the postseason.

In a match against Colorado on Oct. 16, Birchall was knocked out of the game with a calf injury and was not available for the season finale against FC Dallas. With Dema Kovalenko healthy and available, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena might go with Kovalenko in the middle of the field.

“I don’t think there’s much of a difference,” Arena said when asked about Birchall and Kovalenko. “They’re both tenacious, have good fitness levels, good team players.”

Both Birchall and Kovalenko play similar roles as each serves as an enforcer in the midfield, freeing up the creative midfielders to search for offense.

“With the way we play, we’re instructed to be more of the defensive guy in the middle and sit and keep the shape so they can’t break through on the counterattack and just hold it there,” Birchall said. “Juninho is more of the attacking midfielder in the sense that he gets the ball and gives it to players who can do something with it. For me and Dema, we play similar roles so that’s why we’ve been interchangeable.”

Kovalenko started against FC Dallas and helped slow down FC Dallas’ attack. Although Birchall has trained without much issue this week, the decisive factor could be who played last time out.

“The decisions the whole year have almost been based on fitness,” Arena said. “It’s been kind of odd – when one’s healthy, the other isn’t. It’s happened for a large part of the season. Dema’s missed three months and obviously Birchy was out last week. Most of the time it’s been based on fitness.”

Birchall was unable to recover in time to play against FC Dallas and said while there is a bit of discomfort, he said the pain was “bearable” and wanted to get back into the mix of things.

Not having the opportunity to play in what is now the team’s most important game of the year would be difficult, but he’s doing what he can to prevent that from happening.

“Just trying to be as professional as I can and trying to get treatment on the injury as much as I can, but trying to rest it and trying to make it not really prevent me from doing my normal thing – going into tackles and stuff like that," Birchall said. "It was very sore the first couple of days and then it just eased off. Now I’m back in it. I kind of heal quickly so I’m confident that it wouldn’t affect me and stop me doing anything.”

The Galaxy travel to Seattle this Sunday, October 31 for a 5
p.m. match against the Sounders on ESPN2/Deportes. The Galaxy will then
host Seattle in the second game of the two-leg, home-and-home Western
Conference Semifinals on Sunday, November 7 at 6 p.m. PT on ESPN. BUY TICKETS

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