Champions League test and showdown with Red Bulls lie ahead
CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy have successfully met more than their share of challenges in 2011 and have the best record in Major League Soccer to show for their efforts, and head coach Bruce Arena is hoping his club is ready for the latest gantlet.
The Galaxy continue CONCACAF Champions League competition Thursday at The Home Depot Center against LD Alajuelense, travel to New York on Friday and play the Red Bulls in a critical regular-season match on Sunday.
“It might be our most difficult week this season,” Arena said Monday. “The Champions League will require our best over 90 minutes, then the challenge of recovering and traveling to New York to play a team that really has to win is going to be massive.
“This is as difficult a week as we’re going to have.”
Moving on from the euphoria of last week’s signing of Irish international Robbie Keane, who subsequently scored in his MLS debut in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes, is the least of his concerns, he said.
“That’s not the problem,” Arena said. “The problem is what’s ahead. We have to get guys recovered the right way, have the right mental approach to these games and then play well.
“It’s an awful challenging week.”
Defender A.J. DeLaGarza echoed those sentiments.
“It’s time to get over that and move on to two big matches,” he said. “We’re thinking about Thursday’s game first, then we’ll worry about Sunday.”
DeLaGarza admitted he didn’t know much about Thursday’s opponent.
“I don’t even know to pronounce their name,” he said with a grin. “But we’re both sitting at top of our group, so for us to get three points is major. Getting six points out of first two games is very important.”
Alajuelense, making their second appearance in the Champions League, are located just outside San Jose, Costa Rica and recently won their group opener, beating Morelia 1-0. The Galaxy opened group play with a 2-0 victory over Honduran side Motagua, and DeLaGarza said that should help with Thursday’s preparations.
“I think we got a little bit of confidence that we can play against these teams,” he said.
Not that confidence has been a problem for the Galaxy anyway, Mike Magee pointed out. He’s generally been pleased with his team’s preparations all season.
“We’ve found a way to take it one game at a time,” he said. “That’s why we’re successful. We have to prepare like we have been preparing, and we’ll be fine. Thursday is an easy game to have a letdown if we let that happen.”
Added Chris Birchall, “If it was at this time last season, these were the games we kind of faltered on. But Bruce has a squad now that’s very deep and anyone can fill anyone’s place.
“It’s obviously a tough week, but hopefully we’ll get back next week and see it was a good week.”