Focus returns to league play after stunning Champions League win
CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said he took about five minutes to enjoy Wednesday’s stunning 2-1 victory over Monarcas Morelia in a crucial CONCACAF Champions League match.
Wild celebrations definitely are not, and never have been, his modus operandi.
“That’s typical,” he said after Thursday’s light training session. “But I think that’s OK. Obviously the Champions League has been an interesting ride, obviously peaks and valleys, very unpredictable and pretty much what we anticipated.
“Now we get to relax and be away from it for three weeks and get our focus on MLS.”
That starts Saturday night at The Home Depot Center against Real Salt Lake (7:30 pm PT, FOX Sports West). The Western Conference rivals are separated by 10 points (the Galaxy have a league-high 61) in the race for the Supporters’ Shield and there are only four games remaining in the regular season, including Tuesday at New York (a makeup of a postponed game on Aug. 28), Chivas on Oct. 16 and at Houston on Oct. 23.
The quest for the league’s best record has been one of the Galaxy’s primary goals all season, but they also have put considerable emphasis on the Champions League, which makes a victory like Wednesday’s all the more satisfying.
Players still were caught up in the moment Thursday.
“There’s definitely still a buzz,” Chris Birchall said. “Just excitement that we’d given ourselves a good chance to get through the group. We got the result.
“The guys are happy, Bruce is happy and what made us more happy was Salt Lake losing last night (3-0 to Chicago). The lads are excited.”
Said Mike Magee, who scored the Galaxy’s first goal Wednesday, “It was a great win. Sometimes you take wins for granted when they’re coming easy, but that was a hard-fought battle.
“We’ll celebrate it for another day or two.”
Todd Dunivant, who assisted on Magee’s 21st-minute goal, said the Galaxy won’t enjoy the victory too much, however.
“Everyone’s buzzing,” he said, “but this team’s pretty level-headed for the most part. Everyone’s obviously in a good mood, and that always happens when you win, but I think this team more than any hasn’t really let our success, the highs and lows go too much on us.
“I think we’ve done a good job of staying pretty even-keeled. I think that’s part of why we’ve been successful. We haven’t dwelled on our wins and dwelled on our successes this year because we know there’s still a lot to be done.”
Arena said he continues to be impressed with the Galaxy’s ability to deal with adversity, whether it’s having a goal disallowed (in the first match against Morelia on Sept. 13) or missing the likes of David Beckham (suspension) and Robbie Keane (tight right gluteus) on Wednesday.
“They’re a tough group, a tight unit,” he said. “They compete. Very rarely we don’t compete. It’s obviously not always perfect, but we know pretty much what we’re about. We go about our business in a pretty good way most games.”
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