German Alegria

Klein bides his time

The LA Galaxy's 0-0 tie with the Kansas City Wizards last Saturday was notable for several reasons.

It not only kept the Galaxy (4-0-1) undefeated this season entering Saturday's game against the expansion Philadelphia Union at The Home Depot Center, but it also maintained their run of eight straight games regular season games without a loss (6-0-2) dating back to October 2009. Los Angeles has recorded a shutout in seven of those games and has not trailed in any of them.

Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts also lowered his MLS-leading goals-against-average to an impressive 0.20 and has allowed just one goal in five games this season.

The tie in Kansas City also marked the season debuts of veterans Gregg Berhalter and Chris Klein. Berhalter had missed the first four games of the season with sore knee. Klein, on the other hand, had been an unused substitute.

It admittedly has been a difficult time for the 34-year-old Klein, one of the Galaxy's most popular players who holds the league record for the most consecutive games started at 118 and the most consecutive games played at 141 until both were broken last season. The 6-foot, 185-pounder patiently has waited for his opportunity, which finally came last Saturday in the 75th minute when he replaced Juninho in the midfield.

"It was nice to look up and see him come into the game," the Galaxy's Landon Donovan said.

Klein said his lack of playing time has been no big deal, as far as he's concerned. It definitely hasn't changed his training habits or his belief that he's going to go the full 90 minutes every week.

"I've been doing this a long time," Klein said. "You keep your mind right and always be ready to contribute, and that's what I've done since the beginning of the preseason. It was definitely nice to get on the field and I'm here to help this team in any way I can."

If that means sitting on the bench, watching younger players take his place, that's fine with him. Klein always has been a team-first kind of player anyway. He does have 49 goals and 67 assists in a solid career that is in its 13th season, but his teammates appreciate his leadership more than anything.

"Off the field and in the locker room you have a guy that can set the tone around the club," head coach Bruce Arena said, "and he's done a real good job of that."

Klein's daily preparation never goes unnoticed.

"The good thing about Chris is if he doesn't play for three or four games and you put him on the field you're not worried about him,"

Donovan said. "He's always fit, he keeps himself ready and he prepares the right way. During the summer when there's a lot of games he's going to play a lot.

"It's good to have a guy like that."

Klein, who played in 28 games in 2009 (including 10 starts), said it doesn't get any easier looking on from the sideline, but winning has helped alleviate the frustration. It also involves proper training, taking care of himself and staying mentally sharp in case Arena does call for him.

"You have to stay involved in the game and think about how you would respond to different situations," he said. "You look and encourage the guys to do whatever they can. Every player, whether you play or not, has a part in this team. We have to believe that going forward because we have too many guys that have good experience that can play and play well in this league. Some are playing and some aren't.

"You have to go into every game thinking that I'm going to play a lot. When I don't, it's a disappointment, but when the time comes you have to be ready. You can't be surprised by that opportunity."

Klein did admit his current role as a substitute takes getting used to.

"It never gets easier sitting on the bench," he said. "When it does, that's when it's time to stop."