The news this week that Mike Magee would be lost for 4-6 weeks after having sports hernia surgery was met with concern but not necessarily dread by the LA Galaxy.
The Galaxy have been progressing nicely despite the absence of several key players throughout the year, and those preparing for Saturday's resumption of the MLS regular season in Toronto expect nothing less.
"Yeah, it's a big loss, but we have a deep squad to get through it," midfielder Chris Birchall said. "It's an impressive squad when you look at each player and see how many positions each player can play in. I think it's a good problem for Bruce (head coach Arena) to have. When the circumstances arrive where we do have injuries it's nice to know we have players who can fit in."
Two of those who have filled in for Magee, who has been limited to eight games (including six starts) are Jovan Kirovski and Tristan Bowen. Kirovski, a 34-year-old now in his seventh MLS season, has played in nine games, including five starts, and is second on the team in goals with three. Now fully recovered from a knee injury suffered early in training camp, Kirovski said that he continues to be impressed with the depth of this year's squad.
"Landon (Donovan) and Edson (Buddle) have been out with the national team and everyone has been stepping in and doing well," he said. "Mike (Magee) is a great player, but other players have to step up and play, and we've been doing that. I'm not surprised we're so versatile. I knew going in the quality of players we have."
Bowen, who has scored twice and added an assist this season, said the loss of Magee is a tough one but he is confident the club will persevere.
"Mike is a good player and he brings a lot of things to the game,” Bowen said. He's definitely going to be missed, but at the same time we have other players that can step in and fill that void. We worked hard this preseason and everybody knew coming in there would be a lot of competition for spots. You see it every day when we step on the field ... we're competing and making it hard for each other.
"The competition gets us better as a team and individually. I'm just really happy that anybody is able to step in when we lose key players."
Arena, understandably, has been happy as well.
"It's unfortunate, but it's been the story of our season," Arena said. "We've had a number of players who have been out a long period of time. It hasn't been perfect, but the guys have really hung in there together and played hard for most of the games and have been position to make some plays in difficult games and that makes a difference."
OPEN CUP BEGINS
The Galaxy will play at home for the first time since June 5 when they host AC St. Louis in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Third Round game.
St. Louis reached this stage of the competition with a 1-0 victory over NSC Minnesota on Tuesday, with former FC Dallas SuperDraft pick Mike Ambersley scoring the game’s only goal in the 35th minute. They defeated the Des Moines Menace of the PDL in the Open Cup First Round, winning 1-0 on June 15 behind another Ambersley goal.
Playing their inaugural season, AC St. Louis is currently in last place in the USSF Division 2 Pro League with a 2-7-1 record for just seven points, though they did win their last league game, a 1-0 win on Puerto Rico on June 13. Coached by Claude Anelka, the older brother of French international striker Nicolas Anelka, who was banished from the French team at the World Cup in the days leading up to their final group game because of harsh criticism of head coach Raymond Domenech, St. Louis has struggled to score this season, recording just seven goals in 10 league games and scoring more than one goals in a game just once.
The Galaxy plays at Toronto FC this Saturday and would love nothing better than another visit to the Canadian city in November. Toronto is hosting the MLS Cup Final on Sunday, Nov. 21 at BMO Field.
Arena, however, isn't interested in making predictions. The Galaxy have the best record in MLS with a 10-1-2 mark, but Arena wouldn't say if his club is good enough to quality for its second consecutive appearance in the Cup final. They lost to Real Salt Lake on penalty kicks in the 2009 championship in Seattle.
"I have no idea at this point in time," he said. "It's way too early. If you had asked me that question last year at this time, what kind of answer could I have given you? You just need to let this stuff play itself out. It's way too early to make predictions where we're going to end up after 30 games. We'll just have to wait and see."
Watching the World Cup, especially the U.S. national team's thrilling 1-0 victory over Algeria on Wednesday morning, has brought back some pleasant memories for midfielder Eddie Lewis.
The 36-year-old, who competed in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, admitted he gets caught up in the excitement of the event.
"Honestly, it's been so emotional," he said. "This morning was so great. There was so much pressure on them, everybody expected us to beat them (Algeria). Algeria was a good team that played a very difficult game. We kept pressing and trying to get chances and at one point it looked like we weren't going to get it. But in the end we finally caught them on the break and just exploded with excitement.
It was justification for a lot of hard work.
"It's important for the perception and everything else. I'm not sure how much the average fan appreciated the level of a Slovenia or even an Algeria. Not advancing out of that group would have been seen certainly as a failure. But to get out of it and win it is fantastic for us. They deserve everything they're getting."
GALAXY U-18’S HEAD TO PLAYOFFS
While the Galaxy first team will fly to Toronto on Thursday for this weekend’s game against TFC, they will not be the only Galaxy squad that is flying the friendly skies this week.
The Galaxy U-18 squad will make their way to Greensboro, N.C. for the annual U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs.
The Galaxy qualified for the Academy Playoffs by finishing second in the SoCal Division standings with a 10-4-2 record in divisional games and a 16-7-5 record overall. This year’s U-18’s join last season’s U-16 squad, a team that many of this year’s U-18 squad played for as the two Galaxy Academy teams to have reach the Academy Playoffs in their two years of competing in the league.
Coached by Mathes Mennell, who is also an assistant coach at Loyola Marymount, the Galaxy U-18’s are one of 32 teams that qualified for the U-18 Academy Playoffs, with the Galaxy garnering the #15 seed in the tournament. The 32 playoff teams are divided into eight groups of four, with all eight group winners moving on to the Development Academy Finals, which will be held at The Home Depot Center from July 10-17.
The Galaxy will open postseason play against FC Greater Boston (#22 seed) on Saturday, June 26 at 9 a.m. (PT). They are back in action the next day, Sunday, June 27 at 2 p.m. (PT) when they take on the Clearwater Chargers (#27 seed) before rounding out group play on Tuesday, June 29 when they play FC Dallas (#7 seed) at 8 a.m. (PT).