Ned Dishman / Getty Photos

Arena calls RFK “a 12th man for D.C. United”

The LA Galaxy will play the final of three consecutive road games on Sunday when they take on D.C. United at RFK Stadium.

The trip will mark a homecoming of sorts for head coach Bruce Arena and assistant Dave Sarachan, who coached D.C. United in the late 1990s. Arena was there as head coach from 1996-98, when he won two consecutive MLS Cups and lost in the final of a third, and Sarachan was an assistant there from 1997-99.

RFK Stadium, which opened in 1961 and has hosted major competitions ranging from matches during the 1994 World Cup to the 2003 Women's World Cup, has always been a special place to those who have been in it.

"For me, I think I would say it's one of the original, true great soccer venues," Sarachan said. "What makes it great is not only the physical layout but the people in that building. They do have a great fan base, and it resonates in there. You throw in the heat and usually the humidity and it's not an easy place to play.

"I love going in there. RFK brings back so many memories; some venues I'm not crazy about but this one I enjoy going back to."

Arena went so far as calling RFK, also the former long-time home for the NFL's Washington Redskins, "a 12th man for D.C. United."

"It's a great environment," he said. "When they have a good crowd in that stadium it rocks. Over the years it's gotten beat up a little bit and it is getting on in years, but when you step on the field it's still a special place for a game in MLS."

And one that has been tough on the Galaxy. Los Angeles is 8-8-2 all-time at RFK and has not won there since a 5-2 victory on Aug. 26, 2006. Last year's match, on Aug. 21, 2009, ended in a 0-0 tie. The Galaxy are 1-0-2 with United in their last three meetings at RFK.

STILL HOPEFUL

The MLS All-Stars First XI were announced earlier this week, with the Galaxy's Edson Buddle, Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez and Donovan Ricketts receiving honors. Center back Gregg Berhalter could be another addition to the roster that will face Manchester United on July 28 at Houston's Reliant Stadium.

"I don't see why not," Berhalter. "I've had a good year so far. As a team, we have the best defense in the league, so I think it's a good possibility. But I don't know what's in the mind of the coaches, so we'll see.

"It would be a great honor."

Berhalter, who turns 37 on Aug. 1, arguably has been the Galaxy's best defender this season on a team that has allowed only seven goals in 16 matches. The next closest is Real Salt Lake, which have allowed 11; Columbus, FC Dallas and Colorado are tied with 13 goals against.

Berhalter said he would be happier if the Galaxy continues their stinginess on defense. Personal accolades, as far as he's concerned, are not one of his more popular topics for discussion.

"I don't like to talk about my game personally," he said. "We just want to keep working together, being a tough defense and not giving up any goals."

The final 12 All-Stars, including 10 coaches' picks and two commissioner selections, will be announced on Monday.

PAYING TRIBUTE

Arena, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1951, was saddened by the news earlier this week of the death of long-time New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

Arena said he didn't know Steinbrenner, who passed away at the age of 80, but he did come into contact with him over the years.

"As a New Yorker and a Yankee fan, he certainly turned around that franchise when he purchased it," Arena said. "The New York Yankees have been first class. He's an owner that was very demanding on his players, but he always put his money where his mouth is.

"He brought back the Yankee tradition and has produced great teams, and obviously the new Yankee Stadium is a fitting venue for a great owner and a great franchise."