The LA Galaxy returned to training Thursday, perhaps a little shell-shocked from their stunning 4-1 loss to the Puerto Rico Islanders in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round series but knowing full well what's important. And it's not Wednesday's rematch in Puerto Rico.
There's the not-so-little matter of Sunday's MLS match at The Home Depot Center against the Chicago Fire, which clearly is No. 1 on their current list of priorities. As much as the Galaxy are anxious to play Puerto Rico again, they are concentrating on the Fire. Make no mistake; they aren't forgetting what happened Tuesday -- how could they? -- but they have moved on to more important matters.
"First and foremost, we've talked already," veteran midfielder Eddie Lewis said. "Everybody's clear that the focus is for Sunday.
"Certainly we'll deal with next week as we get closer to that game.
"Like most teams, when they go through a bit of a tough patch it's important to get together and don't lose sight of what's gotten you there and get back on track as quickly as possible. Sunday is that opportunity."
Associate head coach Dave Sarachan, who ran Thursday's workout in the absence of head coach Bruce Arena, who was flying back to Los Angeles from the MLS All-Star Game in Houston, said he hopes the Galaxy players haven't completely put the loss to the Islanders behind them.
"I think there's got to be some anger management," he said. "There is with me and our staff. It's like when you eat a bad meal and it's hard to get that taste out of your mouth. We don't want it to completely go away, but having an experienced group they understand what the next task is. It's not Puerto Rico, it's Chicago.
"They've already flipped the page of knowing we have to get ourselves right for Sunday. Then Sunday night we'll deal with Wednesday."
THE DEFENSE RESTS
Tuesday's loss to the Islanders marked the latest setback for the Galaxy's once-impregnable defense. Los Angeles still has allowed the fewest goals in MLS -- 10; Columbus is second with 13 -- but the Galaxy have allowed six goals in their last four regular season games and have not shut out an MLS opponent since a 0-0 draw at Toronto FC on June 26.
Left back Todd Dunivant said the team simply needs to "get back to basics."
"We have to put a priority on defending, which we haven't been pushing a lot," he said. "Sometimes we've got to keep a better defensive shell. I think we've been opening up ourselves a little bit and teams have been squeaking goals in on us. We just have to tighten that up.
"It's good. Sometimes you need a lull like this to kind of wake you back up, and we're definitely going through one right now."
Last Thursday's 2-2 tie with the San Jose Earthquakes was an eventful one for Dunivant, and not just because he was facing his former team.
He had played in every minute of every game this season until Arena replaced him with Eddie Lewis in the 77th minute.
Dunivant, who played in every minute of every regular season game in the 2003 and 2005 seasons, said he took pride in his longevity. He also knows how fortunate he has been this season health-wise.
"You can't control those things. It's a long season," he said. "You never know what's going to happen, and Bruce felt he needed to make a change. I'll make myself available for selection every week, and hopefully I get picked. That's all you can do.
"Year in and year out you realize how important your health is, and that's not an easy thing to maintain. You try and do your best and hope that lady luck is on your side as well."
Wednesday's game in Puerto Rico could mark the return of forward Mike Magee, who has been sidelined since late June after undergoing bilateral sports hernia surgery.
The 25-year-old currently is on the Galaxy's disabled list, meaning that he won't be eligible for any MLS games until Aug. 14 in New York against the Red Bulls. However, he can play against Puerto Rico and in the Aug. 7 friendly with Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid at the Rose Bowl.
Magee has been back at full training for about a week and a half and said he's rapidly regaining his fitness.
"I feel good," he said Thursday. "It's bizarre how you can kind of get to your top fitness, then sit out for a couple of weeks and lose it. I think I've recovered fairly well ... my legs are kind of getting back underneath me by now.
"Obviously it sucks being out and hurt, but kind of having something in my sights is nice. It's never fun being injured and watching your teammates play. To actually have a chance to play gives me something to work a little bit harder for."
SECOND TO ONE
Arena coached his 59th regular season game for the Galaxy last Thursday against San Jose and broke a tie with Octavio Zambrano for second place in franchise history for games coached.
Arena has quite a ways to go to catch Sigi Schmid, who is No. 1 on the list with 164 games. Schmid, who was replaced by Steve Sampson during the 2004 season, now is coaching Seattle Sounders FC.
Hired in August 2008 to replace Ruud Gullit, Arena has a 26-13-19 record with the club, helping them to a first place finish in the Western Conference in 2009 and a nine point lead at the top of the Conference this season.