CARSON, Calif. – It was almost exactly a year ago and the LA Galaxy were preparing for their first Western Conference Championship since 2005. Edson Buddle remembers the collective mood as one of a little uncertainty, and the anxiety of reaching the MLS Cup final was almost palpable.
Flash forward to this year and the Galaxy are sensing many of the same emotions as they prepare to take on FC Dallas in Sunday’s Conference Championship at The Home Depot Center.
“It feels like we’ve been there before,” he said.
Veteran defender Gregg Berhalter said the team is eager to satisfy unfulfilled expectations
“Last year’s team the whole year was about rebuilding,” he said after training Thursday. “I think we were very aggressive. It was a hungry team and we had a lot to prove. This year it’s a little bit different because we were further ahead in the beginning in terms of where the group was the previous year. We still have that chip on our shoulder but now it’s kind of defending what’s ours. Now we’re the No. 1 seed again and we won the Supporters’ Shield, but this time we have a chip on our shoulder because we want to get what we didn’t get last year."
“We’re extremely focused.”
“We’re trusting each other a lot more than last year because we’ve been through it already,” he said.
Head coach Bruce Arena, now in his second full season with the club, remembers the moods of the 2009 team at this point of the season and believes this year’s group shares a very similar mentality.
“I know it was a confident team and excited to play, and that’s where we are today,” he said. “I don’t know if we’re any more confident than last year, but we’re confident. We’re in this thing to win it. We know it’s going to be a tough game and we’re preparing our team every way possible."
“Sure, last year’s experience helped as well, but it’s still a matter of getting it done on game day, and I think we’re ready to go.”
Arena said he was equally as anxious for last year’s Conference Championship against Houston as the players were and that the 2010 postseason has presented an equal amount of challenges for his group.
“I would say I was anxious more than nervous. These are tests for players and coaches as well,” he said. “The challenge this year was to get ourselves through a very tough Seattle team which many people felt were going to beat us. I think we responded with a very good performance in Seattle that tactically was right on target, and I thought our performance in the first half last Sunday at home was excellent."
“I think our guys get high marks on how they performed in the first two games. We’re hopeful we can see more of the same this Sunday as well.”
Arena disagreed with the notion that the Galaxy may be better prepared for Sunday’s game, having been through the experience in 2009.
“I don’t know why we’re any more or less prepared than last year, to be honest with you,” he said. “Last year playing Houston obviously was a whole different animal than the team we’re playing this year in Dallas. We all have the same kind of focus and putting the same energy into getting the team ready.”
Added Berhalter, “I think we have a whole group now that’s basically fit and we’re building on something. We’re trying to obviously advance to the Final and win it. We’re confident.”
The Galaxy face FC Dallas in the Western Conference Championship on Sunday, November 14 at 6 p.m. at The Home Depot Center. Tickets are available as low as $20! BUY TICKETS