CARSON, Calif. - The LA Galaxy are about to take a season-ending trip to another country, but it's not the one they had been counting on. If it had been up to them, they would be in Toronto preparing for Sunday's MLS Cup against the Colorado Rapids, but a 3-0 loss to FC Dallas in last weekend's Western Conference Championship ruined those hopes.
Their backup plan, however, isn't too bad.
The Galaxy will leave on Tuesday for Australia, where they will take part in The Qantas Challenge, an international friendly against the Newcastle United Jets of the Hyundai A-League. The game will be televised live by Fox Soccer Channel next Saturday at midnight and the team will return the following day.
"It would have been nice if we were leaving from Toronto," the Galaxy's Mike Magee said with a grin.
This will mark the Galaxy's second visit to Australia in the last four years. The club played Sydney FC in front of more than 80,000 fans at Telstra Stadium in November, 2007.
The Galaxy's Landon Donovan remembers that earlier trip as not particularly pleasant, and it had nothing to do with a 15-hour flight or Australian hospitality.
"A few years ago when (former Galaxy coach) Ruud (Gullit) was here, it was almost like preseason at the end of the season," Donovan recalled. "He put guys through really difficult training sessions and it was a really difficult trip.
"This time I think its going to be a lot of fun. (Current Galaxy head coach) Bruce (Arena) obviously understands what the trip is about. We want to go and be entertaining and enjoy the game.
"I'm actually excited about it. It will be a fun game to play in."
Veteran defender Gregg Berhalter said the trip will be a good chance to expand the MLS brand to another continent.
"I think it will be good for an MLS team to go to Australia and play an exhibition game," he said. "On the other side of the coin, it's nice for us to unwind, recap the season and get ready to go on vacation."
Added Todd Dunivant, "You'd rather have it be a celebratory trip, but at the end of the day it's not the worst trip in the world going to Australia and going for a game."
Dunivant admitted he and his teammates don't know a thing about their upcoming opponent - the Jets currently are ninth in the A-League and won the league's Grand Final in 2008 -- but was confident time will be well-spent.
"We're going to go over, have fun and put on a good show, hopefully," he said.
The trip will be the first visit to Australia for Magee and Omar Gonzalez, who said they are looking at the trip from another perspective. It will mark their last chance to be around popular outgoing veterans Chris Klein and Eddie Lewis, both of whom recently announced their retirements.
"It's just an added bonus to spend time with those guys," Gonzalez said.
Said Magee, "We're getting a chance to go to Australia and celebrate a couple of guys' careers, and we're celebrating a good season even though it didn't end the way we wanted to.
"It's going to be fun. This is a great group of guys and I enjoy being around them."