TEMPE, Ariz. – Chris Birchall has some pretty nice job security for the first time in his year-and-a-half with the LA Galaxy. He’s finally Bruce Arena’s top choice at holding midfielder, and knows there’s a lot riding on his shoulders this season.
“It’s my place to lose, really,” he told MLSsoccer.com after the Galaxy’s 4-2 loss to Colorado on Wednesday. “I’ve got to go out and cement that place in the defensive midfield and try and help the back four. Bruce has told me my job and it’s up to me to go try and do it.”
The 26-year-old has been a regular for Arena during his tenure, but had alternated the starting spot with Dema Kovalenko. Birchall was Arena’s starter at holding mid for 25 games to open the 2010 season, but lost the spot down the stretch to the now-retired Ukrainian.
The role is now all his. This season, Birchall must play the vital role of being in all places at once and finding chemistry with both old faces and new. And he knows he has a lot on his plate.
He’ll have to protect a young defense that has shown it is prone to lapses at times. He’ll have to be the key link-up with the Galaxy’s midfield attackers with extremely varied skill sets, from Juninho in front of him, to Landon Donovan on one wing, to newcomer Miguel Lopez, who looks to be filling in on the other side until David Beckham returns from his training stint with Tottenham Hotspur.
“I have to look after the back four if our outside backs need to tuck in, win the balls and give it to the players who can do a lot with it,” he said. “Whoever’s in there, I just release a little differently to them and [then] help more with the defense and win the balls back.”
There’s an argument to be made that Birchall may be sitting on the most important role on the pitch for the Galaxy, but he’s ready to step up and says that being handed the starting role is a nice shot of confidence from Arena.
“I’ve got a very good 18 months under my belt [in MLS] now,” he said. “I’m looking forward to playing.”