CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy are no strangers to high standards, and this season certainly is no different.
Head coach and general manager Bruce Arena has gone so far as to sense an unusually strong resolve in his squad as Tuesday’s MLS regular season opener against Sounders FC at Seattle’s Qwest Field approaches. Coming so close the last two seasons – losing in the MLS Cup in 2009 and falling in last year’s Western Conference Championship – appears to have made the Galaxy more determined than ever.
“We are clearly driven to win a championship this year,” Arena said. “No question about it.”
Some players may struggle having to meet such lofty expectations, but not the Galaxy. They embrace such a challenge.
“It’s something that we’re always passionate about,” David Beckham said. “Everyone wants to be successful. Going into this season, it’s no different than going into every other season.
“You have to be up for it. You have to want to win.”
Added Landon Donovan, “Not every team has the talent we have and our ability to win a championship every year. So we want to take advantage of it.”
Veteran defender Todd Dunivant said he can detect an even stronger commitment than usual to succeed this season, but he was quick to point out team goals haven’t necessarily been popular topics of team-wide discussions.
It’s as if players know what has to be accomplished, how to do it and don’t need to be reminded.
“It’s almost one of those things that doesn’t need to be said,” Dunivant said. “To be honest, it hasn’t been much different the last couple of years.”
Losing in the 2009 final (to Real Salt Lake on penalty kicks) was difficult enough, but last year’s Conference Championship, a 3-0 loss to FC Dallas, arguably was just as painful, considering the Galaxy had dominated almost all of the regular season and clinched the Supporters’ Shield for having the league’s best record (18-7-5).
“It was such a disappointing end,” Dunivant said, “sort of a shocking end last year, to let the season get away like that. Without a doubt we’re more focused and more resolved.”
And if expectations continue to be high, it goes with the territory, he said.
“Those come with being on the Galaxy,” Dunivant said. “This is a team that is expected to win. We have turned it around the last two years, and now it’s time to put the final touches on.
“That doesn’t happen today. It happens throughout the season. It’s a mentality we have to have all year … that’s our goal. When we get to the playoffs we have to push through and finally win it.
Veteran outside back Frankie Hejduk, who was signed in late December after the Galaxy acquired his rights in a trade with Sporting Kansas City (which had selected him in the MLS Re-Entry Process), was used to high expectations in Columbus, where he led the Crew to the championship in 2008.
He sees the same kind of pressure and drive on the Galaxy and, he admitted, prefers it that way.
“Anything less than a championship would be a disappointment, to be honest,” the 36-year-old said. “That should be the goal of every team you’re on every year. If you go into a year not thinking you’re going to win a championship, you shouldn’t be out here.
“Yeah, there are high expectations, but as a player that’s what you want. You want to play at the highest level in the toughest environment week in and week out. It’s intense around here, and that’s going to make us better.”
During the Galaxy's Countdown to Kickoff, Galaxy players, staff, Miss LA Galaxy Court members and Galaxy Street Team were active in the community engaging with fans, the public and media in order to thank them for their support and to raise awareness for the start of the 2011 MLS season. For a recap of the week's events with photos and videos visit www.lagalaxy.com/caravan.
Take your photo with the 2010 Supporters' Shield and 2009 Western Conference Championship Trophy on Tuesday, March 15 at Ye Olde King's Head before your LA Galaxy face the Seattle Sounders in MLS First Kick 2011 at 6:30 p.m. PT on ESPN/Deportes. Plus, opportunities to win tickets to the Galaxy home opener as well as an autographed jersey! MORE INFO
On Sunday, March 20, the Galaxy will host the New England Revolution in their home opener, presented by Pechanga Resort & Casino, at 5 p.m. at The Home Depot Center. The first 15,000 fans will receive 2011 magnet schedules. Tickets are available for that match, starting at $25. BUY NOW