CARSON, Calif. – A.J. DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez were back with the LA Galaxy in Thursday’s training session as they awaited word of their possible inclusion on the U.S. national team roster for a Feb. 6 World Cup qualifier in Honduras.
Their appearances were expected, but the arrival of Robbie Keane was not.
The 32-year-old Irish international was back, fresh from 10 days of training with one of his former clubs, Tottenham Hotspur, perhaps a little earlier than usual but eager nonetheless to get going again with his Galaxy teammates.
“I always look forward to getting back into the swing of things,” said Keane, who did nothing more than some light jogging around the practice field after undergoing a physical earlier in the day. “I’m looking forward to really getting into training with the lads.
“For me, it’s been a long break. Certainly you get those niggles you had to get sorted out. I feel good.”
Keane said he definitely won’t miss the weather in London, which lately featured snow.
“It took me 10 minutes every morning to get out of the driveway,” he said.
There are those who hope the Galaxy have learned their lessons from a year ago, when their run to a second consecutive MLS Cup championship was almost sabotaged by a horrendous start, but Keane said he really isn’t concerned about this season – provided the end result is the same.
“If you do what we did last year and win the championship, it’s irrelevant really,” he said. “I’ll take that any day, of course. You want to start off well and continue that for the whole season. As you well know in this game it’s really difficult to maintain 100 percent for the whole season.
“If you do what we did last year and finish with a championship, who cares?”
The Galaxy will play their first preseason game of 2013 on Friday morning when they take on the U.S. Under-17 National Team.
It’s just over a month before the start of the MLS regular season (the Galaxy open March 3 at home against the Chicago Fire - SEE SCHEDULE) and head coach Bruce Arena isn’t looking for much more Friday than to give everybody playing time.
“It’s essentially a practice, but it’s the first time we’ll be on a full field. We need that,” he said. “I know we’re playing against younger players, but I think they’re going to have a lot of enthusiasm and they’ll be fit.
“It will be a good exercise for us.”
Goalkeeper Brian Perk said it will be good to play someone wearing different colors.
“All the guys are excited and ready to go,” he said. “I think the core we have is pretty good. Obviously we’re missing a few important guys, but it looks like everyone’s pretty sharp for, what, the second week of preseason?
“I’m actually pretty impressed, especially with the new guys. They’ve looked pretty good.”
Among those newcomers are Gyasi Zardes, a 21-year-old forward from Cal State Bakersfield who was signed as a Homegrown Player on Dec. 20, and Greg Cochrane, a midfielder from Louisville who was taken in the second round (38th overall) of the recent MLS SuperDraft.
“I’m definitely looking forward to tomorrow,” Zardes said. “It’s going to be great playing against opponents as opposed to my teammates. It gives us an opportunity to utilize everything we’ve been practicing on.
“I’m really looking forward to it.”
Added Cochrane, “It’s exciting. It’s still fun coming out here playing with all the guys, but when you have someone else to finally kick and play against it’s going to be really fun.
“Especially for me it’s the first time playing in a game. Outside of the (draft) Combine I haven’t been in a competitive game since December, so I’m just really looking forward to it.”
DeLaGarza believes his practice sessions with the U.S. national team will benefit him in the long run.
“It was good to get out there and see the level of play of everybody,” he said. “Most of the people were in MLS, and it was good to get in that competition every single day. There was high quality from top to bottom, and every training session you learn a lot just from playing those guys.
“Now you get a little edge on them when you play them during the season.”
DeLaGarza was not on the bench for the Americans’ 0-0 draw with Canada on Tuesday in Houston and doubts whether he’ll be on the roster for the upcoming qualifier in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. He also said he didn’t know if Gonzalez would make the trip, either.
“You’ll have to ask Omar,” DeLaGarza said with a smile.
In any event, he said, it was good to be back working out with his Galaxy teammates.
“There are still a lot of people missing,” he said, “but it’s good to see those faces I’ve seen so often.”