CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy left most of their first-choice veterans at home – all aside from Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez, who are off with their national teams – when they traveled to Cary, N.C., for Wednesday night's US Open Cup clash against the Carolina RailHawks (4:15 pm PT, live chat on LAGalaxy.com).
And Bruce Arena will also be a no-show.
The Galaxy head coach and GM remained in Southern California to prepare for Sunday's MLS match at New England (1:30 pm PT, NBC Sports Network, LIVE chat on LAGalaxy.com), and he canceled plans to fly Wednesday morning to North Carolina so he wouldn't “interfere” with the work assistant coaches Curt Onalfo and Pat Noonan are doing with the reserve team that will take on the NASL's RailHawks at WakeMed Soccer Park.
“I think we're allowing those coaches to get an opportunity to work with that group, whom they're going to work with a lot during the year,” Arena told MLSsoccer.com following Wednesday's short-squad training session at the Home Depot Center. “It gives them a little more identity as a group, and I don't need to interfere.
"It's kind of the group we use for reserve games, and we're letting Curt and Pat organize the group, and I think it's a good experience for all of them.”
Onalfo has served as head coach in MLS with D.C. United and Sporting Kansas City; Noonan is in his first season as an assistant coach.
Alongside associate head coach Dave Sarachan, Arena ran a training session on Wednesday involving a handful of players – Landon Donovan, Carlo Cudicini, A.J. DeLaGarza, Sean Franklin, Juninho, Marcelo Sarvas, academy star Raul Mendiola and mending forward Jack McBean, with Todd Dunivant rehabbing a leg injury indoors – and they'll meet up with the rest of the team Friday in Massachusetts.
Arena was critical of the Galaxy's travel assignment for the Open Cup – the defending MLS champs have gone to North Carolina in successive years to face the RailHawks, who won last year's third-round meeting – and said splitting the squad made the most sense. The decision not to send the entire team to Cary and then to Boston was about “not running everybody into the ground,” he said.
“It's been quite a haul so far in the season, and coming off that three-game road trip – from LA to Vancouver to [Philadelphia] to New York and back to LA – and to jump back on a plane again for everybody [eight hours after Sunday's win] against Seattle would be tough. I think this allows some of these players to get a little bit of rest and help prepare them for the game in Foxborough on Sunday.”
Might Arena's absence be construed as a snub to the RailHawks or an insult?
“Maybe, I don't know,” Arena said. “It's not meant to be an insult. I think it's all fair and appropriate, the way we're doing this.”
RailHawks president Curt Johnson had no issues.
“From our perspective, we're concentrating on the RailHawks,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “We feel we have a tremendous opportunity tonight. We'll have a significant crowd – possibly a record-breaking crowd – and we're looking to win the tournament. I haven't given a thought to Bruce's schedule or which Galaxy players are going to play.”
Scott French covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com.