CARSON, Calif. – It was a weary LA Galaxy team that returned home earlier this week after a grueling stretch that featured six of their seven games being played on the road, including four games on the East Coast. LA may have gone just 1-5-0 in those six road games, but that does not begin to tell the complete story as the club was knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup by the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks, suffered one of the most resounding losses in club history a few days later against New England and lost a pair of games that they were tied in entering the final 10 minutes.
But after a couple of days off, enjoying an 11-day break between games and the prospects of playing at home next Wednesday for the first time since May 26, the Galaxy almost feel recharged.
“It was good to not see these guys for a couple of days,” midfielder Michael Stephens said with a grin referring to the break from training earlier in the week. “We see each other every day. It’s nice to take two days off and not do anything.”
Head coach Bruce Arena said he could sense he had a tired team on his hands when it returned to Southern California following last Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Real Salt Lake. That defeat came six days after a stunning 5-0 loss to the New England Revolution in Foxborough, Mass.
“Way too much travel, time changes, heat, playing surfaces, all of that,” he said. “The ugliness of MLS scheduling and issues bore out during that period of time. If we’re a better team we could handle it better, but we weren’t good enough during that time.”
“Plus the national team on top of it” – defender Omar Gonzalez and striker Robbie Keane, have been away because with the U.S. and Ireland respectively while Oscar Sorto and Jose Villarreal are now gone with the U.S. U-20’s – “and it made for a difficult time.
“Those aren’t excuses, just the facts of life. These things we knew about, so there’s no excuse for that. That all comes down on me. That’s my responsibility.”
Not everyone took the mini-break completely off, however. Robbie Rogers, still trying to regain his match fitness after ending his retirement and officially joining the club late last month, said he appreciated the opportunity to get in some quality training.
“It was good to have a proper week of running and lifting and doing all that stuff,” he said.
He did agree with Arena in sensing the team was tired.
“I don’t want to make excuses. It’s part of the job,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for quite a while, but it’s tough. It’s tough to be in hotels, be away from your comfortable setting, your apartment, your bed. It was difficult.”
Rogers, however, said he has been pleased with the team’s attitude despite losses in five of the last seven regular-season matches. Rogers said some of his previous teams didn’t handle struggles like these nearly as well.
“I’ve been at clubs in the past where a few losses would really get the team down; the locker room would have a big, negative shift,” he said. “But the guys seem very motivated, they’re working harder. They’ve been really sharp in training, very aggressive and working their butts off.”
“That’s been a very pleasant surprise for me.”