CARSON, Calif. – After being primarily focused on their MLS regular season schedule for the better part of five months, the LA Galaxy will receive a welcome break from league play over the next week as they begin play in the inaugural Guinness International Champions Cup.
The only MLS team to be included in the eight-team tournament, the two-time defending MLS Cup champions kick off their part of the competition on Thursday against Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Just two days later, the Galaxy will play in the second game of a historic doubleheader at Dodger Stadium in which they will play either Everton or Juventus in the nightcap.
“We’re happy to be part of this tournament,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said when asked about the competition, which began last Saturday with AC Milan’s 2-1 win over Valencia in Spain. “We get to see maybe the best team in the world and play against them. I can’t imagine that’s a negative.”
“Playing against teams of this quality can be a very beneficial experience. If you don’t have the right attitude it can be very detrimental. We hope to approach this in the right way and get something out of it.”
The Galaxy, currently fourth in West with a 10-9-3 record, are not scheduled to return to MLS play until Aug. 11 when they face FC Dallas on the road. After Saturday’s doubleheader they will fly to Miami for the final game of the tournament against AC Milan, Chelsea, Inter Milan or Valencia.
The Galaxy enter the competition short-handed with both Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez unavailable against Real Madrid as they’re with the MLS All-Stars for Wednesday’s game against AS Roma in Kansas City.
Robbie Keane will also miss Thursday’s game with a hip flexor injury, though he is expected to join the team in Arizona. Even though he won’t be playing in the tournament opener, Keane believes that these games can prove beneficial, especially for some of the club’s younger players.
“It’s good for the younger guys to play against these teams, see how good they are up close and see the small things they do. It’s a good game for them. It’s a chance for the young players in these two weeks to show what they have, a good test for them. The most important thing is to show the manager what you can do.”
Said rookie forward Gyasi Zardes, “It’s going to be fun, playing against guys I look up to and watched most of their careers. Being on the same field as them is going to be crazy.”
Robbie Rogers, just returning from a strained hamstring, echoed those sentiments.
“These games are great for me,” he said. “It’s great competition and it’s always fun to test yourself. You’re curious to see where you fit on the field with those guys.”