CARSON, Calif. – It’s just over a month into the MLS season, and the LA Galaxy have played only two teams, Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA.
So it’s understandable when Galaxy (1-1-1) head coach Bruce Arena said it’s difficult to properly assess his team heading into the first leg of a back-to-back series with the Vancouver Whitecaps (2-1-2) on Saturday at StubHub Center (7:30 p.m., Time Warner Cable SportsNet, Time Warner Cable Deportes).
Also take into account two CONCACAF Champions League matches with Club Tijuana, and Arena has had exactly five games to gauge his team’s progress to this point.
“We need more games,” he said. “You don’t get a real feel for where you are after five games. We’ll have had games against three teams, and there’s still another 15 (actually, 17) teams in the league to play, so you don’t really get a great feel for a lot of things at the end of April.
“It’s going to take some time.”
But there have been flashes of superb play, especially in last Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Chivas USA in the year’s first edition of the SuperClasico. That win, unfortunately, did not come without a few unfortunate developments.
Left back Todd Dunivant, for example, suffered an abdominal ailment and has been ruled out of the game against Vancouver, which has never won at StubHub Center and is 1-6-1 all-time against the Galaxy. A.J. DeLaGarza, who has been nursing an ankle contusion for almost three weeks, is the odds-on favorite to take his place on the left.
Another outside back, Dan Gargan, suffered a shoulder injury against Chivas. The LA Galaxy back line suffered so many injuries on Sunday that Arena was forced to bring on homegrown defender Oscar Sorto for his MLS debut.
In any event, there are a number of Galaxy players who like where the team is at the moment.
“So far this season I think we’ve done pretty well,” central defender Omar Gonzalez said. “We have another back-to-back series with Vancouver. It’s a little funny with the way this year has been scheduled so far, but that’s out of our control.
“This weeks’ practice has been great, and everyone’s feeling fresh and ready to win.”
Added Landon Donovan, still tied with Jeff Cunningham for the all-time MLS record for goals scored with 134, “I think we’ve played well in all of our games except probably the first half of the Tijuana game away. Every other game I thought we played well. Certainly the last game I think it gave us a lot of confidence. Chivas I don’t think had the best day, but we deserve a lot of credit, too.
“We’re excited for this weekend.”
The Galaxy’s Robbie Keane is especially looking forward to the matchup, if for no other reason than he’ll be running into an old friend in Carl Robinson, the coach of the Whitecaps and his former teammate in the youth system of English side Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C.
Robinson was named Vancouver coach last December when Martin Rennie was fired after going 24-25-19 in two seasons.
“I’m delighted he was given the opportunity,” Keane said. “He’s young, enthusiastic and has good ideas. He learned the trade here. He was assistant manager for a long time.
“He certainly deserves a chance.”