CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said he plans to treat Saturday’s match against the Columbus Crew (4:30 p.m., Time Warner Cable SportsNet, Time Warner Cable Deportes) at Crew Stadium like any other on the schedule. It’s just one of 17 road games as far as he’s concerned.
But this one figures to be a little bit more special if for no other reason than his coaching counterpart is the Crew’s Gregg Berhalter, who helped revive the struggling Galaxy when he arrived in 2009. With Berhalter manning the back line, the Galaxy cut their goals allowed from 60 the previous season to 31 in his first season with the Western Conference power.
Arena, however, downplayed the impending reunion.
“It’s like any other game, in all honesty. Nothing’s different,” Arena said. “I’m happy Gregg’s had that opportunity and he’s doing a good job.
“We’re playing Columbus on Saturday. I happen to know who their coach is and if we have an opportunity to socialize we certainly will.”
Galaxy players are especially looking forward to seeing their former teammate whose last season in L.A. was in 2011, when Arena made him a player-coach, followed by a head coaching stint at Sweden’s Hammarby IF and his current position with the Crew.
They remember Berhalter as hyper-competitive, even during training.
“I think most of my memories are of him yelling at me,” the Galaxy’s A.J. DeLaGarza said with a grin. “He was a fiery guy, but a leader. A guy that took every play 120 percent.”
“Nothing but great memories,” Todd Dunivant said. “We came back on this team in 2009 together. He was with us for part of that rebuild of the whole team, especially the defense, and he was kind of the leader back there.
“He certainly was the most vocal guy. Had the most experience and he kind of led that charge. It turned us right around. We wouldn’t have the defense we have today without him.”
Omar Gonzalez was named Rookie of the Year in 2009, thanks in large part to Berhalter’s tutelage that often came at ear-splitting levels. He credited Berhalter for having a lasting impact on him.
“He was a big influence on my game. Definitely a mentor of mine,” Gonzalez said. “He was always tough on me because he knew I could be a good player. I remember him yelling at me, sitting me down, talking to me, what things I can work on, showing me video of my touches, going over a lot of things.
“We had some great years, and I’m definitely looking forward to going to Columbus and playing against him. I just look forward to seeing him.”
The Crew (6-8-9, 27 points) won their first three games of the season, then endured an 0-4-4 stretch before beating Chicago on May 24. They have won two of their last three games and tied Chicago 1-1 in their latest game on Aug. 2 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.
The Galaxy (9-4-7, 34 points), continuing their climb up the Western Conference, face a difficult schedule that features four matches in the next 12 days – including next Wednesday’s game in Commerce City, Colo., against the Rapids – and eight in the next 30.
“It’s going to define our season, there’s no doubt about that,” said Landon Donovan, who recently announced his retirement at the conclusion of the season and will be honored in a pregame ceremony Saturday. “How we do in that stretch will determine where we end up, no question.
“For us we’re excited for it.”
Added Robbie Keane, “We just have to make sure we keep ourselves involved and keep getting points on the board.
“I’m sure the way we’re playing at the moment we have a chance to do that.”