CARSON, Calif. – For the next two weeks, the LA Galaxy will take their focus off the MLS regular season and their quest for the Supporters’ Shield. Instead, the club will place their time and effort into the Guinness International Championship Cup. Although, it means taking attention away from the league and into a friendly tournament, the lessons learned against some of the best clubs in the world could help LA down the stretch.
The tournament begins for the Galaxy on Thursday when they take on Spanish giants Real Madrid at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. From there, LA will face either Everton or Juventus at Dodger Stadium just two days later, before departing for Miami for the tournament’s final match on either Aug. 6 or Aug. 7.
Overall, it’ll be 14 days between regular season matches with the Galaxy resuming league play against FC Dallas on Aug. 11.
“I think these games are going to pose a different type of challenge, and probably a challenge we won't see too often in this league,” said midfielder Pablo Mastroeni. “It will give guys a good opportunity to play against really good opponents, and to see where you stand individually, and more importantly, where you fit collectively with the team moving into the later part of the season. I think it's going to be a great opportunity to play against guys you watch on TV all the time and to measure yourself up against them.”
The idea of the players measuring themselves up against the best is a common theme heading into these tournaments. After all, you don’t get a chance to face off against Cristiano Ronaldo, Andrea Pirlo or Tim Howard in every match. However, for members of the Galaxy reserves, these matches are important not just because they’ll face the best, but simply because they’ll take the field.
For example, take forward Chandler Hoffman, who scored his fifth MLS Reserve League goal in Sunday’s 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids. Since joining the Galaxy prior to the start of the season, he’s made just one first team appearance –in LA’s U.S. Open Cup defeat to Carolina in May—but has yet to make a game-day roster for a league match.
As he looks to force himself into the plans of Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, Hoffman admits that he’s circled the International Championship Cup matches on his calendar.
“We have three games against, literally, some of the best teams in the world so if I can carry this over and carry over some of my success and be sharp in those games, who knows where that puts me,” Hoffman told LAGalaxy.com. “This could be my chance. We have three games in front of 60,000 fans and in pressure situations. For me, this is my time to shine and my time to show why I deserve to be on the field.”
Once LA wraps up the tournament, the games will come hard and fast as they’ll play five matches in 20 days as they resume their league slate and begin CONCACAF Champions League competition.
If players like Hoffman can stand out in the ICC then LA may have the type of depth needed to make a run in both competitions this fall.
“The good news is that we’re going to use our whole roster with games [so close together],” said defender Todd Dunivant. “It’s good for everybody, it keeps everyone fit, it keeps them interested because everyone is going to be thrown right into the fire.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com