CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy were welcomed home by sunny skies and warm temperatures as they resumed training in Southern California on Wednesday.
The defending MLS Cup champions had just returned from a preseason trip to Ireland and Sweden that included friendlies against Stockholm-based Hammarby FC and Dublin’s Shamrock Rovers and emphasized improved fitness as the regular-season opener against the Chicago Fire on March 6 at StubHub Center rapidly approaches.
Head coach Bruce Arena called the excursion successful, and not just for the competition against European competition.
“I think being together as a group for almost two weeks, getting to know players, the training was good, the conditions were good,” he said. "The conditions on game day weren’t great at either game, but that’s OK.
“I think mentally the guys hung in there and did a good job with stuff.”
Almost to a man, coaches and players relished the weather on Wednesday. It marked quite a change from the 30-degree temperatures that greeted them in Sweden.
“I must admit I do miss Los Angeles when you’re running around Europe in the month of February,” Arena joked.
The trip was particularly eventful for the Galaxy’s Robbie Keane, who was back in his hometown where he was treated with almost rock-star status.
“It was cool also for us to see how well he’s respected in his home country,” defender Dan Gargan said. “It was cool to witness that, kind of ride his coattails for a few days.”
The Galaxy stayed at the well-regarded Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links, which is located right on the Irish Sea.
“The views were incredible; it was very peaceful,” the Galaxy’s Baggio Husidic said.
The Galaxy’s stay even included a trip to the Guinness factory and a visit with Republic of Ireland President Michael Higgins.
“It was nice to go home,” Keane said. “I think the trip was very successful, a good exercise for the players. Certainly good fitness for the players.
“It ended up being a good eight, 10 days.”
But the Galaxy’s preparations are far from over. Arena said he isn’t sure where his club stands with its final preseason game on Saturday in San Jose against the Earthquakes and the season opener only a week from Friday.
“I don’t think you ever know, to be honest with you,” he said. “If we’re not where we want to be we’re not far behind. I think we’re making progress.”
Said the Galaxy’s Alan Gordon, “I think there’s always work to be done. You never in preseason feel like you have it figured out. It’s all about seeing where we’re at.
“We feel like we’ve made a lot of progress throughout the preseason and are looking forward to the first game.”