Bruce Arena Knockout Round teleconference transcript

LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena discussed Thursday's Knockout Round match between the LA Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps FC in a league teleconference. 

Below is a transcript of Arena's thoughts... 

(On Vancouver struggling heading into the playoffs…)

ARENA: “It doesn’t mean anything. It’s a fresh tournament. We’ve had in recent history in our league, team that go under the radar, so to speak, and go on to win the cup. 2009 and 2010 are examples where I think Salt Lake and Colorado qualify for the tournament on the last day and then went on to win it. So whatever happened during the regular season for Vancouver or Los Angeles really doesn’t matter at this point.”

(On what he expects Vancouver to do with recently benched Designated Players Barry Robson and Kenny Miller...)

ARENA: “I really don’t know. There’s no point in me spending a whole lot of time and energy on it. They’re obviously going to be on the field at some point, whether they start or not is a decision for [Vancouver] Coach [Martin] Rennie to make. Our main focus is certainly getting our team prepared to play and not being too concerned with the lineup that Vancouver comes out with.”

(On Vancouver’s strongest points…)

ARENA: “I think there strong point is they’ve decided pretty much how they’re going to come out and play this game I guess from their preparation for the Salt Lake game. They’re focused on keeping it real tight in the back and picking their spots to go forward on the break, trying to get some restarts and trying to win a game that way. They got a dress rehearsal, as they say, during the Salt Lake game so I think that a strength for them.”

(On whether Vancouver have any weaknesses…)

ARENA: “Not anything that I think sticks out and I think at this point, as I’ve said, every team in the championship run is capable of winning.”

(On what Robbie Keane has meant to the Galaxy…)

ARENA: “Since he became a part of the Galaxy in the summer of 2011, he’s been a leader on the field and off and obviously his goal scoring speaks for itself. It’s really that simple, he’s a personality, he’s a quality attacking player and he makes our team different.”

(On whether he is surprised Keane made the transition to MLS so well, so quickly:

ARENA: “Robbie has a long history and I think everywhere he’s gone, for the most part, he’s been pretty good. He got through the transition a lot quicker than most players.”

(On Landon Donovan moving to midfield in the season finale…)

ARENA: “We haven’t made any decisions on how we’re going to pair our guys in the playoffs. There’s only one game, the last game, where you saw that. Landon’s been out for a while so we haven’t had that opportunity. We had the opportunity to play Edson with Robbie a little bit so we took advantage of that, but certainly as we attempt to move forward in this tournament there’s going to be plenty of times that we’ll see Landon and Robbie together and Edson and Robbie together.”

(On how they got through the slow start to the season…)

ARENA: “With every team, every year is different, with every game it’s different and through experience you kind of understand how to work through your good moments and your bad moments. We just simply dealt with it one day at a time, one game at a time and tried to find the right formula for our team, tried to get them as healthy as possible. We had a lot of unusual circumstances during the year: injuries, issues with player departures, whether it was David around the Olympics or even at times Landon was released for a friendly game outside a FIFA window. We figured out what worked best for us. We had one thing after another snowballing itself and it made it difficult to get a team in rhythm and really basically throughout the year we never had a full lineup in so all we did was plug away and week-to-week, game-to-game tried to find the right way to be successful with the group we had. And obviously Omar returned in July and made things better, and then recently we lost A.J., so it’s been one of those years. I don’t think there’s any simple answer to your question, we just tried to the best we could. We have a group with a good attitude. The last half of the season, our last 17 games we have 34 points, which is actually above our rate from last year when we had such a good year. It’s a lot to be said about the group and how they dealt with adversity and came back and had a good performance to position ourselves to be back in the hunt for the MLS Cup.”

(On whether the team is finally finding its rhythm from last season…)

ARENA: “We’re a lot closer. I think these things, you’re never quite sure. This is a whole different competition now than the last 34 games and it’ll test us in terms of the depth of our team, the fitness of our players. I think we’re coming close, but I think you’re going to see because of the structure of this tournament this year with so many games in a short period of time that teams are going to have to use more players than they would prefer probably. And maybe you won’t have the kind of rhythm you want to have. For ourselves there’s going to be one game after another, hopefully, over the next couple weeks so that’s a challenge. But even for the teams that enter the tournament over the weekend it’s a three game a week rhythm and a lot of stuff is going to happen from suspensions to fatigue to injuries so it’ll be a challenge for everyone. And it may not be as easy to get teams in rhythm as well.”

(On Tommy Meyer and how he has done since taking over for injured A.J. DeLaGarza…)

ARENA: “He’s doing very well. He started the year where it was a little difficult for him being a young player coming into the league and I think he, more than any player we’ve seen over the year has improved a lot. He’s absorbed a lot of information and he’s just done a great job for us over the last couple of months. We saw Tommy’s improvement and knew that if he had to be on the field on a regular basis for us, he’d be fine and I think he’s shown over the last month or so for us that he’s moving along well and he’s a good center back.” 

(On developing partnership with Omar Gonzalez in central defense…)

ARENA: “I think every week those kind of relationships get better. They’ve certainly shown more confidence with each other.”

(On the first leg of the semifinal against San Jose being listed on the club’s website…)

ARENA: “I basically have no idea what you’re talking about. But I would think every team in this tournament has an understanding when the games are being played and if they’re selling tickets I guess you have to have a notice on when potentially the next games are.”

(On being called a heavy favorite…)

ARENA: “We’re preparing our team to play on Thursday and we’re confident that we can win the game, period. We respect Vancouver, but we’re going to step on the field and try to win whether it’s Vancouver or any other team in the tournament. That’s our attitude, to get on the field and secure the win.”

(On whether he feels that being the favorite puts more pressure on his team…)

ARENA: “I haven’t spoken to any of the odds makers for the game and don’t know any of that. All we’re doing is getting our team ready to play. We’ve been in the playoffs before and we understand the challenges that are associated with this and we’re using those experiences to hopefully prepare ourselves like we have over the last four years.”