The Los Angeles Galaxy continue their preseason preparations on Wednesday night at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium, where they will host Costa Rican side Puntarenas FC in an international friendly.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena admitted he doesn't know much, if anything, about this week's opponent, although he does savor the idea of having his club involved in a meaningful competition. The Galaxy have not lost in any of their preseason matches -- five scrimmages, including last Friday's 5-2 victory over San Diego State which featured three goals by Edson Buddle -- and Arena said he's viewing Wednesday's game as the first real indication of how far his team has progressed.
Not that he's been worried about the Galaxy's development. Unlike last year at this time, when the Galaxy were deep into their roster overhaul and adjusting to Arena's coaching in his first training camp with the club, this preseason has progressed smoothly.
"I just think we're very far ahead from last year in all aspects of the game," he said. "Last year we played the games a little too early for us with a whole new group coming in. When we played the Pan-Pacific (Championship) in the middle of February, that was a little too early.
"Now we're in the middle of March, which is a better time for us to be playing open games."
Puntarenas currently are tied for second (with CF Universidad de Costa Rica) in Costa Rica's Primera Division, nine points behind first-place San Carlos FC, and have won only one of their last five matches (1-2-2). Puntarenas, founded in 2004, is led by captain/defender Dario Delgado Mora and were finalists in last season's Costa Rican League championship, where they lost to CF Brujas on penalty kicks.
Puntarenas, who are coached by Uruguayan Jorge Walter Gonzalez Estevez, qualified for the quarterfinals of the 2007 CONCACAF Champions Cup, now known as the CONCACAF Champions League. They lost to the Houston Dynamo 2-1 in a competition that eventually was won by CF Pachuca, who beat CD Guadalajara in the final.
Puntarenas had qualfied for the Champions Cup by virtue of their 2006 Torneo UNCAF championship.
"My sense is they're a good team and good competition," Arena said. "It's competition in a gated game, which helps.
"When you play an exhibition in public you take it a little bit more seriously. I think that's a start of our final preparations for the opening game of league."
The Galaxy begin the regular season against the New England Revolution on March 27 at The Home Depot Center.
Larry Morgan is a contributor to MLSnet.com.