It continues to be a learning process for LA Galaxy midfielder Chris Birchall as he acquaints himself with players and teams in his first full season in MLS.
The 26-year-old, however, knows exactly what to expect from Saturday's opponent, Toronto FC. Specifically two players: Chad Barrett and Dwayne De Rosario. The Toronto twosome were formidable adversaries the last time these clubs met in a 0-0 tie at The Home Depot Center on May 15, and Birchall expects nothing less from them this weekend at BMO Field in Toronto.
De Rosario has a team-leading eight goals and three assists while Barrett has four goals for Toronto FC (5-4-2), currently third in the Eastern Conference. De Rosario and Barrett combined for four shots, including one on goal, in the scoreless tie between the two sides last month.
"I didn't know much about them before the game, and I was really impressed," Birchall said. "He (Barrett) didn't give our back four a minute of time chasing everything down and he played really well. De Rosario is a great, skillful player who has a number of goals and is very physical.
"They're going to be tough."
Toronto FC certainly was tough last month in Carson. The Galaxy outshot Toronto 15-7, including 4-1 on goal, but could get nothing past goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who finished with four saves.
"It was a combination of things," Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said as he discussed the game. "They obviously came in here to get a point, although they had a good chance early in the game with De Rosario. They defended great as a unit, their goalkeeper made some big saves and we probably didn't do as well with our chances.
"It was one of those days where it's a fine line from winning and losing and getting a point. We needed to be a little bit sharper in front of the goal to win that game, and we weren't."
"I just think it was a mixture of us not being on our game," he said. "We weren’t passing well and they were tough to break down. We were probably strong favorites to win the game, and I think they maybe were looking for a point. Maybe I'm wrong, but with that mentality they were tough to break down. It was a mixture of us not really playing well and they were tough.
"Sometimes we haven't played well this season and have picked up three points. We've got to go into the game confident and try to pick up three points after our defeat in Salt Lake."
The Galaxy (10-1-2), playing in its first regular season match since the 1-0 loss at Real Salt Lake on June 9, have looked sluggish in training this week and Arena has voiced his displeasure, but Birchall said there is nothing to be concerned about.
"Bruce is probably worried, but we're not," Birchall said. "I'm sure every coach in the league is feeling the same way as Bruce, that they're not training as well as they were before the (World Cup) break. It's understandable. We had four or five days off and a weekend off as well.
"The guys know it takes a few days. I'm sure we'll be fine."