The LA Galaxy wreaked havoc on Major League Soccer from opening day of the 2010 season, wracking up an 18-7-5 record and claiming the Supporters’ Shield along the way. But the lasting image many could have from the year that was is the 3-0 loss to FC Dallas in the Western Conference Championship, a loss that kept the Galaxy from winning the MLS Cup for the second consecutive year.
Still, LA had several stellar individual performances, placing four players on the league’s Best XI and piling up an enormous amount of points (59). The club set a high bar for 2011 and will likely do what it can to surpass all that was accomplished in 2010.
For Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, the recently completed season left plenty to feel content with and room for improvements in the coming year. MLSsoccer.com caught up with the veteran coach on Monday.
MLSsoccer.com: Having won the Supporters’ Shield but not MLS Cup, do you view the season as a success?
Arena: There are 30 games in a season, 30 weeks in a season and we were in first place the whole time. I think that’s pretty good. In the playoffs, we won two out of three games. We’re certainly disappointed with the loss in the conference final, but I think it was a good year. We accumulated the third-most points in the history of the league and we were in first place from start to finish. I don’t think you can write it off as a disappointing year.
MLSsoccer.com: How long did it take you to get over the Western Conference Championship loss?
Arena: Pretty quick. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s still 3-0, I think. You can’t dwell on it and that’s basically my approach to it.
MLSsoccer.com: Do you feel like you met or exceeded the expectations that you guys had before the season started?
Arena: We would have liked to have won MLS Cup, there’s no question about that. We’re disappointed that that didn’t happen but we had a good season. It wasn’t the smoothest of seasons but it was a good season and we’re building the team towards what we think is going to be a competitive club each and every year, and that’s hard to do in this league.
There’s a lot of issues you deal with a lot of the time and, for the most part – I feel I’ve been on the job for two years – and we’ve made progress. I’m kind of discounting 2008 in terms of what we were able to do with me coming in late knowing there were a lot of changes to make. I think we’ve made progress in the last two years. We’ve had probably the most points in the league, have been to a final and the semifinals in the last two years.
We’re making progress, but we do want to win MLS Cup. Having said that, we know how awkward it is in the league; the way the competition goes, it doesn’t always add up in the end. It certainly didn’t for us [this year] but I certainly give our opponent a lot of credit. The team that beat us in the conference final deserved to win that game.
MLSsoccer.com: What areas are you looking to upgrade at before the start of training camp?
Arena: Every area. I don’t think it’s my job to articulate that publicly but there are certainly improvements we need to make in a lot of areas.
MLSsoccer.com: One of the areas of need many point to is forward and having a second striker to take some pressure off Edson Buddle. Is that a pressing concern?
Arena: Landon Donovan can play there as well. We’ll likely look to play Landon in that position next year and Landon needs to be more goal-dangerous next year if we decide to do that.
MLSsoccer.com: You may lose as many as four players to next summer’s Gold Cup, and you’ll have at least six extra games in CONCACAF Champions League. Do you take that into consideration when thinking about the improvements you have to make, or do you just try to make the team better regardless?
Arena: It’s a little bit of both, but remember, this league is a little bit different. People always try to visualize and examine and come up with solutions with MLS teams like they do with other teams around the world. We don’t have the ability to go out and handpick and get a number of players and have a deep roster and a lot of depth and all that.
There’s obviously plenty of restraints and there are constraints with who you can add to your roster. All you can do is try to get a better team to deal with all the issues that are ahead. Our teams are not built to play in a lot of competitions. It will certainly be challenging next year with Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying and our different competitions, it will certainly be very challenging.