GALAXY: Another opener? In a sense
March, 30, 2012
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Victor Decolongon/Getty ImagesRobbie Keane says the last two weeks of practice won't mean a thing if the Galaxy doesn't win Saturday.
CARSON -- The Galaxy get a second chance, sort of, to start the season the right way when they take on the New England Revolution on Saturday night at Home Depot Center.
After stumbling in their initial matches a few weeks ago -- dropping a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series to Toronto FC and falling apart at the end of their Major League Soccer opener against Real Salt Lake -- L.A. finally got back onto the practice field these past two weeks, working on things that didn't get worked out during preseason.
Now they look to add to the victory two weeks ago over D.C. United -- their fourth game in 12 days -- against a Revolution side that's rebuilding under first-year coach Jay Heaps.
It's the fifth game that counts on the Galaxy schedule, but it's a little bit like a second opener, right?
“Kind of,” said David Beckham. “When you have a couple weeks' break, obviously it does feel like that. But you want to get back into the games and back into winning. Our last game was better than the games before that, but we need to continue that.”
They'll do so with better chemistry up front -- Robbie Keane and Edson Buddle finally got a chance to work together outside of games -- and with a better sense of what's needed defensively, a chief concern because Omar Gonzalez's absence through injury continues to wield a long shadow over everything else.
The Galaxy (1-1-0) might have to play without Landon Donovan, who did not train this week because of quadriceps strain in his left leg.
“If he's not all right,” Beckham notes, “we've got players who will step in and do the job.”
How important were the past two weeks?
“Well, we'll see on Saturday, won't we?” Keane said. “It was good to get on the training pitch, a good couple of weeks. But it will only be good if we win on Saturday.”
New England (1-2-0) is coming off a worst-in-the-East 5-16-13 campaign last season that led to the dismissal of longtime coach Steve Nicol, who took the Revs to four MLS Cup finals but struggled as ownership failed to keep pace with others in search of foreign talent. Heaps, a two-sport athlete at Duke University (he also was on the basketball team), has made some savvy moves in a roster remake, bringing in players from Europe and South America and, perhaps best, picking up veteran holding midfielder Clyde Simms to partner captain Shalrie Joseph in the middle.
“They're a different team, obviously, with a new coach …,” Galaxy boss Bruce Arena said. “I think he's doing a good job. I tried to recruit him [to the University of Virginia] when he was in high school. He went to Duke, so we haven't been the best of friends because of that. … I got to know him and his family very well. He's a good guy, a bright guy, obviously was an outstanding athlete. He's a solid guys and has all the tools to become a very good coach.”
WORTH NOTING: The Galaxy leads the all-time series, 19-13-6, including victories in the 2002 and 2005 MLS Cup finals. The Revs have lost just twice in the last four HDC meetings. … Irvine's Benny Feilhaber is out, for the second week, with a lower-leg injury. ... The Galaxy have pulled midfielders Kyle Nakazawa (tonsilectomy) and Jose Villarreal (bilateral lower leg surgery) off the injury list, but Donovan, midfielder Mike Magee, forward Pat Noonan and goalkeeper Brian Perk have been added (see below). The Revolution this week removed Joseph (illness) and defenders Darrius Barnes (calf strain) and Chris Tierney (sprained ankle) from the list. … The clubs met twice at the Desert Diamond Classic preseason tournament in Tucson, with New England winning, 3-2, on Jeremiah White's second-half goal in the tournament opener and L.A. prevailing on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the final. Buddle and Magee had the Galaxy's goals in the first game.
- THE OPPONENT
Head coach: Jay Heaps
Key players: M/D Shalrie Joseph, G Matt Reis, M Benny Feilhaber, F Saër Sene, M Clyde Simms, F Bjorn Runstrom, D Florian Lechner
Local guys: Reis (Mission Viejo), Feilhaber (Irvine), plus UCLA product Kelyn Rowe
Update: Former Revs defender Heaps took charge during the offseason after moving into the broadcast booth (and investment banking) following his playing days. He's brought in 15 new players -- Swede Runstrom signed this week -- and is still putting things together, a task made more challenging by injuries to some key players, Feilhaber most of all. New England was shut out at San Jose and Sporting Kansas City in its first two games, the latter after an early red card to Stephen McCarthy -- he returns from suspension this week -- but beat Portland, 1-0, in the home opener last weekend on Frenchman Sene's goal after 28 seconds. The Revs were missing three center backs, so Joseph moved to the backline. Lechner is expected to be available for the first time since a free transfer from German club Karlsruhe.
- INJURY REPORT
Out: D Omar Gonzalez (left ACL tear), D Leonardo (right ACL/LCL tears), G Brian Perk (sports hernia surgery).
Questionable: F Adam Cristman (concussion), M Landon Donovan (left quadriceps tightness), D Bryan Jordan (left hamstring strain), M Mike Magee (right adductor tightness), F Pat Noonan (right hip flexor tightness).
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Out: F Zak Boggs (right ankle sprain), M Benny Feilhaber (left peroneal strain), M Sainey Nyassi (right hamstring strain).
Doubtful: D John Lozano (right hip flexor strain).
Probable: D Kevin Alston (nasal fracture).
- THE GAME
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
TV: NBC Sports Network (English)
Radio: ESPN Deportes (KWKU-AM/1220 and KWKW-AM/1330, both Spanish)