Friday, September 16, 2011
GALAXY: Not getting ahead of themselves
By Scott French
CARSON -- Next week's CONCACAF Champions League game in Costa Rica became critical with the loss in Mexico, and talks on a new contract with David Beckham have begun. Showdowns with Eastern Conference leader Columbus and at home with Real Salt Lake are on the horizon.
But the Galaxy says their attention is solely on Saturday night's match against Major League Soccer's worst team.
For a side so agile at multitasking, L.A. always has singular focus, and if winning at Home Depot Center over the Vancouver Whitecaps seems relatively simple -- the Galaxy hasn't lost a home game, and the 'Caps haven't won on the road -- they don't see it that way.
Alajuelense, the games that follow and Beckham's contract status can wait.
“In theory,” Donovan said of the notion that Wednesday's meeting with Costa Rican champion Alajuela was more important than the MLS game. “The reality is if we can get a couple more wins, there's the potential to wrap up the Supporters' Shield with a few games to go. Then we can really rest and can make sure that we have our full energy for the [final two Champions League games, later this month at HDC against Morelia and in mid-October in Honduras against Motagua] -- both games will now be vital.
“Our goal is to, absolutely, like always, get three points at home, then we'll deal with the Alajuela game.”
The Champions League clash grew in importance when Morelia rallied in the final 10 minutes -- with the help of an officiating call that cost Robbie Keane a perfectly good goal -- to beat the Galaxy, 2-1. Both clubs are 2-1-0, and so is Alajuelense after beating winless Motagua on Thursday, leaving three games to determine which two move on to next year's quarterfinals.
It could influence head coach Bruce Arena's lineup decisions, although he says it won't.
“We can't worry about Costa Rica right now,” he said. “We're involved in a lot of competitions -- well, two competitions, obviously -- and we're just going to have to focus on one game at a time. We can't be that brilliant and try to look that much ahead and try to have everything right, because it never happens that way. We're going to have to try to win this game [Saturday] and then, after that, get ready for the game in Costa Rica.”
A Beckham deal will have to wait until season's end. The English star confirmed Friday that there have been conversations about a new contract.
“I spoke with Tim [Leiweke, the president at CEO of Galaxy owners AEG], and we've talked through it,” said Beckham, adding that he's “happy here.”
“Tim knows I need to wait until the end of the season just to see how physically I feel.”
GOING FOR 125: A victory would be Arena's 125th in MLS regular-season play, giving him sole possession of the No. 2 spot on the all-time list, behind only Seattle's Sigi Schmid, who has 152 and counting.
Arena coached D.C. United (1996-98) and New York (2006-07) before taking over the Galaxy in August 2008. He was U.S. national team coach from 1998 through the 2006 World Cup.
“I didn't even know about that until I saw that yesterday,” he said Friday. “That shows how much I really care about that stuff. My only focus in the short-term is playing the game against Vancouver. I think all the other stuff is nice, and that's tribute to the players that I've had, that they've excelled and done real well.”
WORTH NOTING: Sean Franklin will be out “probably two or three weeks,” Arena said, with an inflamed knee. ... Dasan Robinson, acquired from Toronto FC in a trade Thursday, was due to arrive in L.A. later in the day Friday, and it's unlikely he'll suit up against the Whitecaps. He also is ineligible for Champions League play, having suited up for Toronto in the competition. ... Robinson's arrival will enable the Galaxy to get the most out of A.J. DeLaGarza, who has had to play in central defense since Gregg Berhalter hurt his foot. L.A. needs him on the right, too. ...
Arena said he had no concerns about goalkeeper Josh Saunders, after he conceded two soft goals against Morelia, one of them on a major miscue. “Josh's confidence is no problem,” he said. “He's played in a bunch of games. There's no problems there. He's going to be fine.” ... Saunders figures to back up Donovan Ricketts on Saturday and return to the field in Costa Rica. ... Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon, who spent a season in the Galaxy's nets, will become the 16th MLS player -- and just the second netminder -- to play in 300 league games with his next appearance. ... The Galaxy won the inaugural meeting, at the end of July, scoring four goals in the final half-hour of a 4-0 victory. ... L.A. is 9-0-5 at home, and the Whitecaps are 0-10-5 on the road. ... The Galaxy is 6-1-1 in their last eight and 11-1-7 in their last 19.
MISSING: Berhalter (sprained foot) and fellow central defenders Leonardo and Sean Alvarado (both torn ACLs) remain out. Franklin also is out. ... Beckham (fractured spine) and midfielder Juninho (hamstring strain) are questionable.
Tom Soehn, 45, added interim head coach to his director-of-soccer duties when Teitur Thordarson was fired at the end of May. Soehn was in charge at D.C. United in 2007-09, winning the Supporters' Shield in his first season and the U.S. Open Cup in 2008. He was a gritty defender/midfielder in the outdoor and indoor games, wrapping up his playing career with four MLS seasons in Dallas and his native Chicago, before serving as an assistant coach with the Fire in 2001-02 and D.C. in 2003-06.
Three key players
At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Frenchman Eric Hassli, 29, is a giant in soccer terms, with good ball skill, a nose for the net and a team-best 10 goals, one of them a good candidate for Goal of the Year.
Brazilian forward/midfielder Camilo, 23, a slippery ball wizard who creates and finishes -- and has eight goals -- has found his niche for the 'Caps in midfield.
Swiss playmaker Davide Chiumiento, 26, has a team best eight assists, five of them in his first five MLS games, and scored on a stunning volley last week at New York.
The Whitecaps (4-13-10) won twice in August, a huge step forward, but they continue to seek the rewards so dynamic a collection of attacking players -- Hassli, Camilo, Chiumiento, Mustapha Jarju and Shea Salinas -- should provide. But they've scored more than once just three times in the past 24 games after doing so twice in the first three. The backline is better since Jay DeMerit's return from injury, and Vancouver is in its best form, coming off a win over Houston and a superb performance in last week's draw at New York.
Veteran midfielder Peter Vagenas is from Pasadena, played at St. Francis High School and UCLA, and played nine seasons with the Galaxy, captaining L.A. to the 2005 MLS Cup title. ... Midfielder John Thorrington grew up in Palos Verdes Estates and played at The Chadwick School before heading to Manchester United at 17. ... Defender Jordan Harvey is from Mission Viejo and played at Capistrano Valley High School and UCLA. ... Forward Atiba Harris was a Chivas USA starter in 2008. ... Cannon was the Galaxy's starter in 2007. ... Rookie defender Michael Boxall played at UC Santa Barbara.
Harris and backup goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre (both torn meniscuses) and midfielder Russell Teibert (lacerated toe) are out. ... Thorrington (groin strain), Chiumiento (bruised ankle) and midfielder Michael Nanchoff (thigh injury) are questionable.
At Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m.
TV: Prime Ticket, 10:30 p.m.
Radio: K-Talk (KTLK-AM/1150, English) and ESPN Deportes (KWKW-AM/1330, Spanish)
Referee: Michael Kennedy