Tuesday, November 29, 2011
GALAXY: Cup makes trip worthwhile
By Scott French
David Beckham and the Galaxy feel invigorated as they begin their Asian Tour in Indonesia.
The Galaxy are a couple days into their postseason tour and about to play the first of three games, and already they're having a blast. Jakarta has been most welcoming and they found the clinic with local kids, in the stadium in which they'll battle Indonesia's national team Wednesday, quite invigorating.
A certain 90 minutes a week and a half ago gets the credit.
L.A. is looking at its tour of Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia as a celebration after clinching an MLS Cup/Supporters' Shield double with a 1-0 triumph Nov. 20 over Houston.
“I think it would have been one awful trip if we would have lost [in the MLS Cup final],” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said before the team departed California. “I think with a win we can go there in a little better frame of mind and relax and enjoy it.”
This is the fourth and most elaborate postseason trip the Galaxy has taken in David Beckham's five seasons with the club, with stops ahead in Manila (for a game Saturday against the Philippines' national team) and Melbourne (for Tuesday's finale against the Melbourne Victory), and it feels a lot different than last year's trek to Newcastle, Australia.
“It's more exciting if we won than if we lost, like last year,” defender A.J. DeLaGarza said. “Last year was terrible. We just lost to Dallas pretty bad [in the Western Conference final], and we had a long flight to Australia for just one game. Missing Thanksgiving and stuff with your family -- all those things added up.”
“We knew if we slipped up [this year], it would have been one of those trips that would have been miserable,” said midfielder Chris Birchall, who ended up skipping the trip, the team said, to deal with “non-team related matters.” “We're going to go celebrate, because I think we've worked for it, but we're over there for a reason, as well, to promote the game and promote the MLS and really have a good time and show the fans we appreciate the support worldwide.”
The Galaxy faces Indonesia's national team, with some under-23 players sprinkled in from the team that won silver at the South East Asian Games, in Wednesday's friendly at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta. (Kickoff is 4 a.m. PT; Fox Soccer Channel will televise.) Ticket sales have been slow -- promoters said only about 20,000 had been sold through Tuesday -- and fans have complained about the price of tickets for the second and third games of the tour.
Tickets for Saturday's game begin at $45, but Rizal Stadiu, seats only 13,000, so a sellout is likely. Ticket prices for the Melbourne match begin at $60.
“David Beckham is a crowd-puller, and for him to come here is a big thing, and people are excited to see him here,” Nonong Araneta, president of the Philippine Football Federation, told The Associated Press. “It is not only good for football but for the country. Bringing a celebrity is good for the image of the Philippines.”
Beckham, whose could be playing in his final games for the Galaxy, is contractually obligated to play at least 45 minutes in each match, unless he is injured or the field conditions are unacceptable.
Winning is secondary, but there is work to be done.
“I think a lot of guys are excited to see these countries, myself included, that we've never been to,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “And it's a good opportunity for our young guys and for guys who didn't play a ton of minutes to play and show they want to be here next year.
“The reality is it's going to be as competitive [to make the lineup], if not more competitive, next year. And Bruce -- you know how Bruce works. Bruce wants to be better all the time, so if there are two or three positions to strengthen the squad, he's going to do it. This is a chance for those guys to prove that they belong here.”
Said Arena: “I'm not sure the results are going to matter much on this tour. but to spread a little goodwill, get the MLS brand out there, and just let the guys enjoy themselves a little bit will be fun. Hopefully, we come back in one piece.”
Here's the schedule:
Wednesday: Galaxy vs. Indonesia national team at Jakarta, 4 a.m.
Saturday: Galaxy vs. Philippines national team at Manila, 3:30 a.m.
Tuesday: Galaxy vs. Melbourne Victory (Australia) at Melbourne, 12:30 a.m.
All times Pacific; live telecasts on Fox Soccer Channel
The Galaxy has made three previous postseason trips during the David Beckham era. Their results:
Sydney FC 5, Galaxy 3 (Telstra Stadium, Sydney; Att.: 80,295)
Galaxy 4, Wellington Phoenix 1 (Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand; Att.: 31,853)