Thursday, June 16, 2011
GALAXY: One Donovan or the other?
By Scott French
Most of the Galaxy's players are clear on which teammate they want to see return to the team next week from the Gold Cup, and it has nothing to do with playing favorites. Or maybe it does.
Galaxy captain Landon Donovan leads the U.S. national team against Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and Jamaica's Reggae Boyz in a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal in Washington, and the loser will be back in training with L.A. when it's over.
"It's crazy," midfielder/forward Mike Magee said after training Thursday at Home Depot Center. "I wish them both the best. Obviously, I want USA to win, but hopefully U.S. wins, 1-0, so D doesn't get scored on too many times."
Jamaica, with Ricketts in the nets the first two group-stage games and given a rest for the third, didn't concede a goal while going 3-0-0 to win Group B. The U.S. has been a major disappointment, losing to Panama and failing to finish can't-miss chances in a 1-0 victory over Guadeloupe. The winner heads to the semifinals, against Panama or El Salvador, Wednesday in Houston, with the final a week from Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
"It'll be interesting. Two evenly matched teams," said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, who guided the U.S. team from 1998 through 2006, taking it to two World Cups. "I still believe that the U.S. should win that game. Jamaica's had a good run. We'll see. Who knows? Never predict this stuff."
Defender Todd Dunivant praised Jamaica as "the best team so far in the Gold Cup" -- what about Mexico? "Mexico has been good, but I don't give them credit," he said -- and admits that no one in the Galaxy locker room is "rooting for Donovan [Ricketts], that's for sure." He might be wrong.
Several players -- Englishmen David Beckham and Chris Birchall, who plays for Jamaica's Caribbean rival Trinidad and Tobago, plus South Americans Juan Pablo Angel, Juninho, Leonardo, Miguel Lopez and Paolo Cardozo -- are neutrals.
"I'm in the middle," Beckham said. "I just want to see a good game, and some good quality in the game, and if there is, it will be a fun one to watch."
And if it comes down to Donovan vs. Ricketts in front of the Jamaican goal?
"Tough one, because they're both talented players," he said. "Obviously, Donovan's a tough goalkeeper to beat. But Landon's a goalscorer -- that's what he does. They're two players at the top of their game, so we'll see."
Although Josh Saunders is a worthy fill-in for Ricketts, the Galaxy can't really replace Donovan, who is having an MVP kind of year, and so Dunivant is hedging his bets a little. That one of them will return to L.A. is "a good thing. That's always a plus," he said, before adding: "Not rooting against the U.S., but it would be nice to have Landon come back."
FLIGHT RISK: Beckham made his third trip to London in a little more than a month earlier this week for the launch of an Olympic sponsor's search for torchbearers before next year's London Games. He spent Monday in his hometown, then flew home for Galaxy training Tuesday and spent "the majority of the day in bed" Wednesday because of back spasms that kept him out of Thursday's session. (He says he doesn't "think it's going to be a problem for the weekend.")
Beckham flew home for the royal wedding at the end of April and again last month to play in Gary Neville's testimonial match for Manchester United, also dining with Queen Elizabeth and President Obama at Buckingham Palace during the second trip. He missed Galaxy games for both events.
How does he manage through the transatlantic travel?
"I look after myself," he said. "Obviously, flying these days is not a problem. Obviously, it's not ideal to be flying over [to] the other side of the world, but physically it doesn't really affect me. As long as I look after myself and get my training in, get my massages in, get my rest, then it's not affecting me for a while now."
WORTH NOTING: The Galaxy are set to offer Italian striker Francesco Totti $19.72 million per season, according to Italian sports daily newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, and if that sounds ridiculous, it's because it is. Totti, 34, has played his entire career at AS Roma, and that's where he figures to be next season, too. As one Galaxy official noted: "Why would we play three times what any MLS player has ever made" to bring in an aging if gifted forward who won't sell as many jerseys nor cause nearly the splash Beckham did when he arrived in 2007? ... Donovan will be in So Cal on Saturday for the wedding of his twin sister, Tristan. He'll return to D.C. in time for Sunday's Gold Cup match. ... The Galaxy has again moved its MLS Reserve League clash Monday against the Vancouver Whitecaps, back to University Field 1, the club's primary training field just southeast of the main stadium. Kickoff is 11 a.m.