Los Angeles Soccer: 2012 MLS Preseason

GALAXY: Another trophy for L.A.

March, 4, 2012
The goal, Bruce Arena was saying earlier in preseason preparations, is to win every trophy the Galaxy competes for in 2012: MLS Cup, Supporters' Shield, CONCACAF Champions Cup, U.S. Open Cup.

They claimed a different one Saturday night in Tucson, winning the four-team Desert Diamond Cup exhibition event by beating the New England Revolution on penalties.

Brian Perk, playing for the first time this preseason, made two stops in the shootout and Marcelo Sarvas made the decisive kick to give L.A. a 4-2 triumph after 90 scoreless minutes.

Arena used a mixture of first-choice players and reserves, with Best XI left back Todd Dunivant, central midfielders Sarvas and Juninho, and forward Chad Barrett -- making his first start and second appearance since returning from a dislocated foot -- representing experience. New England countered with a starting side that was unable to find the net, just the second shutout the Galaxy has posted in nine preseason matches.

Perk, who missed most of preseason because of an injury suffered while with the U.S. under-23 national team in January, stopped Ryan Guy on New England's first penalty and Benny Feilhaber with the last. Paolo Cardozo, Hector Jimenez and rookie Kenney Walker -- still unsigned -- converted before Sarvas' winner.

The Galaxy end preseason with a 3-5-1 record (2-5-1 against Major League Soccer opposition). They were outscored, 17-16, but seven of their goals came in their opener, a rout of third-tier USL Pro club L.A. Blues. Adam Cristman, who did not play Saturday, led the team with three goals and three assists.

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CHIVAS USA: Romero's 4th not enough

March, 1, 2012
The most exciting newcomer for Chivas USA this year? It might be Cesar Romero, the forward from San Diego who has spent his career with little clubs -- one of them indoors -- but has taken his chance with the Goats to heart.

Romero, 22, netted his fourth goal of the preseason Thursday night, and if it wasn't enough to beat the Portland Timbers, it should have been. Lax defending on a corner kick enabled the home side to pull out a 1-1 draw in the second of three doubleheaders in a four-team tournament, a match that drew 15,195 at Jeld-Wen Field.

Romero provided a 21st-minute advantage for Chivas, nodding trialist Alan Souza's cross from the right powerfully between the slight space separating Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson and the right post.

Romero has been a handful for opposing defenses in nearly every one of his nine preseason-match appearances, and he was rewarded eight days ago with a contract. He's a nice foil for Juan Pablo Angel or rookie Casey Townsend, especially when Chivas uses a 4-4-2 alignment, as they did Thursday, rather than the 4-2-3-1 head coach Robin Fraser has employed during most of the buildup toward its March 11 Major League Soccer opener.

“[The goal] was certainly a result of hard work and desire,” Fraser said afterward. “It was the result of good, aggressive team play.”

With better fortune, the Goats could have added to their lead. A sharp cross caromed off Townsend's head to challenge Gleeson shortly after Romero struck, and Rauwshan McKenzie beat Gleeson to a header following a corner kick that Chris Taylor cleared off the goal line.

Portland got its goal in the 78th minute. Chivas' backline was caught flat-footed on a corner kick into the goalmouth, and rookie Ryan Kawulok, who signed his contract earlier in the day, beat trialist Scott Gordon to push it past Goats keeper Tim Melia, who was sharp all night.

“At the end of the day, the guys are getting into 90-minute fitness,” Fraser explained. “Set pieces in Portland are always going to be a big part of the story. They have a lot of big guys, and at home they thrive on them.”

Portland possesses one of the most rabid fan bases in MLS, and although the crowd was a little smaller than the group that saw the Timbers tie San Jose on Monday night, it provided a glimpse of regular-season atmosphere for, especially, Romero and Townsend.

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CHIVAS USA: Goats submit what they got

March, 1, 2012
Major League Soccer's roster-compliance day came and went for Chivas USA without hardly any notice. The club has only 23 players under contract, and the most expensive man who will take the field this year -- striker Juan Pablo Angel -- isn't one of them, so getting beneath the $2.81 million salary cap and 30-player roster limit required no work whatsoever.

That means there's work to be done in the next 10 days, leading to the March 11 opener against Houston at Home Depot Center. There are 11 trialists, unsigned draft picks and academy players in camp -- that group doesn't include Angel, who has been adamant since preseason training began that his agreement will be signed -- and seven slots available, with midfielder Miguel Iraheta on the disabled list until, earliest, late in the season.

Nobody can play in a league game until they're signed, so getting Angel's signature is a priority, as are selecting a third goalkeeper (UCLA product Brian Rowe or Cal Poly's Patrick McLain), making decisions on trialists (with Colombian midfielder Jose Manuel Najera, Brazilian winger Alan Souza, and left back Matt Dallman the best bets), and perhaps wrapping up a Home Grown Player deal with Glendora's Marco Delgado.

And March 11 isn't a hard deadline in any way. Not even for Angel.

“He's here, he's been playing, he played today,” general manager Jose Domene told ESPN Los Angeles after the Chivas' 1-1 draw at Portland in its second game at a four-team preseason tournament. If we were far away [on his contract], he wouldn't be here.”

Angel and Chivas have said there's one sticking point to the new pact, but Angel, a Designated Player in his first five MLS seasons, has been adamant since camp opener Jan. 15 that his signing was more or less imminent.

What if it doesn't happen by March 11?

“He doesn't play that day,” Domene said.

And that could happen?

“It's a possibility.”

The roster-freeze deadline isn't until mid-September, and the Goats can make endless moves until then as long as they remain under the cap and roster limit, which is more difficult once contracts become guaranteed in June.

None of the other signings have to be done before the first game, but Chivas would like to have a full collection of players before the Dynamo visit. Sunday's tournament finale against the San Jose Earthquakes will be the last time to assess potential additions in game action before the league opener.

“I think we're narrowing down some thoughts and choices,” head coach Robin Fraser said.

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GALAXY: No moves on compliance day

March, 1, 2012
How did the Galaxy deal with Major League Soccer's roster-compliance deadline? They didn't.

The club made no moves, and didn't have to, to come in under the $2.81 million salary cap on a roster of not more than 30 players, giving themselves another week, even longer, to make decisions on draft choices and the final trialist in camp.

L.A. has 28 players on their official roster, of which 18 to 20, depending on designation, count against the cap. The club has not divulged how it has divided players within the roster, and it is uncertain whether it will do so.

Five non-roster players, four of them selections from in January's SuperDraft and supplemental draft, remain in camp, battling for positions on the team. Injured defender Omar Gonzalez won't count against the roster while he is on the Disabled List, at least until September, so there is room for three additions and plenty of time to make moves.

“We think we've got a handle on it,” assistant coach Dave Sarachan told ESPN Los Angeles a few hours before the 2 p.m. PT compliance deadline. “There is some decision-making still taking place. It's not a rubber-stamping thing. With some of the trialists, draft picks, they've made it hard on us, and that's a good thing. There's still a couple decisions that need to come.”

Those decisions, he said, would come “more likely after this weekend.”

The Galaxy opens the season Wednesday night in Toronto, in a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg. They'll play their league opener March 10 against Real Salt Lake at Home Depot Center.

The roster-freeze date is in mid-September, but players can't participate in competitive games -- MLS Reserve League excepted -- until they are under contract.

FRONT-OFFICE MOVES: Chris McGowan's appointment as chief operations officer of the Galaxy and the dismissals of three club officials is part of a realignment within AEG, which has formed AEG Sports to the company's many sporting enterprises, according to sources within AEG and the Galaxy. McGowan, 38, also the L.A. Kings' COO, will head the new division and report to AEG President Tim Leiweke.

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GALAXY: Sarvas shows off in defeat

February, 29, 2012

Galaxy opponents are afraid to commit fouls anywhere near their box when David Beckham is on the field, for obvious reasons. When he's not, it's no big thing.

After Marcelo Sarvas' piece of brilliance Wednesday night, they might be rethinking that philosophy.

Sarvas, on for Beckham with 25 minutes to go in the Desert Diamond Cup group finale against New York, whistled a free kick from inside the semicircle above the box past Red Bulls rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara and inside the far post to provide L.A. a real highlight in an otherwise disappointing 2-1 defeat in Tucson, Ariz.

Chad Barrett's return to action, for the first time since brutally dislocating his ankle in the lead up to last November's MLS Cup final, was another plus, as was the effort by Canoga Park's Rafael Garcia -- the Cal State Northridge product making a strong bid for a roster spot on the eve of the league's compliance date.

But Omar Gonzalez's absence continues to loom large for L.A., which is just a week from its season opener and continues to struggle without the big man in the back.

Poor defending led to both New York goals, with Kenny Cooper easily broaching the backline to finish rookie Connor Lade's feed in the 31st minute and Thierry Henry running unhindered from midfield to the box, then playing a give-and-go of sorts with Dane Richards and nodding home the return in the 62nd. Rookie Tommy Meyer has great upside, but he's a rookie; Andrew Boyens, his partner on Wednesday, is a reserve, pure and simple. One of them likely will team with A.J. DeLaGarza in central defense, at least until Leonardo is ready to go, and he'll have not played in a year when he's expected to return to the field in April.

It has to be a concern for L.A., which has just one shutout in eight preseason games -- Saturday's 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake -- and has conceded 17 goals, at least two in six games. The five preseason losses, which matters not a whit, is as many as the Galaxy lost all last year in Major League Soccer play, including the postseason.

The Red Bulls were the superior side most of the night, and their victory would have been more pronounced if not for goalkeeper Josh Saunders' off-his-line stop on Richards, who split Boyens and DeLaGarza to run on to Teemu Tainio's superb through ball midway through the first half.

The Galaxy's best chances were, as usual, product of Beckham's right foot, but Meara -- despite a clumsy performance that betrayed his youth -- took care of the most dangerous moments until Sarvas halved the deficit with 12 minutes to go.

The attack, like the defense, is a work in progress. Landon Donovan has not yet trained fully, and Robbie Keane will join the team in the next couple of days, now that his loan deal with Aston Villa is over and Ireland's friendly Wednesday with the Czech Republic done.

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CHIVAS USA: Swedes win in Portland

February, 27, 2012

Chivas USA continues to find itself this preseason, a process that likely will extend into the Major League Soccer regular season, which is less than two weeks away. Monday night's 2-0 loss to Swedish club AIK in Portland, Ore., was another step along the path.

There was good and bad, head coach Robin Fraser acknowledged, but star forward Juan Pablo Angel expressed disappointment after the Goats were shut out for the fourth time in nine preseason matches.

“We’re disappointed with the result,” Angel, who hasn't scored from the run of play in six preseason starts, told the league's website. “There were times where we thought we played well, and there were times when we weren’t as good as we should have been. We need to try to get the next 10, 12 days in order to get ready for league, which is coming very rapidly.”

Miscues, the first when the backline failed to react quickly enough and the second farther up the field, led to both AIK goals, but Chivas' attack began clicking in the second half, and newcomer Cesar Romero twice came close to scoring.

“It was a learning experience for us again,” Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles. “We're still figuring out personalities and combinations of players. And the end of the day, it's a relatively new group, so all the games are important as we go forward. ...

“I just think as we go forward, we have to really embrace the philosophy that we have to work every minute of every game. That's how this league works. Teams that work are teams that ultimately are successful. As a group, we continue to learn that nobody can take any plays off. We're at our best when everyone works extremely hard.”

Fraser played a first-choice lineup -- the only real question, it seems, is whether Nick LaBrocca or Alejandro Moreno will accompany Oswaldo Minda at the bottom of the midfield triangle -- in the opener of the Portland Timbers' four-team tournament at Jeld-Wen Field. Moreno got the call this time, then exited after an hour after an inadvertent elbow to the face, which might have broken his nose.

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CHIVAS USA: Goats release Cortez

February, 26, 2012

CARSON -- Chivas USA is heading to Portland a little lighter. The club Saturday released forward Chris Cortez and left two trialists at home when it departed Sunday for the final phase of preseason.

Cortez, 23, lost his battle for a roster spot, dropping further down the depth chart with the additions of first-round draft choice Casey Townsend and just-signed Cesar Romero. The 6-foot-4 striker from Mission Viejo joined the Goats during preseason last year and made nine Major League Soccer appearances, with one start.

“We had a lot of high hopes for Chris when he came in,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles on Sunday morning. “He's a big, strong man who hits the ball extremely hard. We certainly expected him to develop quite a bit, and while he's come along, probably not as quickly as we would have needed him to.

“He definitely has qualities that will make him a big pro, for sure. It's a matter of time -- we have to make decisions as we get close to the season here, and some of the other forwards have proven to be more dangerous on a daily basis.”

Cortez made appearances in six of eight preseason games, all off the bench, and he scored in the victory over Thousand Oaks-based minor-leaguers FC Hasental. The former Cal star played in all 10 MLS Reserve League games last year, scoring five goals.

Fraser must submit by Thursday a roster of as many as 30 players, with the first 18 to 20 counting against the league $2.81 million salary cap. Some decisions likely won't be made until after that date, with trialists fighting for open spots or the club making further roster moves to accommodate additional signings.

The season begins March 11 against Houston at Home Depot Center; the roster freeze date and trade deadline don't arrive until Sept. 15.

Fraser left at home defender Mario Ledesma, from Woodland Hills, and Mexican midfielder Pablo Sandoval, who have been in camp since preseason began in mid-January. The coach said both had a chance to continue with the club when it returns after a week in Portland.

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GALAXY: Beckham, red cards fuel win

February, 25, 2012
David Beckham might have been the difference in their Desert Diamond Cup victory Saturday evening over Real Salt Lake, although trying to quantify that will be difficult.

Red cards, seven minutes apart, decided this one, with Beckham's service tearing apart a Real Salt Lake side that was down a man in the 69th, down two in the 76th and didn't surrender a goal until the 80th.

Paolo Cardozo scored on an 80th-minute chip, one of the more embarrassing moments of RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando's career, and Mike Magee exquisitely volleyed home a Beckham delivery six minutes later in a 2-0 triumph in Tucson.

Rookie Kelyn Rowe, from UCLA, scored twice to lift New England past New York, 2-0, in the second game of the doubleheader. Rowe has four goals and four assists in five preseason games. The Galaxy faces New York on Wednesday, and a victory -- and perhaps a draw -- will send them to the tournament final next Saturday.

Beckham came on in the 66th minute, and a Galaxy attack that had sputtered much of the night suddenly found a rhythm, with Beckham's long balls opening space in front of the Utahns' goal.

Beckham's importance to the Galaxy can't be minimized, but RSL isn't the same team with just nine men. Ned Grabavoy, whose pro career started with the Galaxy, was sent off in the 69th minute -- a harsh decision -- after spilling Marcelo Sarvas with a tackle. Yordany Alvarez was gone after his second yellow card in the 76th.

Cardozo struck four minutes later, chipping over a crowded box with a shot that should have been a simple catch for Rimando, a U.S. national-teamer from Montclair (and UCLA). Instead, it slipped through his hands and into the net.

Magee's goal, his second in as many Desert Diamond Cup matches, was of far greater quality.

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CHIVAS USA: Tough choices vs. LMU

February, 24, 2012
CARSON -- Robin Fraser has roster decisions to make in the next week, and they're not getting easier. The performance of three trialists in Chivas USA's preseason game Friday afternoon certainly gives the Goats' coach and his staff something to think about.

Colombian attacking midfielder Jose Manuel Najera and Brazilian winger Alan Souza were as impressive as hoped for in their first game action for Chivas in a 4-0 romp over Loyola Marymount University on a training field outside Home Depot Center's main stadium. Matt Dallman's showing at left back was just as good -- and far more unexpected.

Dallman, who is from Portland, Ore., started training with Chivas about two weeks ago -- not on trial, just to get fit. He has spent the past 4½ years in Europe, and he came to Carson after childhood friend Heath Pearce vouched for him.

“He talked to the coaches, asked if I could train with them for a little bit, and they've been great,” said Dallman, who played with Pearce in club ball, at the University of Portland, and in six months at Danish club Nordsjaelland before spending four years in Germany, with Arminia Bielefeld and Sportsfreunde Ziegen.

Dallman, 26, teamed with Souza on the left flank Friday to terrorize LMU's defense, setting up the second of two goals by rookie Casey Townsend with a fine run to the end line. He was solid defensively and looked very much at home in a 90-minute outing.

“We had the opportunity to look at him, and he's come in, and I think he did well today,” Fraser said.

His chances of making this roster? No telling.

“I haven't really heard much [about prospects],” Dallman said. “It was more of they said I could come in and train. I don't think it was a very official trial. It was just me kind of getting fit again. I just moved back from Europe about a month ago, so I'm tring to find a club here between [MLS and second-division North American Soccer League], just kind of decide what I want to do.

“I didn't come in with expectations. It was just great that they let me train.”

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CHIVAS USA: Loss a 'wakeup call'

February, 22, 2012
SAN DIEGO -- There were the obvious pluses for Chivas USA in its first real game of the year: a very fine first half, complete with a one-goal lead; superb play from John Alexander Valencia in the back, Nick LaBrocca in midfield and Michael Lahoud and Ryan Smith on the flanks; James Riley's continued mastery at right back; another goal from rookie Casey Townsend.

They paled next to those pluses disguised as torment Wednesday night, when an overly physical encounter with Club Tijuana turned on a slew of yellow cards and then a red.

By the time it was over, the Xolos -- just two points off the lead in Mexico's top division -- were celebrating a 5-2 triumph at the University of San Diego's Torero Stadium in a friendly that was not very friendly at all.

Lahoud finished a superb ball from Smith to give Chivas USA a first-half advantage, but newcomer Miller Bolaños was sent off after elbowing Bruno Piceno five minutes into the second half, and that was that.

Raul Enriquez evened things three minutes later, Mauro Gerk scored a go-ahead goal that didn't appear to cross the line in the 65th minute, and Tijuana added goals on their final three shots of the half to pull away in the second San Diego Clasico, played before 4,238 fans garbed mostly in red and black Xolos shirts.

It was an often ugly encounter, with 36 fouls, seven yellow cards -- five of the them to Chivas in the first half -- and the red to Bolaños, which was a blessing, sort of, in disguise.

“There's no such thing as a friendly game ...,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said afterward. “It's part of it, though, and it's part of the experience, and it's part of getting ready for the competition of MLS. So it's good that we got a game like this.

“It's a wakeup call, certainly from the mentality of preseason games. For us, it's good to be in that sort of environment.”

The Goats had a very fine first half, with LaBrocca and Oswaldo Minda providing a foundation behind Bolaños in midfield and solid backline play, especially by Valencia, who cleaned up a Riley miscue that gave Tijuana a chance and stepping in to block a shot that might have done damage.

Smith and Lahoud, who have been forces on the flanks all preseason, hooked up in the 36th minute. Smith stripped Alejandro Molina -- one of three former first-choice players in the Xolos' fully reserve lineup -- then pushed the ball past and leapt over him as he slid in afterward. That sent the Englishman into space on the right, and Lahoud was at the far post to deposit the cross.

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GALAXY: Plenty of 90s in Desert loss

February, 22, 2012
The Galaxy's opener at the Desert Diamond Cup -- like all of preseason, in Bruce Arena's philosophy -- was about fitness. He gave seven players the full 90 minutes, including David Beckham and Marcelo Sarvas in midfield and an otherwise first-choice back four with Dan Keat stationed at right back.

That was the most noteworthy accomplishment for L.A. in their first game in Tucson, a 3-2 loss to New England in which that big hole at the back was exposed twice -- and mightily so.

The Revolution scored twice in the air in the middle of the Galaxy box, watched the Galaxy rally from deficits both times, then snatched victory when Jeremiah White caught the backline on its back foot with 16 minutes to go.

The Galaxy had some fine moments, most, it seemed, courtesy of Beckham's glorious right foot. His distribution ranged from just off to, more often than not, letter-perfect, and it led to one goal by Edson Buddle -- his first since returning from Germany -- and should have produced another.

Mike Magee also scored for L.A., and Juninho looked right at home after coming on at halftime, his first appearance this preseason.

The primary problem was at the back, where Omar Gonzalez's absence has left the Galaxy without their defensive leader and chief warrior in the air. A.J. DeLaGarza is a fine companion, but he's 5 feet 9 and isn't about to dominate in an aerial game.

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MLS wraps preps in L.A., Oxnard

February, 18, 2012

The Chicago Fire split a pair of games Saturday morning at Oxnard College, bringing to an end a series of 20 preseason matches involving Major League Soccer clubs in Carson and Oxnard.

Three more games were played in San Luis Obispo, and Chivas USA has a ticketed game Wednesday night in San Diego against Mexico's Club Tijuana.

Eight clubs, including Chivas and the Galaxy, trained this month at Home Depot Center or Oxnard College, several of them at both sites.

The San Jose Earthquakes beat the Fire, 2-0, in Oxnard's main stadium Saturday, with Yorba Linda's Steven Lenhart and Brad Ring scoring first-half goals. The Fire rallied from a first-half deficit to beat the Ventura County Fusion, 2-1, on an adjacent field. Woodland Hills' Orr Barouch converted a penalty kick and set up Pari Pantazopoulos' strike to lift Chicago.

Thousand Oaks' Danny Barrera, who was in camp for the Fire, scored on a free kick, his second such goal in as many games. Barrera, a former UC Santa Barbara standout who is contracted to a Serbian club, scored a superb goal in the Fusion's loss Friday to the Montreal Impact at Home Depot Center.

BEST OF THE CAMPS: All in all, the soccer on display wasn't great. Everyone's in preseason form, which means lagging fitness, too many mistakes and too many connections still being made. Some matches were interesting only because you could hear everything said on the field, including a fair share of expletives. (Yes, you can swear in soccer, so long as you don't direct it at the ref.)

All that said, here were some of the good things we saw during the games in L.A. and Ventura counties:

BEST TEAM: The Portland Timbers clicked better than everyone else, with Cameroonian trialist Franck Songo'o leading one of the few attacks that appeared ready for the season to start. Portland went 3-0-1, scored four on the Galaxy and two against Houston and Chicago.

BEST PLAYER: It might be Songo'o. Or his teammate James Marcelin, a monster in midfield. We also liked what Sanna Nyassi brings to Montreal's attack, Michael Lahoud's and Ryan Smith's play on Chivas USA's flanks, and the effort Adam Cristman brings up front for the Galaxy. L.A. newcomer Marcelo Sarvas' vision and touch also impresses, and Oswaldo Minda is clearly going to be a solid midfield anchor for Chivas. If we have to pick one ... it's Songo'o.

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Montreal wraps HDC stay with news

February, 17, 2012

Jesse MarschAP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham HughesNew Montreal coach Jesse Marsch, right, says despite having to trade Brian Ching he felt the veteran forward served an important purpose for his team.

CARSON -- The expansion Montreal Impact got a lot of work done in a nearly two-week stay at Home Depot Center, a good deal of it away from the field.

They finished this swing of their preseason camp Friday with 90-minute games against UCLA (a 0-0 draw) and Ventura County Fusion (a 3-1 victory), but what's been going on off the field has been far more interesting.

The Impact on Thursday traded veteran striker Brian Ching back to the Houston Impact for a conditional first-round selection in next year's SuperDraft. They topped that Friday, shortly after their games on one of Home Depot Center's training fields, by taking former U.S. national team forward Eddie Johnson through the league's allocation dispersal process, then trading him to Seattle for top young attackers Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle.

It wrapped a wild week that started with Montreal's announcement that Ching, who played last week at HDC against his former Houston teammates, had departed camp for “personal reasons.” Turned out he was in Houston negotiating a new deal, one that would significantly trim his salary -- he'll make $250,000 rather than $450,000, The Houston Chronicle reported -- but allow him an expected final season with the club he's identified with as they open a long-awaited stadium.

“This is where I want to be, where I want to retire ...,” Ching told The Chronicle. “I know how old I am, and I've been around the league long enough to know my value. I have no problem. I just want this team to be successful, and I'll do what it takes. If that means less money, that means less money. Me taking less money allows me to be here where I want to be, allows me to open up a stadium that I've always dreamed of doing. That's rewarding enough for me.”

Ching, 33, considered retirement after Montreal surprisingly took him in November's expansion draft. Trade talks between the Dynamo and Montreal began almost immediately, and the Hawaii-born forward reported to the Impact's camp last month and last week said the idea of playing for Canada's third Major League Soccer franchise was “definitely growing on me. Obviously, it was a very emotional time when it all happened. But I've been with the team for about a month now and enjoy playing with the guys, enjoy the project of trying to build a competitive team here.”

Impact coach Jesse Marsch was asked if the Impact had received enough in the trade with Houston.

“I don't think it went the way we all thought it was going to go, whether he was going to stay or go. But in the end, it was just so difficult,” the former Chivas USA captain told ESPN Los Angeles. “He committed himself wholly, professionally to being here, but you also could see that his mind was still in Houston.

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GALAXY: Rehabbing Gonzalez is patient

February, 16, 2012

Omar GonzalezVictor Decolongon/Getty ImagesOmar Gonzalez is dealing with his injury with more of a long-term approach, so he's in no rush to return.

CARSON -- Omar Gonzalez is at peace with his injury, even if it's going to force him to miss the bulk (and perhaps all) of the Galaxy's campaign this year.

Fact is, he has been fine with the news that he'll be sidelined a likely seven to nine months because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament since the moment it happened in his first training session of a short-term loan deal to Germany's FC Nuremberg.

“I really wasn't sad about it for too long,” Major League Soccer's reigning Defender of the Year said Thursday in his first media session since suffering the injury Jan. 5 and undergoing surgery eight days later. “I think maybe the German guys thought I was a little weird, because they were telling me, like, something's really wrong, and I was still smiling. ...

“I'm keeping my spirits up and just thinking of it as it happened for a reason, and I'm taking this time just to take a mental break from the sport and just enjoy my time and really just take the time to appreciate actually playing and getting ready to come back.”

Gonzalez, 23, likely will be out until at least mid-August and possibly not until the MLS playoffs begin in November. He'll not only miss most or all of the Galaxy's bid for a third straight Supporters' Shield, but also the knockout phase of the current CONCACAF Champions League (with the Galaxy seeking a regional title and berth in December's FIFA Club World Cup) and possibly the first stage of next year's edition, which will begin mid-to-late summer.

That's a lot of big games, and it might prod a player to try to rush rehab to return as quickly as possible. Not Gonzalez.

“I'm thinking more of a long-term career thing here, not just about this year,” he said. “If I'm back sooner than [seven to nine months], great. If not, then, you know, it's for the best. I'm not really trying to put too much pressure on me, I'm just waiting to see how my body reacts to everything, and if I'm back sooner, great. I would love to be back on the field with these guys.”

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CHIVAS USA: Awful start, decent finish

February, 16, 2012
CARSON -- Chivas USA coach Robin Fraser was not pleased with his side's effort in the first half Tuesday morning against the Galaxy. The Goats, fielding close to a first-choice lineup against a group of second- and third-teamers, played listless, mistake-filled soccer and struggled to figure out their archrival's direct approach.

It led to a three-goal deficit by halftime, and only a second-half rally, after Fraser made wholesale changes, salvaged some positives in a 3-2 closed-door loss on L.A.'s training field at Home Depot Center.

“First half really poor. Really poor,” Fraser reported afterward. “We had too many turnovers and not enough ideas to deal with the way that they were playing. I was disappointing to come out and start that way. I think the second half, we came out with as little more resolve against how we wanted to play against them, and as a result we were able to turn the game a bit in our favor and create some good opportunities.

“This is part of the learning process. You're going to see different sorts of teams. And I think the way the Galaxy play, this is the first time we've seen a team that plays [so directly], and we just have to learn from it.”

Miscues from trusted hands, including backline leader Heath Pearce and goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, contributed to the first-half fallout, with the Galaxy scoring on easy finishes from Pat Noonan (after a takeaway), Adam Cristman (after a backpass disaster) and Dan Keat (after rookie Rafael Garcia sliced through the defense).

“Errors in the back are never good,” Fraser said. “We had guys make mistakes today who are good players and know the consequences of making mistakes like that in big games. So certainly we feel again like this is something we have to learn from. We have to recognize opportunities [to score], we have to be cleaner. You can't turn the ball over 35 yards from your goal. You just can't.

“I feel like we're taking steps forward, but it's always disappointing whenever you shoot yourself in the foot.”

Michael Lahoud, who arguably has been Chivas' best player through six preseason matches, said the first half “wasn't good enough.”

“We want to be a team of ambition,” he said. “We want to be a team that competes, especially when we play against these guys -- they're neighbors, they're our rivals, and it's never an easy game. But that doesn't excuse the way we came out. We came out flat and passes weren't connected.”

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