Los Angeles Soccer: Brian Rowe
More significant, perhaps, was Hector Jimenez's performance in a new position.
The second-year winger from Bell Gardens was terrific as right back, teaming with Michael Stephens on the flank as L.A. dictated terms nearly the entire match before settling for a 1-1 draw on the Galaxy's training field at Home Depot Center.
Jimenez, who would be playing decent first-team time with a lot of Major League Soccer clubs but is caught behind L.A.'s deep, veteran midfield core, said he'd played as an outside back “toward the end of last year in a reserve game for a few minutes” but that this was otherwise a debut.
“I felt good,” he said. “I thought offensively I got involved a lot, it's just the defensive part, where I need to get used to checking the [restraining] line and stuff like that, but I thought I played good for the 90 minutes.”
Galaxy assistant coach Curt Onalfo, who runs the reserve side, agreed.
“The interesting thing sometimes in sport is when through injury and that sort of stuff you end up shifting things around, and sometimes all of a sudden something pops up that maybe you haven't seen. And I think that's the case.
“If you look at his game and you compare it to when he plays in midfield, he had just as much an influence going forward -- or maybe even more. The combination of Mikey Stephens coming inside and [Jimenez] overlapping, I thought was good. Would have liked to see more goals from it. It was a game where we possessed and had really the majority of possession, the majority of play. It's a game where you think you're going to get three points from.”
CARSON -- The Galaxy say they are not letting Josh Saunders' absence to deal with a “personal matter” become a distraction, but everyone has the big goalkeeper on their minds.
Saunders, 31, has not been available for the Galaxy's last two matches and won't be available for Saturday's clash at Home Depot Center against the New York Red Bulls (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 5 p.m.), with a report claiming he has entered Major League Soccer's substance abuse treatment program.
Neither the Galaxy nor MLS have confirmed the report, and head coach Bruce Arena on Friday said that “the comments we've had on Josh are our comments. We respect you leaving it at that.”
His teammates are looking to find their stride without Saunders -- veteran Bill Gaudette gave fine performances in last Saturday's 1-1 draw with FC Dallas at HDC and Wednesday's 2-0 defeat at Seattle -- but are keeping him in their thoughts.
“As much as it hurts not having Josh in the goal, it's a guy we all love and know well,” captain Landon Donovan said. “I've known Josh a long time. For me the soccer part is absolutely second. We just want to make sure that he's OK and that he's going to be able to get his life back, forget about the soccer part.”
If Saunders is, indeed, in rehab, it's not because he tested positive for a banned substance. Although the league's drug-testers were at Home Depot Center last week to administer tests to Chivas USA players, Galaxy union representative Todd Dunivant said the Galaxy players were tested Friday, a week after the goalkeeper left the team.
A source within the league said that it was understood Saunders was not arrested, but the source would not confirm nor deny that Saunders was in a rehab facility. Saunders was arrested for a DUI in Oregon in 2004.
The league will not comment on reports and has instructed the Galaxy to do likewise, in great part so players seeking help with substance-abuse problems can do so without publicity. New England captain Shalrie Joseph was away for six weeks dealing with “personal matters” in 2010. Neither MLS nor the Revolution commented on his absence, but Joseph told the Boston Herald upon his return that he had “got caught and they sent me to drug rehab” for marijuana use.
A player found to have used a performance-enhancing substance would be identified, suspended and fined by the league.
Arena said the situation would not impact the Galaxy.
“Josh's matters are between Josh and his family,” Arena said. “We've dealt with it already as a team, and we're just moving forward.”
No David Beckham. No Robbie Keane. No Todd Dunivant. No Josh Saunders. Two more starters on the bench. Only two first-team players in their favored spots.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena sure did rotate his lineup for Wednesday night's Major League Soccer showdown in Seattle, and it showed. L.A. never really challenged the Sounders in a 2-0 defeat, struggling to get a grip on CenturyLink Field's artificial surface and paying a heavy price for some rather passive defending.
Eddie Johnson scored on a header just before halftime and Fredy Montero sent a 35-yard riser into the upper-left corner at the start of the second half as Seattle (5-1-1) beat the Galaxy for the first time at home in MLS play before a full house of 39,002, second-best in the league this year.
“Give Seattle credit. In a span of about eight minutes, we lost the game,” Arena told media in Seattle after the game. “We would have liked to go into halftime even and put a little pressure on them after the half, but we weren’t able to do it. ... We technically weren't good. Our guys struggled on the turf to get any kind of crosses in front of the goal. We weren't able to get any shots on the fame. It results in us not really being able to test their goalkeeper.”
The Galaxy (3-4-1), who didn't drop their fourth game last year until October, were playing the second of a three-games-in-eight-days set, and Arena -- mindful of the hated turf -- left home over-30s Beckham, Keane and Dunivant in advance of Saturday's game at Home Depot Center against New York. Saunders is missing for “personal reasons,” reportedly a stint in MLS's substance abuse treatment program.
Mike Magee and Edson Buddle started on the bench, Sean Franklin moved into midfield, Marcelo Sarvas took Beckham's spot, and Arena gave rookie Bryan Gaul his MLS debut at left back, with right back Bryan Jordan and striker Adam Cristman making their first starts of the year. Bill Gaudette was back in the nets with another superb showing.
“I think it's a difficult week with the travel and playing on this surface,” Arena said. “We wanted to keep some players fresh for the game on Saturday. That’s the decision I made. We didn’t think we were going to be able to play eleven players in three games, and we had to rotate some players. It made sense to me to have those players available on Saturday.”
Then a tête-à-tête on the flank saw Seattle midfielder Christian Sivebaek sent off, and the insertion of three of their brightest young players sparked some life into the Galaxy attack. Reward arrived at the end, with rookie Rafael Garcia's diving header in the 90th minute delivering a 1-0 triumph on Home Depot Center's University Field 1.
The triumph offered a tantalizing glimpse at L.A.'s future, with Garcia -- a former Canoga Park High star taken out of Cal State Northridge in January's supplemental draft -- Home Grown Player Jose Villarreal (Inglewood/Leuzinger HS) and Academy standout Raul Mendiola (San Bernardino/Rialto HS) skillfully carving open the Sounders to create a flurry of chances before the goal arrived.
The Galaxy is high on all three. Assistant coach Curt Onalfo, who guides the reserve side, spoke about each in his postgame scrum with reporters.
- On Mendiola: “He's got great instincts going forward. He reminds me a little of [2010 MLS Rookie of the Year] Andy Najar, when I was [head coach] in D.C. Guys like that, you've got to let them play with their instincts and just create things, and that's certainly what he did when he came into the game.”
- On Villarreal: “Instinctally, he's very, very good, very comfortable on the ball. He's got to continue to develop to the speed of play, and when they do that consistently, that's when you see more success.
- On Garcia: “I love him, I have to say. I’ve always liked him. I loved him in college and was just glad we got him. Sometimes it’s difficult for me and for him, because we’ve got other guys who need to get minutes. Today [Marcelo] Sarvas needed minutes, which meant [Garcia] was coming off the bench. He deserves to be on the field. My message to him was to make the most of your opportunity. Sometimes playing 30 minutes is more important than playing 90, and certainly that was the case today.”
Villarreal, who returned a couple of weeks ago following preseason leg surgery, came on in the 70th, moments after Sivebaek was red-carded for a retalitary foul on rookie left back Bryan Gaul, and provided instant offense, forcing Sounders goalkeeper Bryan Meredith to make a diving save in the 75th, then forcing a tough stop about a minute later, with Kenney Walker's rebound deflecting past the post.
CARSON -- Chivas USA's attacking troubles might not be so distinct had Michael Lahoud not strained his right hamstring two days before its Major League Soccer opener.
The fourth-year midfielder had a new job, on the right flank in a new 4-2-3-1 alignment that emphasized wing play in ways the Goats haven't, and was coming off an excellent preseason.
He was sprinting and working with the ball Wednesday morning for the first time since he was hurt in training three weeks ago, and he hopes to be back on the field by the April 7 game at Portland or the following week at Toronto FC.
“For sure, [I'm] close,” Lahoud said after the training session at Home Depot Center. “Just to be able to come out and do a little bit of sprinting, to be involved in some of the drills, to pass the ball … to put these studs back on, it does a wonder for your mind and your sanity.”
Robin Fraser was pleased to see him doing more.
“It's good to see Michael come out and do some ball work,” Chivas' coach said. “He's on the mend.”
Juan Pablo Angel will be ready to take the field when Chivas USA opens its season Sunday against Houston at Home Depot Center. The Colombian striker signed his contract Thursday, general manager Jose Domene confirmed in a text message to ESPN Los Angeles.
Domene said Angel would not occupy a Designated Player slot, for those whose salary exceeds the $350,000 budget maximum, but did not say whether the club used allocation money to pay down his salary-cap hit or that he signed a contract under the DP figure.
Angel, 36, made $1 million in base salary last season, according to figures released by the MLS Players Union. He scored seven goals in nine games for Chivas after arriving in an August trade from the Galaxy, which needed to clear a DP slot to sign Irish forward Robbie Keane.
Angel, 36, is one of Major League Soccer's deadliest forwards, with 71 goals in five seasons, the first four with the New York Red Bulls. A former star at Colombian powerhouse Atletico Nacional, Argentine giant River Plate and Aston Villa in England, he spent the entire preseason with Chivas while finalizing his contract for this year. He and Domene had reported there was one sticking point that delayed completion of the deal, but neither would identify it.
The club has provided no details on his contract. His salary won't be public until the Players Union, as is its custom, releases all of the league's figures in mid-spring.
Domene also said Chivas “will likely” sign former Cal Poly star Patrick McLain as its third goalkeeper on Friday. McLain has been battling UCLA All-American Brian Rowe for the job behind returning starter Dan Kennedy and newcomer Tim Melia.
That likely will finalize the Goats roster for the start of the MLS season. They would have 25 players on their active roster -- including forward Tristan Bowen, who is on loan to KSV Roeselare in Belgium -- with five slots available. Six remaining players have been on trial with Chivas, and head coach Robin Fraser has repeatedly introduced trialists to camp since taking over as head coach 14 months ago. More could be coming.
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.”
CARSON -- Miller Bolaños made his Chivas USA debut, Ben Zemanski returned from concussion and top draft pick Casey Townsend celebrated his first start in red and white with a goal.
All in all, a good afternoon for the Goats. Oh, and they won.
Townsend's strike right at the start, from a Ryan Smith feed, lifted Chivas USA to a 1-0 triumph over the Montreal Impact in a 60-minute session Tuesday on one of the fields east of Home Depot Center's main stadium, the club's first win over Major League Soccer competition this preseason.
The result didn't matter nearly as much as did the opportunity to survey several players looking to make the roster, and head coach Robin Fraser gave several -- including rookie defenders R.J. Allen and Fabian Kling and trialists Cesar Romero and Mario Ledesma -- the full hour to show what they can do.
Romero is a good bet to win a job. One of the goalkeepers in action -- UCLA product Brian Rowe, a supplemental draft pick, in the first half and Cal Poly's Patrick McLain -- likely will claim the No. 3 slot, behind Dan Kennedy and Tim Melia.
“It was nerve-racking, just watching on my computer, and every five seconds a pick was coming up,” he said. “So I was just watching, and my heart was beating. I was very happy to land on Chivas. I had no idea they were interested in me, that they had an opening, but as I started to think about and talking with coaches, I'm very glad with this.”
Rowe was a second-team All-American after posting a dozen shutouts in UCLA's final-four run last fall, but he's in no way assured of a roster spot. Two keepers have contracts -- starter Dan Kennedy and newcomer Tim Melia -- and Rowe is among three on trial in the Goats' preseason camp, along with academy goalkeeper Jake McGuire.
“It's a friendly competition,” Rowe reports. “We're not at each other's throats trying to make each other look bad. We're trying to push each other, support each other, trying to help each other out, tweak things here and there, trying to make each other better.”
He's loved the approach, especially from goalkeeper coach Daniel Gonzalez.
The 10 a.m. game, the first of nine preseason matches on the Goats' schedule, will primarily provide an opportunity to work on “our eam concepts and be able to execute certain things that are important to execute as a group,” head coach Robin Fraser said.
That's in keeping with his plan, which he took last weekend to Oxnard for a week's encampment that was designed to “narrow focus even more on short-term and long-term objectives. When you're in a captive state, you really get to focus as a group on the objectives.”
Many of those objectives are esoteric, having to do with team movement and philosophies and deepening the club's newcomers' understanding of the culture Fraser and his staff began introducing a year ago.
“We had certain objectives in mind about where we want to go where we want to be by the end of the first two weeks, and certainly we'd like to meet those objectives,” said Fraser, who declined to identify these objectives. “We have certain objectives as a team that we specifically want o get out of [Friday's] game, things hat are important for us to start to grasp and embrace as a team. ... Certain general objectives and ideals we want to be team-wide sooner than later, and then from that we can build on the specifics of what we want to be.”
The veteran midfielder from Pasadena (St. Francis HS/UCLA) joined the Goats' preseason preparations this week and is set to sign with the club, likely on Saturday.
“We told you we were looking for experienced players, right? And Pete's been through the wars,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said after Friday morning's fitness session at Home Depot Center. “He's won championships, he's been a very instrumental part of very good teams in this league. When the opportunity came up to get him, it was something we really had to jump at.”
Vagenas, 33, comes to Chivas after a season with Vancouver, in which he started 13 of the 16 league games in which he appeared. He spent the previous two years with Seattle, making 21 league appearances, after nine seasons with the Galaxy.
He helped L.A. win two MLS Cups, two U.S. Open Cups, a CONCACAF Champions' Cup and the 2002 Supporters' Shield, captaining the Galaxy to a MLS Cup/U.S. Open Cup “double” in 2005. He also was with two U.S. Open Cup-winning sides with Seattle.
“We've known Pete ... gosh, his first year was my last year with the Galaxy. So I've known him a long time,” Fraser said. “[Assistant coach] Greg [Vanney] and Jim [Liston, the fitness coach] know him even better than I do. ... Pete's the kind of guy who has been an important part of locker rooms with very successful teams. And we keep coming back to that, looking for guys who have track record of success. And he's been very good.”
CARSON -- If any returning Chivas USA player can be guaranteed a starting spot, it's got to be Dan Kennedy, who was a deserved selection as the club's 2011 MVP after a marvelous campaign in the Goats' nets.
Not so fast. Chivas has five goalkeepers in camp, possess the Major League Soccer rights to a sixth, and head coach Robin Fraser and his staff figure competition in the preseason camp will determine which three (or four) make the roster.
Veteran Zach Thornton and Mexican loaner Sergio Arias, Kennedy's backups last season, are gone, and the Goats have signed Tim Melia, a backup the past two seasons in Real Salt Lake when he wasn't on loan to lower-division sides. Kevin Guppy, an MLS pool goalkeeper the last three years who has trained extensively with Chivas and was on the roster after Kennedy suffered a torn biceps tendon in August 2010, is on trial, and so is Patrick McLain, who just completed his college career at Cal Poly.
The Goats took UCLA's Brian Rowe, a second-team All-American, in Tuesday's MLS supplemental draft, but he's on trial in Finland with VPS Vaasa.
Kennedy, 29, a former UC Santa Barbara star from Yorba Linda, was a revelation last year, bouncing back from the biceps injury and supplanting Thornton, a two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year (the second time in 2009 with Chivas), two games into the season. He didn't leave the field the rest of the season.
“Coming off last year, you have to say Dan's No. 1 ...,” Fraser said after some prodding. “It's a battle between everyone for all the spots. We have a number of keepers in, and the competition is what we want to have in order to push everyone as hard as we can.”
That's fine with Kennedy, who joined Chivas in 2008 after stints with the MetroStars, Puerto Rico Islanders and Chilean club Municipal Iquique.
“That's the way it's been my whole career, wherever I've been,” he said following Chivas' fitness session -- nothing but running -- Thursday at Home Depot Center. “As a player, you should never expect anything. You have to work hard for everything you earn. [The competition for jobs] should spread through the team. You need to be on top of your game to be on the field, and that's what we're going to need from everybody to be a winning club.”
The Goats, all five of their selections in the first two rounds, also took UCLA goalkeeper Brian Rowe, who was in the MLS combine, and Cal State Fullerton midfielder Kevin Venegas (Lakewood/Los Alamitos HS), who attended a Chivas combine last weekend.
Chivas used its first pick, fifth overall, on Monmouth right back R.J. Allen, a two-time All-American who attended the league's pre-draft combine and was on Chivas' list of possibles for last week's SuperDraft.
San Diego State's Daniel Steres (Calabasas/Calabasas HS) was expected to be drafted, and the other center back, 6-foot-3 Fabian Kling from NCAA Division II champion Fort Lewis, is among the most intriguing picks of the draft season.
“[Kling is] a guy, we got an email, a recommendation from someone,” Chivas general manager Jose Domene said. “He's a big dude. A big fella. An international player, from Germany.”
He's from Augsburg and is a two-time D2 All-American and the division's player of the year last season, but more compelling are his numbers: 28 goals, half of them game-winners, in four seasons. That suggests he's a force on set pieces, a quality Chivas could use at both ends.
Allen, Domene said, was “on our board last week, but we didn't have a second-round pick -- not that we would have [necessarily] picked him. He's a guy we valued high, and we're lucky he fell to us.”
Rowe, a second-team All-American from Eugene, Ore., shut out 12 foes as the Bruins marched to the NCAA Final Four. He's one of five goalkeepers in camp battling for two jobs backing up Dan Kennedy.
They're the big names, but hardly the only ones, among local players aiming for an opportunity with a Major League Soccer team. There are nearly two dozen players who grew up or went to school in Greater Los Angeles hoping to hear their names called in Kansas City.
Some of them, let's be honest, don't have a shot, not with just two rounds of picks -- 38 in all. Next week's supplemental draft will provide possibilities, and players will be looking to participate in team combines and in trials during preseason training.
Some might look abroad -- there are leagues everywhere on the planet -- and there are two professional minor leagues (NASL, USL Pro) and several pro clubs in the Premier Development League and its rival NPSL.
Here's a quick rundown of 22 players who might find a job in MLS, if the right situation develops:
Marvin Gentry/US Presswire
UCLA's Chandler Hoffman battles North Carolina's Enzo Martinez in the NCAA semifinals.
Counting down the 11 biggest 2011 stories in Southern California soccer ...
UCLA's soccer programs might be forgiven for thinking of NCAA College Cup appearances as some sort of birthright. The Bruins' programs have long been among the nation's best, with the men winning four national championships and the women making it to final four eight times in 10 years through 2009.
But the men hadn't been to championship weekend since 2006, when they were upset in the title game by UC Santa Barbara despite talent that begged for trophies. They were stopped one game short the past two seasons.
2011 was a return to normalcy, perhaps. With a startling amount of ability returning from last year's quarterfinalists and a refined scheme, emphasizing a beautiful possession game, directed by head coach Jorge Salcedo, the Bruins absorbed early lessons, built momentum en route to the Pacific 12 Conference title, then sprinted through the postseason, shutting out every foe, en route to the program's 13th College Cup appearance.
Chandler Hoffman, with a terrific support group led by returning All-American Kelyn Rowe, midfield general Andy Rose and a defense anchored by top goalkeeper Brian Rowe, was responsible for the goals, 18 in all, as the Bruins took an eight-game shutout streak to Birmingham, Ala., the junior striker's hometown.
The Bruins (18-4-2) got no further -- they conceded equalizers twice and lost on penalties following a 2-2 draw in the semifinals with North Carolina, which won the championship -- but laid groundwork for return trips. They expect to be back in 2012.
UCLA's men highlighted a outstanding fall for local college sides.