Los Angeles Soccer: Daniel Hernandez
Chivas USA on Friday re-signed left back Ante Jazic, as expected, and Galaxy forward Adam Cristman withdrew from Monday's first-stage draft in Major League Soccer's re-entry process.
Jazic, 35, was expected to return to the Goats after the club declined its option on his contract, which was worth $115,000 ($123,000 average guaranteed compensation). Figures from the new pact weren't released and likely won't be available until the MLS Players Union next spring unveils every league salary, as it does annually. The contract is believed to be for one year.
Cristman, 26, whose option was declined, withdrew from the process and could be negotiating a new deal with the Galaxy, although it's unlikely he would accept much less than the $42,000 he made this season.
Midfielder Jovan Kirovski, 35, whose option also was declined, pulled out of the process before the re-entry list was released Wednesday. The Escondido product, who made $84,000 in 2011, is expected to re-sign with the Galaxy or retire.
Several others, including one local player, have pulled out of Monday's draft for one reason or another.
Vancouver midfielder John Thorrington (Palos Verdes Estates/Chadwick School) withdrew from the process and is in talks on a new contract with the Whitecaps, a club spokesman said.
The Galaxy faces FC Dallas for the first time since their MLS Cup dream was demolished last November, and they're not talking revenge.
Last year has nothing to do with this year, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena will testify, and the 3-0 defeat in the Western Conference title game will play no part in what occurs Sunday in Frisco, Texas.
Of greater import is who's missing from this rematch and the impact that will have on the game and, more so, on the path FC Dallas takes the next few months. Reigning Major League Soccer MVP David Ferreira, through whom the Hoops' attack flows, suffered a fractured ankle in a victory last weekend at Vancouver and could miss as much as three months.
Ferreira, a playmaker from Colombia, is architect of nearly everything Dallas does going forward -- he has three goals and an assist in five games this year, 21 and 24 in two seasons-plus -- and his absence will require the club to change things substantially.
It's doubtful they'll be better -- teams don't improve by losing their best players -- but there's mystery about how they'll approach the match that could cause the Galaxy some trouble.
“We'll see. It's hard to know” how Dallas will play without Ferreira, L.A. captain Landon Donovan said. “Obviously, formation-wise, we don't know what they'll do. Stylistically, who knows how they play? When you have a player that's that dynamic, that can pull off special plays, it influences the way you play, and now without him, we'll be curious to see how they'll play.”
So will the Hoops. Head coach Schellas Hyndman said all the right things, about how this is an opportunity for players to step forward and make a real mark, about how this doesn't change the aim, which is to win soccer games.
“Athletics is always involved with some good moments and some bad moments,” he told told media last week. “All players will get injured at some point in time. They can’t choose the time and they can’t choose the injury. For [Ferreira], it was very disappointing, but at the same time, we know he will be back.”
Forgive us if we're wondering who's going to score goals.
That's five zeros in the last seven games, three in the last four, and, wait, it gets worse. Chivas scored just five goals in the nine games. Three of them were tallied by Alan Gordon, who was traded Friday to Toronto FC. Another was product of Jesus Padilla, who was dismissed this week from the team.
That leaves one measly goal, by rookie Ecuadoran forward Victor Estupiņan, who predicted as preseason opened that he'd score 30 this season. The Goats sure could use them.
Head coach Robin Fraser has been adamant that he's fine with the attack as long as it is creating chances, and the Goats have created some fine chances -- not always consistently so, perhaps -- that they haven't put away. At some point, they need to put them away.
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman of FC Dallas applauds the fans after the Western Conference Finals of the MLS playoffs against the Galaxy at Home Depot Center.
TORONTO -- Kevin Hartman thought it might be time to go on to something else when the Kansas City Wizards told him as kickoff neared for the new season late last winter that his services no longer were required.
The veteran goalkeeper had few options: The other Major League Soccer clubs' goalkeeping hierarchies were in place, and most weren't looking to make a chance, no matter the former UCLA star's pedigree.
Schellas Hyndman , who had what he believed a title contender after a 21-month rebuild of FC Dallas' roster, was intrigued. And Hartman thought he had more to give.
Theirs turned out to be the perfect partnership, and it's led to Sunday night's MLS Cup in Toronto (ESPN and Galavision, 5:30 p.m. PT), where the Hoops or Colorado Rapids will claim their first league title in what could be the most dynamic of the league's 15 championship games.
Hartman could be -- should be -- the difference.
The Palos Verdes product, who played at Palos Verdes and Peninsula high schools and started his college career at Cal State Dominguez Hills, was the final, and perhaps most important, piece of Hyndman's remake. He rewarded the coach with often spectacular play that sparked a league single-season record 19-game unbeaten streak, saw FC Dallas lose just four times -- tying an MLS mark -- and took the club into its first MLS Cup final, the last of the surviving remaining original clubs to do so.
Major League Soccer righted a real wrong and awarded Landon Donovan a spot on its Best XI all-league team Tuesday -- as a midfielder.
Donovan, who led the league with 16 assists, is fully deserving the honor, but he was listed on the ballot as a forward, and with only two forward slots on the Best XI -- and teammate Edson Buddle and San Jose's Chris Wondolowski shoo-ins for those slots -- the Galaxy captain was looking like a no-go.
“We need to do the right thing,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said during his state-of-the-league conference call Tuesday morning, “and it's certainly right to have Landon [on the] Best XI.”
Donovan, one of four Galaxy players among the 11, played up front and in midfield for the Galaxy this season, seeing nearly twice as much time as a midfielder. The Galaxy submitted his name as a forward.
“Landon's basically played as a forward half the time and as a midfielder half the time,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said late last month. “If we had to nominate two forwards on the ballot, who are we going to nominate? You know the answer.”
Donovan had said he would be “bummed” not to make the Best XI.
Buddle, defender Omar Gonzalez and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts also are on the all-league team.
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Former Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, now the starter in Dallas, is a major reason why L.A. lost Sunday at home.
CARSON, Calif. -- It's fair to say that had Kevin Hartman not been so spectacular Sunday night, the Galaxy would be packing right now for an MLS Cup trek to Toronto.
The Palos Verdes product made four huge first-half saves -- on Mike Magee, Juninho, David Beckham and Landon Donovan -- and had half of them found the net, the Western Conference final would have turned out very differently.
But Hartman is just one of several reasons FC Dallas dumped the Galaxy, 3-0, at the Home Depot Center to snare a spot in its first MLS Cup final, next Sunday against the Colorado Rapids in Toronto.
Here's what made the difference:
1. BE SHARP
The Galaxy wasn't all that bad. They limited Dallas to eight shots, just five on target, created some outstanding chances in the first half-hour or so, and battled hard from start to finish.
But they couldn't match the Hoops.
“We have no excuses ...” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said to open his postgame news conference. “We were outplayed. We were beat on most matchups on the field, and we were outcoached. Dallas deserved the victory.”
The Hoops utilized space better than L.A. did, using a quick transition and its speed on the flanks -- with both Marvin Chavez and Brek Shea making big imprints -- to stretch the Galaxy, especially after David Ferreira's 26th-minute opener against the run of play.
From that point on, it was FC Dallas' game.
On the field, the most important players are 5-foot-5 playmaker David Ferreira, a 31-year-old Colombian who is expected to pick up Major League Soccer's MVP award this week, and central midfielder Daniel Hernandez, a 34-year-old Texan who started his pro career with the Galaxy (back in 1998) and played in Mexico for Necaxa, Puebla and Jaguares before joining FC Dallas last season.
Here's the best of what was said about Ferreira and Hernandez heading into Sunday's Western Conference final between the Galaxy at FC Dallas (Home Depot Center, 6 p.m., ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes):
On David Ferreira“Good quickness, good endurance. He's tough. I think he's the heart of the team. I think he inspires them. I think his performance [in the second leg of the first-round series at Real] Salt Lake was outstanding, his performance when they beat [RSL] in the first leg was impressive, and he's the player who set up the winning goal.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena:
“He's really an impressive player and a player that you can't lose your concentration against, because if you do, he'll take advantage of that.”
The Galaxy might be the favorite heading into Sunday evening's Western Conference final at Home Depot Center (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, 6 p.m.), but FC Dallas, too, has the look of a champion, and neither side would be a surprise in the Nov. 21 MLS Cup final in Toronto.
This one could be decided by the slimmest of margins, no matter what the score, and the team that best couples an effective attack with firm, committed team defense is likely to head off to Canada for a showdown with the Colorado Rapids.
What does the Galaxy need to reach its seventh MLS Cup title game?
1. IT'S ALL ABOUT THE D
L.A.'s players are talking up an attack-first approach, saying they're at home and plan to apply heavy pressure on FC Dallas' defense from the opening whistle. There's something to that -- the Galaxy put Seattle on its heels early in last week's playoff victory at HDC -- but we're betting they're not being entirely truthful.
The dominance of Seattle in the first-round series was based on suffocating, full-field defending from everybody in the lineup, and that's what it's going to take to shut off the Hoops' dynamic, quick-strike attack.
The key is keeping a close eye and lots of bodies on MVP favorite David Ferreira, a superb playmaker whose touch and vision are special and whose tendency to drift into unexpected positions makes him particularly difficult to deal with. His ability to find runners from midfield and on the wing and connect with speedy finisher Jeff Cunningham up top are deadly; if he finds much success, the Galaxy are done for.
Ferreira carved up Real Salt Lake's league's-best defense in the first round, but stats don't mean a whole lot in this sport, and L.A.'s defensive play the past few weeks -- in the first truly important matches the club has played this season -- has bordered on perfect. Not always in terms of execution, mind you, but the emphasis on swallowing up space in midfield, denying access behind the backline and pressuring opposing midfielders to do something other than what they prefer made the difference certainly against the Sounders.
It's not only about the defenders and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, all of whom have been really solid, even better than that. (Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza look like the central partnership going forward; Sean Franklin has evolved into a complete right back; why, again, is Eddie Lewis retiring?) It's Edson Buddle's tireless work up front, the commitment Landon Donovan and David Beckham are making to defend from box to box; and, of course, Dema Kovalenko's take-no-prisoners style in the middle.
All of them will have to be sharp against FC Dallas, which is more athletic, just as dynamic, possibly faster and certainly more dangerous with Ferreira pulling the strings than the Seattle side L.A. conquered the past two weeks.
2. THE SMART GAME WINS
The Galaxy's primary advantages Sunday are home field and experience. They're a team with a lot of big-game veterans -- Beckham and Donovan most of all -- who know how to win when there's no other option.
The Galaxy, more so than any other team in the league, can gut out victories by sheer will whether or not they have more of the ball or most of the game. Nobody manages a game as does L.A. coach Bruce Arena, and his team will disrupt the Hoops in every way it can. Look for early, professional fouls that destroy rhythm and momentum, and for tough, physical play, some of which -- especially when Kovalenko is involved -- might “push the envelope,” as associate head coach Dave Sarachan puts it.
L.A. needs to attack aggressively but be smart about it. FC Dallas likes to counterattack, and its speed and precision can tear up defenses when numbers are even or close to it, so the Galaxy must keep their shape no matter the occasion and make sure the Hoops can't get their transition into high gear.
If that requires an ugly game, so be it. Winning is all that matters; nobody knows this better than the Galaxy.
3. TAKE YOUR CHANCES
The Galaxy has rallied from behind to win just once all season, in its victory over Dallas in the regular-season finale three weeks ago at HDC. The Hoops have surrendered the first goal and rallied to tie or win eight times, including the first-leg triumph over RSL in the first round.
Scoring first is always vital, but the Galaxy's success early in the season was built on a knack for early goals, and they'll be in much better shape here if they can strike quickly.
They're going to have chances -- FC Dallas' defense is good, especially in midfield (with team leader Daniel Hernandez) and in the nets (with former Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman), but it's not spectacular. L.A. might not have as many weapons as the Hoops, and they certainly have nobody who can create as Ferreira does, but their 1-2-3 punch of Beckham, Donovan and Buddle is unmatched in MLS.
Donovan can create from nothing, and Beckham's service -- especially on set pieces (which will likely prod the Hoops to use for defensive purposes 6-foot-4 Brek Shea on the left flank rather than 5-5 Marvin Chavez) but also from the run of play -- provides danger any time he has the ball on the wing in opposing territory. Juninho complements them nicely, and Lewis (or Todd Dunivant, if he gets the call at left back) and Franklin are solid on forays forward.
Key will be Buddle, who's big, quick, skillful and has scored 19 goals this season. He's equally capable with his feet and his head and has had his share of spectacular finishes. When he gets his chances, he needs to put them away.
The Galaxy is seeking their record seventh MLS Cup title-game appearance, and FC Dallas is aiming to reach the final for the first time. Who has the advantage in Sunday night's Western Conference final at Home Depot Center (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, 6 p.m.)?
Let's take it piece by piece.
GALAXY: Donovan Ricketts
FC DALLAS: Kevin Hartman
Ricketts was MLS's Goalkeeper of the Year. Hartman probably deserved the honor, and had he not missed the final six weeks of the regular season with a sprained right medial collateral ligament -- product of that dumb Thierry Henry celebration -- he surely would have won. Ricketts is the more athletic, and he was sensational against Seattle, the most important figure in the victory up north.
Hartman (Palos Verdes/Peninsula HS and UCLA), still revered in L.A. for his decade of service to the Galaxy, has had a career resurrection in North Texas, and he bears most of the credit for the Hoops' magical campaign. There are few better shot-stoppers in American soccer, and nobody commands his box better than Hartman.
Both prefer to parry than catch in tight situations, and both make the mind-boggling saves that make a difference. Hartman might be a better decision-maker, but there's no denying Ricketts' form.
GALAXY: Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza/Gregg Berhalter and Eddie Lewis/Todd Dunivant
FC DALLAS: Jackson Goncalves/Zach Loyd, Ugo Ihemelu, George John and Jair Benitez
Don’t count on both of them being there.
Balloting for the team and all the individual awards wrapped up Monday, and the problem area was the Best XI ballot -- it’s far too regimented, and as a result at least one and possibly two players who deserve the honor will have to go without.
Donovan has played up top on occasion for L.A. this season, but he’s primarily been used as a wide midfielder -- on the right until David Beckham’s arrival, on the left since -- with the freedom to move wherever he sees fit to go. The Galaxy have been a more effective team when he’s in midfield, and as the primary creator and inspirational force, he’s the most important element in the club’s success this season.
It sure looked like the Galaxy’s game Sunday at Home Depot Center (FSN West, 5 p.m.) against FC Dallas wasn’t going to mean a thing.
Colorado took a 2-0 lead over Real Salt Lake into second-half stoppage Monday night, a result that would hand the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield titles to L.A. and send the locals to Denver for a playoff opener Thursday against the Rapids.
There’s a reason RSL’s Alvaro Saborio is an MVP candidate and the overwhelming favorite for the league’s Newcomer of the Year honor. He scored twice in the dying minutes -- taking advantage of Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens’ error in the 91st minute and converting a penalty kick four minutes later -- to deliver a 2-2 draw to the Utahns, and suddenly Sunday’s encounter means everything.
RSL (15-4-11) pulled even with the Galaxy (17-7-5) on points, and the second tiebreaker -- goal difference -- favors the defending MLS Cup champs.
Here’s where everything stands heading into Major League Soccer’s regular-season finale:
If the Galaxy wins or ties, they’re No. 1 in the West, collect their third Supporters’ Shield (as regular-season champions) and head to Seattle for Sunday’s opener in a tough home-and-home first-round playoff series.
If the Galaxy loses, they finish second to RSL, in the West and Supporters’ Shield standings, and have two more games against FC Dallas, the opener probably next Saturday at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.
What else is worth knowing:
- Edson Buddle needs a goal to win the Golden Boot. Chris Wondolowski netted his 18th in San Jose’s 4-1 loss at Kansas City, so the Galaxy striker, who has tallied in his past three games, needs one to match “Wondo.” That would give him the trophy -- the first tiebreaker is assists, as Buddle has a 2-1 advantage.
- FC Dallas faces a tough first-round playoff series no matter what occurs. If the Hoops win, they get the Galaxy. If they lose, it’s Real Salt Lake. They clinched third in the West when Seattle lost Saturday at Houston.
- FC Dallas’ 19-game unbeaten streak ended in a 2-0 loss last week at Real Salt Lake, and coach Schellas Hyndman wants to start a new one before the playoffs begin. He’s planning to use a first-choice lineup, and he’s able to do so, more or less, for the first time in nearly six weeks. Captain (and former Galaxy midfielder) Daniel Hernandez and central defenders George John and (former Galaxy back) Ugo Ihemelu returned from injury last week -- Ihemelu strained his hamstring and won’t play Sunday -- and (former Galaxy) goalkeeper Kevin Hartman (Palos Verdes/Peninsula HS and UCLA) is expected to be back in the nets for the first time since spraining the medial collateral ligament in his right knee Sept. 16 against New York. Hartman, who was hurt on a post-goal act of stupidity by Red Bulls star Thierry Henry, should be a shoo-in for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.