Los Angeles Soccer: Jack McBean
CARSON -- British reports claim the Galaxy has offered Chelsea's Frank Lampard a two-year, $20 million offer, and that the veteran central midfielder is strongly considering a move to Los Angeles.
It's not the first time Lampard's name has been linked to the Galaxy, but the reports have never been so specific.
Several outlets made the claim, none identifying their sources, but David Beckham lobbied his former England teammate last year and club owner AEG president Tim Leiweke has publicly expressed interest in signing the star.
“I'm a fan of Frank's. I think he's a great player. When I think of Chelsea, I think of Frank Lampard ...,” Leiweke told Sky Sports in January. “It took us two years to get David to come here the first time.
“We're working on the next [Designated Player], and we'll continue to work on the next DP. There are a half-dozen guys we have a good relationship with, and we'll see how that goes. But first we've got to have a spot, and at the moment we don't have a spot.”
The Galaxy still doesn't have a spot. MLS clubs may sign up to three DPs, whose salaries go beyond the $350,000 maximum hit to the salary cap. Beckham, Landon Donovan and Irish striker Robbie Keane occupy L.A.'s slots.
Sources with knowledge of the talks confirmed to ESPN Los Angeles that AEG is holding discussions with Lampard's representatives.
Lampard, who turned 34 on June 20, still has one year on a Chelsea contract that pays him about $12 million a year. He's been with the Blues since 2001 and captained them, in John Terry's absence to suspension, to triumph over Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League final in May.
He is considered one of the finest midfielders of his generation and has played in two World Cups and two European Championships for England, including Euro 2012, in which the English reached the quarterfinals.
Not in the games that count -- they've got eight games in all, seven of them in league, without a victory -- but Tuesday's 3-1 triumph in Vancouver takes L.A. out of the league's minibreak with successive MLS Reserve League victories.
Jose Villarreal netted two goals in his first start of the year and Jack McBean came off the bench to nod home a late winner as the Galaxy (3-1-1) climbed atop the Western Division standings at the University of British Columbia.
Things aren't going so well in MLS proper: L.A. is last in the West and 17th of 19 clubs overall with a 3-8-2 mark heading into Sunday afternoon's clash with Portland at Home Depot Center. Do Reserve League victories translate to the real deal? Subtly but surely.
“It's that feeling,” goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who went the full 90 after retuning from a month in MLS's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program for a 2-1 win 10 days ago at Portland, noted last week. “The guys that were in the locker room after the [reserve games] remember that feeling of winning. That's contagious. Those guys know what it's like to win again, and, hopefully, we can push that into our first team.”
Trialist Andy Iro, the former UC Santa Barbara All-American who played for Columbus and Toronto FC, went 90 minutes in central defense. Rookie Rafael Garcia, a central midfielder, got a look at right back. And assistant coach Curt Onalfo, who guides the reserve team, gave Galaxy Academy players Oscar Sorto and Mario Rodriguez spots in the starting XI.
Villarreal, a Home Grown Player from Inglewood, scored his first two goals since signing in December, finishing a Michael Stephens feed two minutes into the second half and adding an insurance goal in second-half stoppage from a long clearance by Saunders.
Two first-half free kicks were put away by Leonardo and Chad Barrett as the Galaxy claimed a 2-1 victory over the Portland Timbers to vault from fifth to second place in the West Division standings with a 2-1 victory at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Ore. It's L.A.'s first win that counts since the April 21 MLS triumph at Colorado and the first of any sort since a reserve friendly three days later against the L.A. Blues, a span of nine games in all.
The biggest news was Saunders' first game appearance since entering Major League Soccer's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health treatment program at the end of April, but that was quickly overshadowed when Leonardo, just back from a devastating knee injury suffered 13½ months ago, appeared to reinjure his right knee after a collision in L.A.'s box with Timbers forward Sebastian Rincon.
There was no immediate diagnosis on Leonardo, who appeared anguished while lying on the turf, was comforted by several teammates, and had to be stretchered to the sideline.
The Brazilian center back tore several knee ligaments near the end of an April 2011 MLS game in Chicago, including the anterior cruciate and, worse, the lateral collateral, requiring two surgeries and an extended rehabilitation. He made a brief appearance in the April 24 game against the Blues, played a half in the May 8 Reserve League match with San Jose, was activated from the MLS Disabled List on May 18, made the 18-man game-day rosters (but did not play) for the last three MLS matches, and went the full 90 in Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup loss at the Carolina RailHawks.
He went down just five minutes after giving the Galaxy a quick lead, volleying home a free kick that Kyle Nakazawa curled toward the left post. L.A. got its second goal in the 30th, also on a Nakazawa free kick, from the right edge of the box. Jack McBean, beyond the far post, headed the ball into the goalmouth, and Barrett outleapt Eric Alexander to nod it home.
Alexander scored on a 69th-minute penalty kick for Portland after Rafael Garcia fouled Brent Richards.
Saunders, who remains in the SABH program but returned to training May 21, looked solid in his first action since April 21. He did well on crosses into the box, ably cut off balls meant for Portland's forwards and made all the saves he was supposed to make, none of them particularly difficult.
CARSON -- Josh Saunders wasn't going to sneak quietly back onto the field for the Galaxy. His teammates made sure of that, welcoming him warmly into training again after 3½ weeks away in Major League Soccer's substance abuse treatment program -- and teasing him, of course, about the time off.
“He looks great,” David Beckham said Tuesday after Saunders' second on-field session since he left the team April 27. “He's straight back into it. He's had a bit of stick [from his teammates] for having a few weeks off, but it's good to have him back. It's important for him to get back with the players and team and his friends, and he seems happy.”
Saunders isn't yet eligible to play -- he's still in the program, returning to the facility each day from Home Depot Center -- and there's no timeline for his return, but reintegrating with the group, in the locker room and on the training field, is an important step in his recovery.
It's stress, not, as widely speculated, drugs or alcohol that sent the 31-year-old goalkeeper into MLS's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Program, Saunders said in a brief exchange with media Tuesday.
“I was putting myself under a lot of pressure. I just needed to step away ...,” he said. “I was under some stress, had some family issues, wanted to deal with them on my own. We're humans. We have a life outside of soccer, and people forget that. I'm just happy to be in the state that I'm in now.”
So are his teammates.
“It's like he was never gone,” defender Todd Dunivant said. “He addressed the team, and we welcomed him back with open arms, and we'll support him all along the way. ...
“[It's vital for him] to be around the locker room, around the guys, get the banter and all that kind of stuff that we get on a daily basis. If you don't have that, it's difficult. You can see that with guys that go out for long injuries and come back, they miss that. Just to welcome back and give him jabs a little bit again and get him in with the jokes again makes a difference.”
CARSON -- Landon Donovan returned to training this week. David Beckham missed Thursday morning's session. Both are dealing with injuries that could keep them from playing in this weekend's showdown at Sporting Kansas City.
Donovan hopes to return from a quadriceps strain, among other ailments, that kept him out of last week's 3-1 loss to New England, but neither he nor Beckham are definites to travel Friday or play Saturday against K.C. (4-0-0), MLS's overall leader.
“I'm doing all right,” Donovan reported after Thursday's practice at Home Depot Center. “I think it's been a better week than last week, and we're hopeful for Saturday.”
Head coach Bruce Arena said nearly the same thing: “We're hopeful. We'll see how it all plays out.”
Donovan appears in better shape than does Beckham, who is dealing with a reported hamstring strain among other things.
“David has an assortment of nagging injuries,” Arena said. “Just been smart about getting him the right kind of rest and working him in the gym.”
The exact injuries? Where does the hamstring fit into this?
“Don't even know the exact pecking order of the injury list,” said Arena, whose team is 1-2-0. “I'll leave it at that. Our trainer's dealt with a few things.”
CARSON -- Michael Stephens is expected to be back on the training field Thursday with the Galaxy, and his teammates know it's not where he wants to be.
Stephens was a late substitute in the United States' devastating defeat in an Olympic qualifier Monday night, sent on to help kill off the game. Instead, the Americans surrendered a goal more than four minutes into stoppage, and a 3-3 draw with El Salvador eliminated them from contention for this summer's London Games.
“It's disappointing for everyone,” defender Todd Dunivant said following the Galaxy's practice Tuesday morning at Home Depot Center. “Shows you can't take those things for granted.”
Stephens, a former UCLA star, had not played in the U.S. under-23 national team's first two group games in Nashville. He came on for Joe Corona in the 88th minute of the Group A finale in CONCACAF's qualifying tournament.
“I would have loved for Mikey to play in the Olympics,” said midfielder Mike Magee, who watched the game on television. “That was no way to leave the tournament. It was definitely frustrating when that last goal went in.”
The defeat's larger meaning -- and who deserves blame for the Americans' unexpected failure -- was debated Tuesday across the American soccer landscape. Dunivant and Magee noted that missing the Olympics is not the same as missing a World Cup, for which the U.S. last failed to qualify in 1986.
“I don't think anyone feels devastated,” Magee said. “Obviously, it's not what you want, but the main thing for soccer is definitely the World Cup. We want our young players to do better, and we want to go through [to the finals] at every level, but at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter in terms of the sport in our country.”
Dunivant saw another side.
“Ask any of those guys who were on that field whether this was a big deal or not,” he said. “Those guys had a chance to be in the Olympics, and how many athletes have said they've done that. Any of us would want that. Is it the end of the world? No. But it's certainly a black mark on U.S. soccer right now.”
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.
CARSON -- The odds Rafael Garcia makes the Galaxy's roster aren't necessarily great, not with the depth and talent already residing in midfield, but more of what he showed in a preseason victory Thursday over Chivas USA might push things in his favor.
The rookie from Canoga Park and Cal State Northridge made one fabulous run, creating a third first-half goal as L.A. romped to a big lead and then held on for a 3-2 triumph on its training field just southwest of Home Depot Center's main stadium.
The Galaxy played a reserve lineup against a Chivas side featuring eight to 10 likely first-teamers and dominated the first half, rolling up a 3-0 advantage as Adam Cristman and Jack McBean applied heavy pressure to the Goats' backline. There were mistakes galore -- and by some of Chivas' steadiest players, such as Dan Kennedy and Heath Pearce -- and L.A. took advantage.
Cristman did the bulk of the work, setting up Pat Noonan for the opener and turning a backpass miscue by Goats goalkeeper Kennedy into a 2-0 advantage. Garcia, getting a full, strong 90 minutes in just his second preseason appearance, made his move about 10 minutes later.
He took a pass and sprinted into the box, eluding Pearce to get to the byline. He spun around when John Alexander Valencia arrived, holding the ball for Dan Keat to get into a channel, then feeding his simple finish.
Garcia, 23, who captained that incredible 2006-07 Canoga Park High School team that went 24-0-1 and won the mythical state championship, has steadily grown since Galaxy camp began 3½ weeks ago.
“He had a good performance today,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “He's been getting better. He's started to pick it up over the last couple of weeks, so he's going to push hard to make our roster.”
Right now L.A. has 34 players. It needs to be down to 30 by March 1, and Omar Gonzalez will be on the disabled list, which opens a slot. Barring trades, one of the remaining cuts will be of a goalkeeper -- Nick Noble, who has been signed, and Bill Gaudette are fighting for a spot. Garcia, a supplemental draft choice, and second-round SuperDraft pick Kenney Walker are trying to win jobs in a midfield that might not have available space.
Garcia's plan is simple.
CARSON -- The Galaxy are through only two weeks of preparations, they're missing their biggest names and haven't had much chance to build chemistry among the returning players and newcomers, so whatever their preseason opener produced doesn't mean a whole lot.
But as first impressions go, their victory Friday morning over the L.A. Blues had definite wow factor.
The Galaxy sent out a virtual starting lineup for the first 45 minutes -- everyone except he four missing stars and injured Omar Gonzalez's replacement -- and dominated the Blues, scoring five goals before halftime in a 7-2 romp on the club's practice field at Home Depot Center.
Marcelo Sarvas enjoyed a wonderful debut, teaming with Michael Stephens in central midfield to orchestrate an attack that moved easily, with interchange worthy of midseason, and passed the ball almost at will in a performance that suggests far more than it should.
The Blues, preparing for their second campaign in the third-tier USL Pro, also is in preseason form and did without a good number of their top players, but they're not an MLS club and couldn't keep up until L.A. coach Bruce Arena brought on a less-experienced cast for the second half.
Adam Cristman scored twice and assisted another, Sarvas converted a penalty kick and set up two goals with defense-splitting passes, and teen phenom Jack McBean scored as nice a goal as he might ever score to highlight a far more even second half.
Sarvas, the Brazilian playmaker brought in from Costa Rican power Alajuelense to replace departed Juninho, made the biggest impression. He's got quick feet, great ideas and vision that is going provide an additional dimension to an L.A. attack that seems to gain more each day.
The Galaxy made it look easy in the first half. Sarvas provided the lead from the penalty spot after a hand ball, Todd Dunivant finished from Sarvas' service about a half-hour in, Cristman tapped home a gift from Paolo Cardozo after a penetrating ball from Stephens, Cardozo scored from Cristman's feed, and Cristman added another after Sarvas played Sean Franklin into the box.
“It was certainly a concern losing Juninho -- he was a great player, and we're going to miss him -- but I think Marcelo is stepping in the role very nicely and is almost very similar in his ball-winning and distribution and chance creation,” Cristman said. “He played a great ball that led to [the last goal of the half], and he does a good job of switching the ball, and I think he combines well with the guys in the middle of the field. I think we had some good combinations in there.
“That was good to see, and good to see him in a real game situation. He's going to be a good fit for us.”
Sarvas said it wasn't quite as easy as it appeared.
CARSON -- Marcelo Sarvas' first training session with his new Galaxy teammates primarily involved running. Fitness is the focus as Major League Soccer's reigning champions opened their preseason camp, but the Brazilian midfielder already is looking ahead.
After facing L.A. twice last season while in midfield for Costa Rican power Alajuelense, he's got a decent understanding of L.A.'s strengths and what he believes he can add to the mix.
Sarvas, 30, is the most anticipated arrival among 13 new signings, draft picks and trialists who joined 13 returning players on the rain-soaked field Monday morning at Home Depot Center, where the plan called for a little simple stuff with the ball interspersed with lots and lots of running.
He's got the biggest role, too, replacing Juninho -- David Beckham's midfield partner -- in one of the positions most pivotal to the club's chances for success.
“I know the story of Juninho here in this club,” Sarvas said in Spanish through a translator. “He came and did big things here. I'm not coming here to replace Juninho. I'm here to implement my own game here. ... I'm hoping to win a starting spot and do my own thing here.”
Sarvas is more attack-minded than Juninho, who arrived as a defensive midfielder and in two seasons on loan from Sao Paulo evolved into one of Major League Soccer's elite two-way midfielders, a progression that led his Brazilian masters to call him home. The job, head coach Bruce Arena says, is simple: “Whenever we play David centrally, the player next to David moves off of David.”
Sarvas has no problem with playing deputy to Beckham.
“I think we need more time to get to know each other,” he said. “I did face the Galaxy twice [in CONCACAF Champions League group play], and from seeing those games, David's a player I need to find a way to open up the game for him and give him the ball in spaces where he can create opportunities so we can do good things.”
Arena, when Sarvas signed last month on a free transfer, called him “a good, experienced, two-way midfielder I think is going to help our team. ... I think he's going to be a good addition.”
Beckham also thinks the partnership can be productive.
It's about family, as we always thought it would be, with sources “close to” Beckham telling British tabloid Daily Mail that he is reluctant to relocate his family, which is happily settled in Beverly Hills.
And now there are questions about Paris Saint-Germain's desire to sign the English superstar. French sports daily L'Equipe reports that new PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti would rather bring in Brazilian midfielder Kaká, from Real Madrid, as Leonardo, the club's sporting director, says he's willing to give Beckham more time to consider the offer.
“The question has never been professional but about family. It is a difficult choice to make the whole family move to Paris,” Leonardo said in remarks published by Sky Sports. “We will wait a little. It is a personal choice, and it is not that easy to him. We have some time, and he has some time, too.
"We never stated it has been done. There is no contract. We won't push him -- we respect him a lot. I know him and have an amazing admiration toward him both as a player and as a father. I can understand it is difficult to move. We will leave him in peace.”
Beckham is expected to make a decision after talks with Simon Fuller, whose XIX Entertainment serves as Beckham's agents. His five-year, $32.5 million contract with the Galaxy expired Dec. 31, but L.A. reportedly has offered a rolling one-year contract to replace it. PSG is dangling an 18-month, $18.7 million pact, according to media reports.
KEANE TO VILLA?: Robbie Keane was adamant following the Major League Soccer season that he was not interested in an offseason loan, but there appears to be interest in England to bring him back for a spell.
Counting down the 11 biggest 2011 stories in Southern California soccer ...
The Galaxy won Major League Soccer's championship. Chivas USA altered its culture, probably for the better. Neither achievement is as important as the steps both clubs are taking to develop talent.
2011 was the year the local teams' emphasis on their academy programs began to make a real impact, with national championships, prosperous partnerships, advancing talent and one massive merger.
The Galaxy, with former midfielder Chris Klein in charge of the academy program, won the title, claiming the U.S. Soccer Development Academy U15/16 championship last July. Then they picked up the cream of Mission Viejo-based Pateadores' U17/18 titlists through a partnership with Todd Saldaña's South Bay Force club. One of those pickups -- Inglewood's Jose Villarreal -- already has signed a Home Grown Player contract with L.A.'s first team, just like Newport Beach's Jack McBean, who joined the Galaxy last season at 16. More appear destined to follow.
Chivas made the bolder move, bringing in under its umbrella the Cosmos West Academy -- the New York Cosmos' Pasadena-based West Coast development center, which the prospective MVP team abandoned to align with league rules. Former pro Teddy Chronopoulos, Cosmos West's director, took charge of Chivas' program, which also benefited from the influence of first-team assistant coach Greg Vanney, who had been running Real Salt Lake's Arizona program. General manager Jose Domene declared that the Goats wanted to build the bulk of its roster, going forward, from their academy.
Both clubs have youth national team-caliber players, some plucked from top clubs in Southern California's talent-rich scene. The ability to offer professional contracts is an advantage the Galaxy and Chivas have over its local rivals.
The academy system is still in its infancy in the U.S., but it's the foundation of soccer's future in this country. The local sides were a little slow to the party -- check out what the Chicago Fire, especially, have been producing for years -- but as MLS player-acquisition rules begin to catch up with developmental philosophies, the impact will surely broaden.
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Jack McBean turned pro at 16, a prospect so bright the Galaxy wanted to begin working with him now.
CARSON -- Scotty McBean knows Landon Donovan has taken his son under his wing, that David Beckham offers him encouragement, that Robbie Keane cracks him up.
He knows because he sees it when he visits Galaxy training sessions or when he attends the team's family events. But hear about it? Remember, Jack McBean is 16.
“Jack doesn't say much,” Scotty reports. “He's pretty tough to get information out of.”
Ah, teenagers. It's easy to forget just how young Jack McBean is. He'd only be a junior at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, not 17 for another week and a half, if it weren't for his facility on a soccer field -- and the huge upside scouts see in him.
That's why he turned pro at 16, a prospect so bright the Galaxy wanted to begin working with him now, and offered enough cash and incentives to convince his parents to allow it to happen. He wraps up his first season with the club this week as a maturer person, stronger player.
“I go out to practice and watch,” Scotty McBean says. “It's unbelievable to see my son out there with these guys. They treat him great, and I think he's starting to feel he's part of the squad. When you're starting, I'm sure it's 'I'm 16, and what's this all about?' Now I see him joking with the team.
“He's really good with you guys [in the media], says the right things. I'm sure he's good with his friends and his teammates. And he's really good at his [community] appearances, that I can see. He loves playing with the little kids -- I think he's very genuine at these events.”
LEARNING EXPERIENCE: What Jack McBean does say is he's having a lot of fun.
“It's been really good,” he says. “To come in here and feel at home, it's been awesome. I'm really thankful to all the guys and Bruce [Arena] and all the staff, all the veterans. All the guys have been really helpful and nice through the whole year. It's been fun.”
HOUSTON -- The game had long been over, since Bobby Boswell's shot inside the right post less than three minutes into the second half provided the dominant Houston Dynamo a two-goal cushion, but the Galaxy found something to like -- to really, really like -- near the finish of a 3-1 defeat in their regular-season finale Sunday night.
Rookie forward Jack McBean, a 16-year-old high school junior making his first Major League Soccer appearance -- in the starting XI, no less -- took a square ball from Chad Barrett, following Michael Stephens' through ball, with a virtually open net staring him down.
He took a touch, lined up, and fired into the net.
There are a lot more goals due from the teen sensation from Newport Beach, but most of them are still a few years off. This one wasn't beautiful and it meant nothing in terms of the result, but McBean is going to remember this night the rest of his life. So might his teammates.
McBean's strike in the 88th minute was the most visible reward for L.A. (19-5-10) in a match that mattered little but offered a big opportunity to rest key players in advance of next weekend's playoff opener and give some youngsters some first-team action.
Gregg Berhalter called it “something special” and said everyone was “ecstatic on the bench,” and fellow rookie Dan Keat, a midfielder who was impressive in his first MLS start, agreed.
“It's fantastic,” Keat said. “He's a great kid, and he's worked hard since he's come in. Seeing him play in his first game and getting a goal, it's great for him. And, hopefully, he keeps pushing on from here and uses it as a building block for a long career.”
McBean, of course, was thrilled.
“I took that touch, which if I'd missed it, it could have been not the best decision, but, thankfully, it went in,” he said. “I was happy to score, but bittersweet because we didn't get the win.”
McBean has played in MLS Reserve League games and for the Galaxy's Academy sides, and he said playing at the league's top level was “obviously a lot different from the level I'm used to playing in. The atmosphere, the players, everything was a lot more intense, a lot more physical play. It's going to take me awhile to get used to, but to get out there was a lot of fun.”
HOUSTON -- No David Beckham. No Landon Donovan.
The Galaxy heads into its regular-season finale Sunday evening against the Houston Dynamo without their two biggest stars, and that's not all.
They are among a half-dozen influential players who headed home as soon as the Galaxy's charter flight arrived Friday afternoon in Houston from Honduras, all being rested for next weekend's playoff opener. If it looks a little like surrender, think back to Columbus a month ago. Also following a crucial CONCACAF Champions League game in Central America, L.A. took on the Crew in front of a full house without several big guns -- Donovan, Beckham and Robbie Keane included -- and pulled out a dramatic 1-0 victory.
Something like that would be perfect for the Galaxy (19-4-10), who consider this one important even if it means nothing to their championship aspirations. A victory would give them 70 points -- a league record, two better than the '98 Galaxy side -- and and a shutout would be their 18th of the season, also an MLS best.
“This is our third game [in eight days]. We traveled all over the place,” head coach Bruce Arena noted. “We're here to play well -- there's no question about that. I think we've earned the right to rest some players.”
Also home are Best XI (and MLS Defender of the Year) candidates Todd Dunivant and Omar Gonzalez, midfielder Mike Magee and goalkeeper Josh Saunders -- and Keane remains sidelined with a leg injury.
“They'll probably think we're taking it easy with the lineup that we put out, but that's not the case,” midfielder Chris Birchall said. “We feel we can still go out and win the game, and it will be a good test for some of our players who haven't played too many of these games.”
The Galaxy could have Sean Franklin back from a knee injury that has sidelined him for six weeks, and 16-year-old forward Jack McBean and rookie defender Ryan Thomas could make their MLS debuts. It wouldn't be a surprise to see rookies Hector Jimenez or Dan Keat in the starting lineup for the first time, or for Dasan Robinson to see his first action with the Galaxy, and Brian Perk could get the call in goal for the second time, depending on how Donovan Ricketts' ailing quad is doing.
“No matter what team Bruce has put out there, they’ve done well and gotten results,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear told reporters this week. “Defensively, they’re always organized, and they don’t give you much.”