Los Angeles Soccer: Mike Magee

Galaxy get key road win at Dallas

July, 28, 2012
Mike Magee scored in the 62nd minute to lift the Los Angeles Galaxy to a 1-0 victory over FC Dallas. Click this link to read the game story.

GALAXY: Quakes prevail in wild affair

June, 30, 2012

David BeckhamAP Photo/Mathew SumnerDavid Beckham's rough week ended with a postgame confrontation Saturday with San Jose players.

The wildest and weirdest of California Clasicos unfolded just as the Galaxy hoped, at least after an early hiccup, and exactly as the San Jose Earthquakes might have expected -- and desired.

Three goals in 11 minutes, two of them caused by Jason Hernandez errors, gave L.A. a two-goal edge just before halftime, and the way the Galaxy have been playing lately, that ought to be enough against nearly anyone in Major League Soccer.

But this Earthquakes side increasingly has the look of destiny about it, and given what's come before, its comeback for a 4-3 triumph Saturday night at sold-out Stanford Stadium was persuasive.

Victor Bernardez blasted home a feed from a corner kick near the end of the first half, Sam Cronin finished a spectacular sequence to start the second half, and MLS scoring leader Chris Wondolowski's backheel from a corner kick in the 61st minute delivered San Jose its seventh comeback victory of the year.

It spoiled the Galaxy's best 10 minutes or so of the season and restored the Quakes' spot atop MLS's Supporters' Shield standings, which had been taken by D.C. United with a victory earlier in the day.

It was an absorbing match, probably the best in the league this season, marked by end-to-end action, huge shifts in momentum, sudden chances enhanced by a tight field, goals both brilliant and unfortunate, tremendous atmosphere (some 50,391 on hand), and a end-of-game meltdown by David Beckham, whose nightmare week closed with a one-game suspension certain and additional games likely to be added.

“It was enjoyable to be part of, for the most part,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan told media afterward. “I thought the crowd was great, the energy was great, and it's just 20 some-off people in here [in L.A.'s locker room] who aren't happy. ... It's a game we should have won.”

Coach Bruce Arena agreed with the last part.

“It was a sloppy game, a lot of mishaps,” he said. “Kind of what we expected on a tight, short field. ... We did a poor job [defensively] today. Our defense on set pieces wasn't good, and it cost us the game.

“We have no one to blame. We should not lose that game.”

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GALAXY: Keane, L.A. in playoff zone

June, 23, 2012

CARSON -- The Galaxy displayed their grit a week ago and never-say-die attitude Wednesday, when they started showing real signs of life following a horrendous first three months of the season.

It was all rehearsal for Saturday night, when the real Galaxy -- the one that has been so dominant the past few years -- showed up for the first time in 2012, putting on a jaw-dropping first-half display while destroying a pretty good Vancouver side at Home Depot Center.

Robbie Keane returned from a disappointing Euro 2012 in superior form, scoring one tremendous goal and winning a penalty kick, as L.A. (6-8-2) scored three times in the first half for a 3-0 triumph, giving the club its first three-game winning streak since capturing MLS Cup last November, successive home shutouts for the first time since September and vaulting them into the Western Conference's playoff zone, into fifth place, with 20 points. Nine of those 20 were claimed in the past week.

“I think it was a great win tonight for our team,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “They had an exceptional first half and maybe could have gotten more goals, but I'm not being greedy at this point.

“I think we're slowly becoming a good team, and I think inside our locker room we understand what it takes to become a good team. It was an important week for us. We're back in playoff contention, and there's going to be a lot of difficult games ahead. ... Hopefully, our guys have learned a lot in the first 16 games, hopefully learned enough to get us through the next 18 in better form.”

The Galaxy started the week in the Western Conference basement, but their form in victories Sunday over Portland and, after rallying from a two-goal deficit, Wednesday at Real Salt Lake signaled things were getting back to where they'd been expected to be all along.

Saturday night's triumph was a huge step forward. Keane and Landon Donovan were spectacular, David Beckham was nearly as good, and the team defensive play was remindful of last season's, when L.A. shut out 17 of 34 MLS foes.

“Certainly since I've come back, you can feel that the winning mentality is back from when I first came last season,” said Keane, who returned Wednesday to L.A. following Ireland's Euro 2012 elimination, rejoined training Friday and gave one of his finest performances in a Galaxy jersey. “It's important that we keep that going as a team. I think that if we keep playing like that against anyone, it'll be very hard for teams to beat us. The way that we passed and moved made it very difficult for any team.”

L.A. applied heavy pressure on the third-place Whitecaps (7-3-5) from the start, and continually carved up their defense through, primarily, Keane and Donovan, who netted his third goal of the week -- converting the penalty kick to make it 3-0 in the 41st minute -- assisted Mike Magee's 16th-minute opener and nearly netted three more on shots that went wide, one that grazed the outside of the right post.

“I thought that the movement of their front players was by far the best I've seen since I've been in MLS ...,” said Martin Rennie, who took charge of Vancouver during the offseason. “The movement of Keane and Donovan, my opinion, was like world-class. Their movement was fantastic. They caused so many problems the way they came out at the backline and then turned in behind, their pace and penetration.

“Those guys are really good players, but tonight I thought they were really on form, and their midfielders' passing and movement was very good as well. We happened to find them on a good night, and they punished us.”

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GALAXY: Donovan avenges opening loss

June, 20, 2012

The Galaxy let a late two-goal lead slip away in a 3-2 loss to Real Salt Lake in their Major League Soccer opener three months ago, the first big stumble in their horrid start to 2012.

L.A. got payback Wednesday night, rallying from a two-goal first-half deficit for a 3-2 victory in Sandy, Utah, notching back-to-back victories for the first time in a month and just the second time all year.

It's just the second Galaxy win in 10 Utah meetings and their first at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Landon Donovan ran onto a brilliant ball from Mike Magee and finished into an open net in the 68th minute to deliver all three points to the Galaxy (5-8-2), who ended a seven-game MLS winless streak with a win Sunday over Portland.

“That's a good win, man,” Donovan said on KDOC's telecast. “We felt a little unjust by what happened at our place a little earlier in the year when they won, and we wanted to get a little revenge. And then we also know if we can manage to get into the playoffs, which we're still pushing for, this might be a place we have to come later, so we wanted to put on a good show.”

Real Salt Lake (10-4-2) remains atop the Western Conference and Supporters' Shield standings. The Galaxy climbed from seventh to sixth place, but will drop back if Chivas USA draws or beats Montreal in a late game Wednesday. That game is tied, 1-1, at halftime.

This Galaxy victory wasn't as simple as Sunday's: Uncharacteristic errors by RSL's backline let L.A. back into the game after falling behind, 2-0, by the 24th minute, and it was on the back foot mostly until Magee netted the equalizer five minutes into the second half.

Defensive breakdowns cost the Galaxy, which went behind in the ninth minute when Kyle Beckerman finished a low cross from Fabian Espindola, who also fed Alvaro Saborio for the second goal in the 24th.

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GALAXY: Is Saunders' return a sign?

June, 16, 2012
CARSON -- The last time Josh Saunders touched a ball in a Major League Soccer game, he was making a stoppage-time save on a penalty kick to deliver for the Galaxy a victory at Colorado.

Within a week, the goalkeeper was off in the league's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program -- dealing with stress, he says -- and L.A. was in free fall. They've gone eight first-team games since without a win, dropping into the Western Conference cellar, the Galaxy's 3-8-2 record unimaginable three months ago, and falling to a lower-level club in the U.S. Open Cup.

Josh Saunders
Denny Medley/US PresswireGoalkeeper Josh Saunders will return to start a first-team game for the Galaxy on Sunday vs. Portland.

Saunders is back in the nets for the Galaxy, starting with Sunday afternoon's Home Depot Center clash against the Portland Timbers (3-5-4), and if they're looking for some signal that this could turn things around, there were two MLS Reserve League games this month, both victories, both with Saunders in goal.

“Let's hope it continues,” David Beckham said as the Galaxy prepared for its first match since May 29. “If that happens on Sunday, it'll be down to the work we've been doing during these couple of weeks we've had off, and having Josh back can also lift the team.”

The Galaxy's lack of success with Saunders gone is “just coincidence,” the netminder said, but coach Bruce Arena doesn't agree.

“I don't think it's coincidence,” he said. “I think strong goalkeeping helps you win games, whether it keeps you in a game or results in you maybe getting behind. ... Goalkeepers are valuable to teams, and our team is not tested a whole lot. We've not been put under a while lot of pressure during the year, but still required to make timely saves and important saves, and we haven't gotten that on a consistent basis.”

Bill Gaudette and Brian Perk were no worse than Saunders, and Gaudette maybe a little better, from late April through the end of May, but having the No. 1 on the field can breed confidence. Captain Landon Donovan doesn't think it's an issue, and he's probably correct.

“I would say our goalies have been the least of our problems this year,” Donovan said. “We've got to get all the other stuff right. We've got goalkeepers here who can make plays when needed to, but we're leaving them on an island a lot of these games. We've got to do a better job in front of them, and then when we need them to make plays, they need to make plays.”

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Dunivant makes All-Star list this time

June, 7, 2012

Fan balloting for the July 25 MLS All-Star Game begins Friday morning, and a name missing from last year's list of candidates has found its way onto the ballot: Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant's.

He's one of six L.A. players eligible to make the All-Star First XI, the first group of players for Philadelphia coach Peter Nowak's side for the clash with England's Chelsea at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.

The First XI will be determined by fan voting at Major League Soccer's website, via text messaging and, in two weeks, during a two-day Twitter session. Additional players will be selected by Nowak, MLS Commissioner Don Garber and in a players vote.

Midfielders David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Juninho, forward Robbie Keane and goalkeeper Josh Saunders are the other Galaxy players on the ballot. Donovan would make a record 12th appearance is selected; he shares the record with retired defender Eddie Pope.

Chivas' eligible players are goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, defender James Riley, midfielders Nick LaBrocca and Oswaldo Minda, and forwards Juan Pablo Angel and Alejandro Moreno.

A media panel determined the 114 names on the ballot, just six per team, including one goalkeeper from each side. As always, there are omissions, although for the local teams none as wrong-headed as Dunivant's omission last year.

Given the Galaxy's struggles, only a few players -- Beckham chief among them -- are worthy of consideration, although the priority is more about putting together a team that can compete with Chelsea than in rewarding players for their performances in the first half of the season.

The biggest omissions among local players are Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee, one of the few L.A. players who has done well this season, and Chivas USA center backs Danny Califf and Rauwshan McKenzie.

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No Beckham fine, but two suspended

June, 1, 2012
David Beckham has escaped punishment after railing against referees following the Galaxy's last two Major League Soccer defeats, but others in L.A.'s midfield were punished for infractions.

The league's disciplinary committee Friday suspended Mike Magee and Michael Stephens one match and assessed undisclosed fines for deeds during the Galaxy's loss last weekend at Houston.

Read the full story at this link.

GALAXY: Heat takes toll, Dynamo collect

May, 26, 2012

Everything is beating up on the Galaxy these days, and it was the heat's turn Saturday afternoon. L.A. wilted in the Houston humidity and watched another early lead disappear to fall to the Dynamo, 2-1, in an MLS Cup rematch.

Edson Buddle ended a 2½-month drought with a fine goal in the 10th minute, but the Galaxy -- missing Juninho in addition to Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane -- offered little else aside from David Beckham set pieces as their winless streak reached seven games, longest in more than three years.

A bit of misfortune cost L.A. the first goal and Houston's set-piece supremacy paid off with the winner six minutes into the second half, and the Dynamo (4-3-4, 16 points) remained unbeaten in front of another sellout crowd at new BBVA Compass Stadium.

The Galaxy (3-8-2, 11 points), who will sit in the Western Conference cellar at least until their next league match June 17, have lost five of their last six games and are off to their worst 13-game start since 2006 and third-worst in club history. They've dropped more MLS games this season than in any of the past three full campaigns.

The heat -- 91 degrees with the index well into triple figures -- played the biggest role on the match, sapping both teams' energy, but more so the Galaxy, which isn't used to the climate. The game was virtually finished when Andre Hainault headed home Brad Davis' corner kick for a Dynamo advantage, and L.A., even with substitutions, was pressed just to keep up throughout the second half.

“Whoever scheduled these game in Houston at 3 o'clock in the afternoon doesn't know anything about the game,” Beckham told reporters afterward. “It's difficult both both teams, as much as they're used to playing in this heat, they're used to training in it. No one enjoys these games. ... It's not good for the fans, not good for the players.”

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena agreed.

“We should never be playing under these conditions,” he said. “The scheduling is poor. Teams playing on Wednesday [as the Galaxy did, losing to San Jose] shouldn't be traveling or playing teams that are rested on a Saturday in heat. We have to find a way to [deal with this] better. ...

“[When the league started] many years ago, we had these issues, playing early afternoon in the summer months, and it became obvious it was something we shouldn't be doing. ... We've tried to emphasize that. It's not understood yet, and, obviously, there are issues with television, but it's not fair to our teams under these circumstances. It's something that has to get corrected.”

The Galaxy came out strong, got the goal they needed, then watched everything slow down, at times to a crawl, just as expected.

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GALAXY: An awful end extends skid

May, 23, 2012

CARSON -- The Galaxy couldn't have felt much better about things as the clock hit 75 minutes Wednesday night: Their best performance of the season had been rewarded with a two-goal lead, and although they were down to 10 men, they were in control. Hold on another 15 minutes, plus a few more in stoppage, and they'd have their first victory in a month.

But in a season in which nearly everything that can go wrong has, L.A. found a new, most devastating way to fall, surrendering three goals over the final 20 minutes -- the last deep in stoppage -- to drop its fourth game in the last five, a 3-2 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes that left a lot of heads shaking.

Alan Gordon's header in the 94th minute delivered the knockout blow, handing the Galaxy their seventh league defeat, extending their winless streak to six games and leaving them in the Western Conference basement, 16 points off the lead.

“We played awful well tonight not to get something out of this game. It's a shame,” noted Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. “You make your own breaks, and tonight we were in position to get three points and really turned that game over.”

Bell Gardens' Hector Jimenez, making just his second MLS start, third league appearance and 2012 debut, scored a fine goal in the third minute to give L.A. an advantage but was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Steven Beitashour in the 59th minute, and the Galaxy (3-7-2, 11 points) -- dominant to that point -- watched everything change in a matter of minutes.

First, they doubled their lead, with Mike Magee taking a pass on the break from David Beckham, then beating Quakes defender Jason Hernandez and stepping past goalkeeper Jon Busch to fire into the goal's ceiling in the 73rd minute.

Three minutes later, Yorba Linda's Steven Lenhart got one back for San Jose, a near-post header from Marvin Chavez's corner kick, and the Quakes were on the front foot the rest of the way.

“We're ahead 2-0, I don't know how many minutes left,” Arena said. “Really a poor tactical approach on our behalf. We shouldn't get beat on a restart for a goal. That let them back in the game. And we can't lose the ball in our defensive half. We have to play the ball up the field, we have to pull in collectively as a group and defend with our 10 players and play the game out, get the three points and go home.”

Khari Stephenson tied the score in the 82nd minute, converting a penalty kick after Beckham handled the ball while leaping to block a drive by Hernandez. A turnover led to the winner, with Hernandez again pumping the ball into the box and Gordon, who scored equalizers in the 88th and 90th minutes of San Jose's last two games, escaped Sean Franklin's mark and soared above A.J. DeLaGarza to nod it into the net.

“I just was following up the play,” said Gordon, who played for the Galaxy from 2004 through 2010. “I think there may have been a little bit of hesitation on their part, and I was just seeing the play through. They hesitated, I didn't, I finished it. Forwards get lucky sometimes. I got lucky. Who cares? I put it in, end of story, period.”

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SUPERCLASICO: Best rivalry? Let's ask

May, 17, 2012

Barca vs RealLluis Gene/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry is one of many in the world that rank at the top of the list.

CARSON -- The Galaxy and Chivas USA renew their SuperClasico rivalry Saturday night at Home Depot Center, so what better time to weigh in on the best rivalries in soccer -- in MLS and around the world.

We asked a handful of players and coaches with both teams their thoughts on what matchups are the real Clasicos. Here's what they said.

There are so many classic derbies in world soccer, from Boca Juniors-River Plate (Argentina) to Inter Milan-AC Milan and Lazio-Roma (Italy), Tottenham-Arsenal and Liverpool-Everton (England) to Rangers-Celtic (Scotland), Real Madrid-Barcelona (Spain) to Galatasaray-Fenerbahçe (Turkey), America-Guadalajara (Mexico) to Red Star-Partizan (Serbia). There, that scratches the surface.

What's the best?

Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy: “The Real Madrid-Barça match has been pretty special the past few years. You don't want it to get diluted, because they play each other 12 times a year. Now that Manchester City is having their way in the English Premier League, them with Manchester City is pretty special. And I always like watching Tim Howard and Everton play against Liverpool.”

Galaxy midfielder Juninho: Brazil-Argentina.”

Chivas forward Juan Pablo Angel: Boca-River.”

Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza: “There's so many out there, man. Barcelona-Real is a pretty good one, I think. I think that one's got to be the top one.”

Chivas defender Ante Jazic: Barça-Real.”

Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan: Barcelona-Madrid.”

Chivas defender James Riley: “Ooh, that's a tough one. I think Celtic-Rangers has the best history, and Boca-River Plate. I would go with Celtic-Rangers.”

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GALAXY: Beckham makes things right

May, 12, 2012

The Galaxy offered a nice-sized view of what's been going wrong all year and a little of bit of where they want to be, and as bad as they began Saturday's visit to Montreal, they looked very good by the finish.

David Beckham scored on a second-half free kick as L.A. rallied from an early deficit for a 1-1 draw with the Impact, a result that can be considered fortuitous -- the Galaxy deserved absolutely nothing for its first 45 minutes -- or another in a long line of disappointments. Maybe a little of both.

The Galaxy (3-5-2, 11 points) might have scored four or five goals if not for the presence of their former goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who made huge diving stops on Landon Donovan and Marcelo Sarvas and shined in a quick sequence to deny Donovan and Robbie Keane to reward the Impact (3-5-3, 12 points) with a point.

“I think [we] played well in the second half, and I think the difference in the game was probably Ricketts, came up with some big saves for Montreal to keep them in the game,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said on the club's television broadcast. “I thought the way our guys went out in the second half and got after it and got the ball on the ground and started passing and moving, we were a different team.”

Might it be, finally, the stride forward that starts L.A. on the expected path following a horrendous first two months to the season marked by muddy, imprecise play, defensive miscues and struggles to match foes' intensity in battle?

“After the second half, yeah, I believe it is,” Beckham said on the Galaxy telecast. “Just because we worked hard. We're going through a tough time at the moment, where we're not getting the results, we're not getting the run of the green. But I think we've got character. We've got a lot of pride. I think we showed that in the second half, and we played a lot better. Hopefully, we can push on from here.”

The first half was a reminder of how bad things have been. The Galaxy, the numbers say, had a lot more of the ball, they just couldn't do anything with it. Montreal dominated the duels, continually built toward L.A.'s box and was in charge almost from the start, after Davy Arnaud delivered just eight minutes in.

It was another defensive error, or a couple of them, that led to the goal. Dan Keat, whom L.A. is converting from holding midfielder to central defender, got his chance in the middle -- it was his second first-team appearance this year and just his second MLS start in all -- and it didn't go smoothly.

Keat was caught flat-footed when A.J. DeLaGarza failed to adequately deal with a long ball from Impact defender Nelson Rivas, which bounced to Arnaud, who with just a couple of touches was past the New Zealander and honing in 1-on-1 with goalkeeper Brian Perk, an unexpected starter, who hesitated coming off his line. Arnaud's finish was precise.

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GALAXY: L.A. can't finish, takes the fifth

May, 5, 2012

Los Angeles Galaxy dejectionVictor Decolongon/Getty ImagesSaturday's loss to the Red Bulls has left the Galaxy continuing to search for answers.

CARSON -- The Galaxy lost five games all of the 2011 Major League Soccer season, and two of those were giveaways, with B sides sent in to absorb defeat in New York at the end of a insane stretch in early October and in the season finale at Houston a few weeks later.

They matched that total Sunday in just their ninth game, another hapless display in front of the net costing them plenty in a 1-0 defeat to the New York Red Bulls, who scored an early goal, then bunkered in and survived a second-half onslaught to escape with the points.

“It's a bit of a broken record,” head coach Bruce Arena said, then did his best impression, mentioning 11 times in eight minutes that the Galaxy had “enough chances to create [enough] goals” to win, or words to that effect. Chances are all well and good, but when they're not put away, things go wrong.

Things are going very wrong for L.A. (3-5-1, 10 points), which has lost three of six league home games and sit a dozen points -- four victories -- behind San Jose and Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference standings.

Ryan Meara made four big saves and the Red Bulls (5-3-1, 16 points) defended with vigor, but it's the Galaxy's lack of precision when it counts -- a recurring nightmare for them -- that's quickly defining what is developing into a deeply disappointing campaign.

“It's getting even more frustrating week after week ...,” said David Beckham, whose crosses into the box provided a good deal of the dozen decent opportunities the Galaxy found and quickly lost. “We keep saying we're not worried about it. It's got to come a point where we need to be worried about it, and we're close to that now.”

Joel Lindpere scored the goal for New York, striding through an open expanse and into the Galaxy box to collect a short pass from Jan Gunnar Solli and fire into the right-side netting. It was all that was required for the Red Bulls, who were missing six regulars -- injured Thierry Henry and Teemu Tainio and suspended Rafa Marquez the headliners -- and employed the expected tactics.

There wasn't a whole lot of space for L.A. to operate, and the sharpness needed to break down New York's 4-1-4-1 alignment wasn't forthcoming. The rookie Meara did well to repel an Edson Buddle header at the start, a Mike Magee shot to begin the second half, a tremendous Juninho blast in the 82nd minute and Landon Donovan's reflex shot from 12 yards in the 86th.

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GALAXY: B team beaten in Seattle

May, 2, 2012

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.”

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GALAXY: Are the Sounders a rival?

May, 1, 2012
The best team in Major League Soccer since the start of the 2009 season is the Galaxy. No. 2 is Seattle. They're consistently the best teams on the field -- they finished 1-2 in the Supporters' Shield standings last year -- and the organization set the standards off the field, too.

Sigi Schmid
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesSigi Schmid is soccer royalty in L.A. but now coaches the successful Sounders in Seattle.

There's been one huge showdown -- to open the 2010 playoffs, a two-game Galaxy sweep -- and one the towering presence of Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, who is soccer royalty in these parts after winning championships at UCLA and with the Galaxy. He's the only man with more MLS regular-season wins (161) than L.A. boss Bruce Arena (131).

Best talent in MLS: Galaxy, right? Except Seattle might have more.

It's a great and growing rivalry, or so the Sounders and their fans would have you believe, and close to 40,000 will be on hand to lend the appropriate atmosphere for Wednesday night's showdown at CenturyLink Field.

“It's a big game for us,” Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning told his team's website this week. “Especially because L.A. is the champion. Wednesday is a big test for us. Everybody is 100 percent motivated -- maybe even a bit more.”

The Galaxy (3-3-1) understand the importance, too -- big crowd, great opponent, possible six-point swing in the Western Conference's numbers count -- but do they consider the Sounders (4-1-1) to be a rival?

“I think we've developed a lot of rivalries in this league,” said midfielder Mike Magee. “I wouldn't say it's one of the bigger ones -- not to the level of us and Chivas [USA] -- but we've definitely had some heated matches. Felt at times they've had some choice words for our team. That's a hard place to play. When we go there, they definitely step up their level.”

Bruce Arena
Victor Decolongon/Getty ImagesBruce Arena says every MLS game the Galaxy play can be considered a rivalry game on some level.

Chivas is the big rival, taking over from the San Jose Earthquakes once it started competing for real in its second season, in 2006, but there are other games that elicit stronger feelings, owing if not to geography, then to a shared past. Or something else.

“I think every game we play in the league is a rivalry game ...,” Arena said. “What are you going to ask me on Thursday: 'Is [weekend opponent] New York a rival?' ”

Well, the Red Bulls are, sort of -- two biggest markets, all the Designated Players on both rosters, David Beckham and Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez's venom for Landon Donovan. It's a newer one, perhaps, falling into line after the Clasico with hated Chivas, the California Clasico with the Quakes (dismissingly called “Smurfs” by L.A. faithful) and perhaps stepping in front of the old rivalry with D.C. United, forged through two title-game meetings in MLS's the first four seasons.

“I don't buy into any of it,” Arena said. “I do think Chivas -- a team in the same facility, in the same community ... to me, we'd have a hard time arguing whether that's [not] a rivalry. All the others? They're all to different degrees rivalries. I think every club in the league, it's a rival.”

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GALAXY: On the spot with tight, tough win

April, 22, 2012

The Galaxy got the battle it expected in Saturday's Major League Soccer clash at Colorado -- more so once the Denver altitude had sapped their strength -- and everything it needed for success: expert defending (for the third straight game, too), clinical finishing (Marvell Wynne doing his part), and big plays when it mattered from the man in the nets.

It added up to a deserved 2-1 victory over the Rapids, who had most of the ball but not nearly as much of the game as they believed.

L.A. took another step toward its standard with a smart performance in difficult conditions, negating Omar Cummings' speed for long stretches, then huffing and puffing through an excruciating final half-hour after the Jamaican forward halved their advantage in the 63rd minute.

They needed great fortune to pull it off after referee Ramon Hernandez awarded the Rapids a phantom penalty in the final minute. Andre Akpan, leaping to get to ball over the top, fell to the turf under pressure from defenders David Junior Lopes and Todd Dunivant.

Perhaps there was incidental contact with Lopes. Hernandez thought he saw enough, although he was trailing the play by some distance, to point to the spot, assess a yellow card to Lopes, then stand back as Colorado -- with a chance to snatch a point -- unwrapped its gift.

Cummings' penalty was not particularly well-taken, and goalkeeper Josh Saunders leaped to easily knock it aside.

“Certainly a pretty hectic closing minutes of that game, with that call and everything else,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena told reporters afterward. “Absolutely remarkable. We're thankful we survived it.”

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