Los Angeles Soccer: Puerto Rico Islanders
The game originally was scheduled to be played Sunday, Sept. 16. and would have made the team's window to travel to Puerto Rico for a Sept. 19 game much smaller.
“We have made this decision, with the support of Major League Soccer and our opponents the Colorado Rapids, for purely competitive reasons,” Galaxy Vice President Chris Klein in a statement released by the team. “We want to position our team as best we can to be successful in our trip to Puerto Rico on September 19 to face the Islanders in the CONCACAF Champions League and felt that we would be more adequately prepared for that important game with two extra days of rest and training ahead of it.”
The trip to Puerto Rico will be the team's first road game in the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League.
That leaves no margin for error against Salvadoran powerhouse Isidro Metapan, the only club not from Mexico or Major League Soccer to reached the quarterfinals in the last competition, and Puerto Rico Islanders, a 2009 semifinalist who beat the Galaxy in the preliminary round in the 2010-11 tournament.
CONCACAF on Friday announced the matches for eight three-team, first-stage groups, with the first games -- one involving two-time defending champion Monterrey, from Mexico, and the other with Real Salt Lake visiting Costa Rica's Herediano -- set for July 31. Puerto Rico, which plays in American second-division North American Soccer League, claimed the final berth in the tournament Thursday by winning the third-place match at the Caribbean Football Union Club Championship.
The Galaxy have a bye in the first week and open their Group 5 schedule Aug. 23 at Home Depot Center against Metapan, then take on the Islanders at HDC on Aug. 29. They play Sept. 19 at Puerto Rico and Oct. 25 at Metapan.
L.A. will have no complaints about the delayed start: The friendly against Real Madrid is Aug. 2, during the first “match day,” and comes in a stretch of seven games in 23 days, including also the July 24 friendly against Tottenham.
CARSON -- Robbie Keane returned to training Friday with the Galaxy, just four days after wrapping up his involvement at the European Championship, and although he wishes he were in Ukraine preparing for a quarterfinal Saturday or Sunday, he says he's happy to be back.
And ready to go, should he be called upon for Saturday night's Major League Soccer clash with Vancouver at Home Depot Center.
“It's nice to be back amongst the lads and look forward to being involved tomorrow,” the Irish striker said following Friday's training session at HDC's Track and Field Stadium. “[I'm ready to] play as long as I can. I'd be happy to play 90 minutes.”
He's hoping to “get minutes under my belt tomorrow to sort of get all the stiffness out” as he looks to move on from a very disappointing Euro 2012 campaign. Ireland lost all three of its Group C matches, to Croatia, Italy and Spain, and finished last in the 16-nation tournament.
Asked what he takes from the Euros, Keane replied: “Nothing, really. It was a good experience. It was obviously great to play in the European Championship, but if you don't win ... sometimes you just have to hold your hand up and say the team you played were superior than you were. Simple as that, really.”
It was a frightful group for the Irish, who are capable battlers without the depth or talent of the continent's powers, a roster that includes the Spaniards -- defending European and World Cup champs -- and the Italians and, on occasion, the Croats, too.
The gap might be growing between decent teams, such as Ireland, and “people like Spain, who's probably on a different planet at the moment [from] anyone else I've ever played against,” Keane said. “You're just basically chasing shadows for 90 minutes.”
The only positive for Ireland was the Green Army supporters, a jovial lot who charmed everybody and won great plaudits for serenading their team with the Irish folk song “Fields of Athenry” as Spain rolled to a 4-0 victory Monday.
“That's normal for Irish fans,” Keane said. “They've been fantastic over the years, and especially in Poland I think they've been a credit to the country in the way they behaved and the way they supported the team. That's how every team should be supported.”
L.A., by winning last year's Major League Soccer Supporters' Shield, with the best regular-season record, is one of four top seeds for the 24-team tournament and will paired in the group stage with a No. 2 seed from Central America, with two more teams to arrive via a preliminary-round home-and-home series.
The Galaxy lost in last year's preliminary round to the Puerto Rico Islanders, who play in the North American Soccer League, American soccer's second division.
MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids and Mexico's two champions -- Monterrey and the winner of this week's Pumas UNAM-Morelia final in the spring Clausura -- also are top seeds. The other clubs advancing straight to the group stage are Alajuelense (Costa Rica), Comunicaciones (Guatemala), Real Espaņa (Honduras) and San Francisco (Panama).
MLS Cup runner-up FC Dallas, U.S. Open Cup champion Seattle Sounders, the Canadian Championship winner (Toronto FC or Vancouver FC) and Mexico's runners-up (Santos Laguna and the Pumas-Morelia loser) will play in the preliminary round, slated for June 26-28 and Aug. 2-4.
TORONTO -- This is where the Galaxy wanted to be, planned to be: In Canada's largest city, preparing for Sunday's MLS Cup title game, 90 minutes from the club's first Major League Soccer championship in five years.
The disappointment from last weekend's loss to FC Dallas in the Western Conference final slowly is ebbing away, replaced by a broader perspective of what the Galaxy accomplished over eight months and what will be required to reach next year's goal: winning the MLS Cup title, of course.
L.A. posted the best record during MLS's regular season (18-7-5) -- that would have meant the championship in most leagues on the planet -- it won the Western Conference title, claimed the Supporters' Shield for the third time (gaining entry to the group stage of next season's CONCACAF Champions League) and came just a handful of miraculous Kevin Hartman saves of reaching an MLS-record seventh title game.
All in all, not bad. Just not good enough.
“It hurts. There's only one team that's happy at the end of the year,” defender Todd Dunivant said a few days after FC Dallas' 3-0 triumph ended the Galaxy campaign. “It was a tough ending for us. We had every intention to get back to the Cup [after losing on penalties to Real Salt Lake in last year's final] and win it this year. But we've looked at the positives, too. We won the Supporters' Shield and qualified for the Champions League, so there are a lot of positives to take out of it.”
Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts acknowledges “it means a lot to lead the regular season. It's good. But in this league, it means nothing. Ultimately, you have to play the playoffs and get to MLS Cup. So the Supporters' Shield is only a consolation for me, personally.
“It's not bad we got some silverware. But that's not what I play for. I play for MLS Cup.”