Los Angeles Soccer: Robbie Rogers
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.”
CARSON -- Josh Saunders had a blast in his return to the field last weekend, and he plans to be ready to go when the Galaxy's Major League Soccer schedule resumes in another week and a half.
Confirmation came down Thursday: The Galaxy goalkeeper, who spent a month dealing with stress in the league's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program, has been cleared to return to action.
Saunders made his first appearance since April 21 in Saturday night's MLS Reserve League game at Portland, and it was like he hadn't missed a day. He looked good in a 2-1 victory, conceding only on a penalty kick.
“It was amazing. Obviously, it was emotional,” he said following Thursday's training session, the Galaxy's first after five days off. “That's where I began my career, playing professionally [for the Timbers when they were a second-division team]. I had a lot of family and friends up there, so it was good to get out there in front of them.
“Just get back on the field, and it felt natural. It felt like it's what I'm supposed to be doing.”
Saunders entered the SABH program April 27 and had limited contact with his team before joining it May 15 at the White House to celebrate last year's MLS Cup championship with President Obama. He was back in training six days later, still returning each day to the program facility.
“I was under some stress. I was putting myself under a lot of pressure. I just needed to step away ...,” Saunders said on May 22. “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.”
He was cleared by doctors and apparently left the program before the game in Portland, and the Galaxy assumed -- but weren't certain -- that he was eligible to play for the first team. An MLS spokeswoman Thursday confirmed he has been reinstated.
He could make his return June 17 against Portland at Home Depot Center, the Galaxy's first game after MLS's two-weekend break for FIFA's international dates. That decision will be Bruce Arena's.
The winger from Palos Verdes and Huntington Beach (and Mater Dei High School), who darted to England after five seasons with the Columbus Crew, was taken off the field on a stretcher after knocking heads with Doncaster Rovers defender Tommy Spurr in second-half stoppage of Leeds' 3-2 English Championship victory Saturday.
He was taken to a hospital and diagnosed with a concussion.
Rogers, on his Twitter account, posted Sunday that he was “happy to have made my debut! Didn't know Mike Tyson was out on the field yesterday, out for a good few minutes.” Shortly after, he tweeted: “Concussions are no joke... Laying low for a few days. Thanks for everyone's concern and comments much appreciated!”
On Tuesday, Rogers tweeted that he was “feeling a lot better 2day... .. Lil walk around the city to get some fresh air is much needed.”
Rogers, who joined the second-tier club during the winter transfer window, made his debut in the 79th minute. It was the second time he'd been on the 18-man game roster since signing with the club on Jan. 10.
Robbie Rogers, the U.S. national team winger who grew up in the South Bay and Orange County, has signed with English second-division club Leeds United, pending approval of a work permit.
Rogers, 24, was out of contract after five seasons with the Columbus Crew and had been on trial at Elland Road. The deal would keep him at Leeds until 2014.
“He has been playing in the MLS, where he has done well, he wants to continue his career in Europe, and we believe he will make an impact here,” Leeds United manager Simon Grayson told his club's website. “As soon the work-permit business is complete, he will be an immediate part of our plans and have an opportunity with the first team.”
Rogers (Rancho Palos Verdes and Huntington Beach/Mater Dei HS) hasn't played in 75 percent of the U.S. national team's games -- he's a rising player within the team -- and Britain's labor department must sign off on a work permit.
“I am obviously extremely excited to be joining Leeds,” Rogers told Major League Soccer's website Wednesday. “I know that the work-permit process will not be easy, but I am very hopeful. These next few weeks I will have to work extremely hard to get fit and hopefully make my first appearance at Elland Road very soon.”
The 22-year-old midfielder, who played a prominent role in L.A.'s successes this season in Major League Soccer and the CONCACAF Champions League, earlier this week signed a three-year contract extension with the Brazilian giant, which had loaned him to the Galaxy the past two years.
The Galaxy had been trying to acquire Juninho, who in November said he wanted to stay in L.A.
Fabio Mello, the player's agent, told Brazil's Globo media group that the club plans to use Juninho in its first team “and we agreed for him to stay.”
Galaxy coach/general manager Bruce Arena has not responded to requests earlier this week for comment, and he was not available Thursday.
L.A. could lose both of its starting central midfielders in the space of a week. David Beckham, Juninho's partner in the middle, must decide whether to re-sign with the Galaxy or accept a lucrative offer from Paris Saint-Germain.
Arena already has lined up once replacement, acquiring Brazilian Marcelo Sarvas from Costa Rican power Alajuelense.
UPDATE (7:45 p.m.): Juninho has confirmed, via his Twitter account, that he will be playing for Sao Paulo. In successive posts, he tweeted, “I want to thank Galaxy and all of my fans for your kindness and support for the past two years that I was on the team” and “I will always have a place for you in my heart. I want to let you know that I have decided to re-sign with Sao Paulo fc.”
Sambafoot, a website covering Brazilian soccer, reports that Juninho, Beckham's midfield partner for the Galaxy, has signed a three-year contract extension with Sao Paulo FC.
Juninho, 22, spent the past two seasons with the Galaxy on loan from Sao Paulo, and there's no indication that another loan deal can't be done. The Galaxy had been seeking to purchase his contract, and Juninho last month expressed a desire to return to L.A.
“I'm very happy here,” he said a few days after the Galaxy's MLS Cup triumph over Houston. “This is a family right now, and after winning the cup, everybody is happy. I'm very secure here. I have my wife here and a lot of friends.”
Sao Paulo has not announced a deal on its website, and Galaxy coach/general manager Bruce Arena was not available for comment Tuesday.
Gonzalez, 23, the MLS Defender of the Year, has attracted attention in Mexico and in Europe, and Britain's Sky Sports reports that there “is major interest from the [English] Premier League.” Beckham, the report said, has helped, giving rave reviews of the defender in discussions with his contacts in the English game.
The best thing about the U.S. national team's 3-2 victory Tuesday in Slovenia -- and there were a lot of good things -- might have been the opening whistle. It gave U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra his 100th cap, a threshold only 11 American men had previously reached.
The central defender from Alta Loma (Alta Loma HS/UCLA) went the full 90 as the Yanks improved to 2-4-1 under Jurgen Klinsmann with their first victory in Europe in 3½ years.
Clint Dempsey forced a turnover that former Galaxy striker Edson Buddle finished from distance in the ninth minute, and Dempsey's header from Michael Bradley's corner kick restored the U.S. advantage in the 41st minute. Jozy Altidore converted a penalty kick two minutes later after Fabian Johnson was dragged down.
Tim Matavz's second goal of the night, in the 61st minute, pulled Slovenia closer.
Other L.A. area players seeing action were Bradley (Manhattan Beach), who started in midfield, and Maurice Edu (Fontana/Etiwanda HS) and Robbie Rogers (Palos Verdes and Huntington Beach/Mater Dei HS), who came off the bench.
Bocanegra debuted for the U.S. in December 2001 and has served as the team's captain since June 2007.
“It was a special night,” Klinsmann told reporters afterward. “The team was pumped up all day, and they wanted to do well for him.”
Five of the top seven on the all-time U.S. caps list are from Southern California -- Cobi Jones (Westlake Village/Westlake HS and UCLA), Landon Donovan (Redlands/Redlands East Valley HS), Marcelo Balboa (Cerritos/Cerritos HS), Paul Caligiuri (Diamond Bar/Walnut HS) and Eric Wynalda (Westlake Village/Westlake HS) -- and Bocanegra is joined at 100 caps by Joe-Max Moore (Irvine/Mission Viejo HS and UCLA).
U.S. Soccer has put together a “infographic” -- a poster, more or less -- commemorating Bocanegra's 100 maches, and a PDF is available for download.
U.S. CENTURY CLUB
(100 international appearances)
1. Cobi Jones 164
2. Landon Donovan 138
3. Jeff Agoos 134
4. Marcelo Balboa 128
5. Claudio Reyna 112
6. Paul Caligiuri 110
7. Eric Wynalda 106
8. Kasey Keller 102
9. Earnie Stewart 101
10. Carlos Bocanegra 100
Tony Meola 100
Joe-Max Moore 100
If the Galaxy advance Thursday night against New York, then beat Real Salt Lake in Sunday's Western Conference final, Landon Donovan will miss some of the preparations for the Nov. 20 MLS Cup title game.
Nothing out of the ordinary.
Donovan (Redlands/Redlands East Valley HS) would be the only player in the MLS Cup final -- or Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman, should the Utahns advance -- in Jurgen Klinsmann's roster for friendlies Nov. 11 against France in Saint-Denis and Nov. 15 against Slovenia in Ljubljana.
He might not make the trip to Slovenia. If he (or Beckerman) are in Major League Soccer's championship, he (or Beckerman) will be released following the game against France.
Only three other MLS players -- Columbus winger Robbie Rogers (Huntington Beach and Palos Verdes/Mater Dei HS), FC Dallas winger Brek Shea and D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid --- are in the 22-man group, which gathers Monday in Paris.
U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra (Alta Loma/Alta Loma HS and UCLA) would reach 100 caps with appearances in both games. Other locals on the roster are defender Michael Orozco Fiscal (Orange/Magnolia HS) and midfielders Maurice Edu (Fontana/Etiwanda HS) and Michael Bradley (Manhattan Beach). Former Galaxy striker Edson Buddle also is included.
Ric Tapia/Icon SMI
Costa Rica's Michael Umana (4) and Jose Torres of the U.S. match up during the friendly at the Home Depot Center in Carson on Friday night.
That was Jurgen Klinsmann's take, more or less, following a 1-0 loss to the Ticos, who absorbed heavy pressure -- especially in the first half-hour -- and found chances through counterattacks, with Rodney Wallace finishing one of them in the 65th minute.
The U.S. didn't get a shot on goal in the first half and lacked killer instinct in front of the net. If the Yanks deserved more from this outing, they didn't do enough to get it.
“Bad result,” said Klinsmann, who suffered his first loss as U.S. coach. “Never like to lose a game, but very good performance. I was pleased with the performance. I was pleased with the way all the players tried to implement all the work that we did on the training field throughout the week. ... From a performance point of view, it was very, very positive, what we saw.”
What were the positives? Here are three:
1. CONNECTIONS: The U.S. moved the ball well and interchanged successfully in midfield, especially, more so at game's start than in the second half. Playing out of what amounted to a 4-1-4-1 formation -- with Landon Donovan and Jose Francisco Torres above Maurice Edu in a midfield triangle and Robbie Rogers and Brek Shea on the flanks -- the U.S. created pretty patterns between midfield and the Ticos' box.
ROBBIE ROGERS (Palos Verdes/Huntington Beach)
A-: The Columbus Crew winger made a huge impression off the bench, scoring one goal (on an easy-as-can-be tap-in from Brek Shea's ball across the goalmouth) and speeding past Mexico's defense en route to what might have been another -- and should have been a red card when he was dragged down by Gerardo Torrado.
LANDON DONOVAN (Redlands)
B+: The Galaxy attacker, stationed in his usual post on the right, got better as the game went on, was the Americans' most consistent attacker and was pivotal in their late dominance. Should have been rewarded with what would have been a winning penalty kick in the 78th minute.
CARLOS BOCANEGRA (Alta Loma)
B+: Edgar Castillo's nightmare at left back might have been cause to move the U.S. captain back to the flank, but he's at his best in the middle -- and was solid marshaling a backline while flanked by two rookies, more or less. He'd have a goal, too, if not for Guillermo Ochoa's diving, slapping save 10 minutes into the second half.
MICHAEL BRADLEY (Manhattan Beach)
B: Lot of eyes on former head coach Bob Bradley's son, who was fine in central midfield even though out of position -- in an attacking role that at times seemed beyond him. But he was always involved, and his inability to stop Oribe Peralta on Mexico's goal can be forgiven.
MICHAEL OROZCO FISCAL (Orange)
C+: The Mexico-based defender's surprise call-up was followed by an even more surprising assignment next to Bocanegra in central defense. He was a little too aggressive early on, quite understandable, and had some fine moments, although not enough to warrant first-choice consideration.
JURGEN KLINSMANN (Huntington Beach)
B+: The result wasn't bad, although it mattered not at all, and not all of the decisions worked quite as planned, but a decent start for the new U.S. coach, whose spirit on the sidelines, in dealings with his players and when addressing the media is certainly infectious.
Columbus Crew winger Robbie Rogers is in, Rangers FC midfielder Maurice Edu is out for the U.S. friendly against Mexico in Philadelphia.
Rogers (Huntington Beach and Palos Verdes/Mater Dei HS), who was on the preliminary roster for last year's World Cup, was called in Sunday after Edu (Fontana/Etiwanda HS) sustained a calf strain in the Scottish champions' friendly Saturday against Chelsea.
FC Dallas defender Zach Loyd earlier replaced FC Nürnberg defender Timothy Chandler, who pulled out of the game with an injury.
Galaxy forward Juan Pablo Angel, who frankly hasn't played to an all-star standard in the season's first three months, was the biggest omission on the list of those eligible for the July 27 clash against Manchester United at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
Also not on the list, and most deserving, is Galaxy left back Todd Dunivant.
The Galaxy's ballot sextet is goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, defenders Sean Franklin and Omar Gonzalez, midfielders David Beckham and Juninho, and forward/midfielder Landon Donovan.
Chivas' six: goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, defenders Ante Jazic and Heath Pearce, midfielder Nick LaBrocca, and forwards Justin Braun and Alejandro Moreno. The biggest Goats omission is forward Marcos Mondaini; would-be finalists Jimmy Conrad, Blair Gavin and Paulo Nagamura have missed almost all of the campaign through injury.
In addition to Franklin (Palmdale/Highland HS and Cal State Northridge), Donovan (Redlands/Redlands East Valley HS) and Kennedy (Yorba Linda/El Dorado HS and UC Santa Barbara), nine players from the L.A. area and another who attended college here are on the ballot:
- FC Dallas goalkeepers Kevin Hartman (Palos Verdes/Peninsula HS and Cal State Dominguez Hills/UCLA)
- New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis (Mission Viejo/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and UCLA) and midfielder Benny Feilhaber (Irvine/Northwood HS and UCLA)
- Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS and UCLA)
- Philadelphia defender Danny Califf (Orange/Orange HS)
- Columbus defender Chad Marshall (Riverside/Rubidoux HS) and midfielder Robbie Rogers (Palos Verdes and Huntington Beach/Mater Dei HS)
- D.C. United midfielder Chris Pontius (Yorba Linda/Servite HS and UC Santa Barbara)
- Sporting Kansas City forward/midfielder Kei Kamara (Lawndale/Leuzinger HS and Cal State Dominguez Hills)
- Seattle midfielder Brad Evans (UC Irvine)
The L.A. area has been well-represented on U.S. national team rosters throughout the modern era (say, from Paul Caligiuri's “shot heard 'round the world” in 1989), and the CONCACAF Gold Cup roster Manhattan Beach-based head coach Bob Bradley unveiled Monday was no different.
Nine of the 23 players chosen for the region's June 5-25 nations championship have Southland ties. Eight of them -- all but the coach's son -- are natives.
The U.S. opens Group C play June 7 against Canada in Detroit, then meets Panama on June 11 in Tampa, Fla., and Guadeloupe on June 14 in Kansas City, Kan.
The June 25 final, with great anticipation for a U.S.-Mexico showdown, will be played at the Rose Bowl.
Locals on the U.S. roster:
- Galaxy captain Landon Donovan (Redlands), a wing-midfielder and the all-time U.S. goals leader with 45.
- U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra (Alta Loma), the France-based first-choice left back.
- Scotland-based Maurice Edu (Fontana), a likely starter in central midfield.
- Former Chivas USA star Sacha Kljestan (Huntington Beach), an attacking midfielder who plays in Belgium.
- Former Chivas USA star Jonathan Bornstein (Los Alamitos), who plays in Mexico and is Bocanegra's top backup.
- New England Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber (Irvine), who moved to MLS last month after playing in Germany, England and Denmark.
- Columbus Crew winger Robbie Rogers (Palos Verdes/Huntington Beach), one of the big surprises on the list.
- Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Montclair)
- England-based central midfielder Michael Bradley (Manhattan Beach), the son of the head coach.
All but Kljestan and Rimando were on the World Cup team in South Africa last year.
Chivas USA's injury crisis and tentative start to its new era has forged a deeper side with more options in every sense, and the Goats hope -- no, expect -- to take a big step forward in Saturday night's Home Depot Center clash with the Columbus Crew.
Coach Robin Fraser and his staff have been forced to juggle things, especially on the backline, and their solutions have worked mostly. Michael Lahoud has slid seamlessly into the right-back slot -- “I think he's tailor-made to be an outside back,” Fraser says -- and Heath Pearce, in last week's draw in Toronto, took to center back like an old hand.
Pearce, a natural left back who has been the Goats' starting right back, has played in Europe and for the U.S. national team -- he was on the U.S.'s 30-man preliminary World Cup roster last year -- and so he understands the game. Perhaps it's not so surprising that he's adapted to the new position, one he says he'd previously played only in a couple of training sessions with the national team, without the least struggle.
“As left or right back, you're playing next to a center back, and it's imperative that you know the center-back position to understand where you're supposed to be,” said Pearce, who was acquired in a preseason trade from FC Dallas. “So I don't think the learning curve is that big. It's a position I'm definitely comfortable with. Anywhere that they feel that I can help the team the most, I'm willing to do that.”
Fraser said the move sparked signs of leadership from Pearce that he's been waiting to see emerge.
“A player in his situation isn't going to step in an impose himself. He's going to learn the lay of the land and that sort of thing,” Fraser said. “I think he'd been through enough situatioins where he's starting to recognize the leadership void that we have had. And I'll tell you, the second he jumped into center back, it's almost like he slid into the driver's seat.”
Chivas (0-2-1) gets rookie Zarek Valentin back from the U.S. under-20 national team. He started the opener at center back before leaving for the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, but it's uncertain that he'll start against Columbus. Backline leader Jimmy Conrad remains out with a concussion.
MARSHALL'S MENTOR: Fraser and Crew defender Chad Marshall, who's from Riverside, teamed together for Columbus in 2004 (Marshall's rookie year) and 2005 (Fraser's final season). Fraser, who was MLS's 2004 Defender of the Year, served as a mentor to the big, young center back.
The league boosted its playoff participants to 10 teams with the addition of two single-game wild-card showdowns, which should be welcomed by Chivas and Columbus, Chicago and D.C., K.C. and New England, even Toronto FC.
The Galaxy and the like? Are you kidding?
Here's how the postseason works this year:
This system will cut down on all that confusing cross-conference movement in the playoffs, which led to an all-West showdown in last year's Eastern Conference final, an Eastern Conference title (en route to MLS Cup glory) by Real Salt Lake in 2009, and a Western championship by New York in 2008.
Had this system been in place last year, K.C. would have been the No. 3 seed in the East and opened against Columbus, which the then-Wizards might have won. Which would have left them 90 minutes from MLS Cup.
One wild-card battle would have matched Colorado against San Jose. ... Hey, they did play -- in the Eastern Conference final. The Rapids prevailed, then won the MLS Cup crown. (The other wild-card matchup would have been Seattle-Chicago; the Galaxy likely would have opened against Colorado.)
MLS has had eight playoff teams since its 1996 start, when there were only 10 clubs. As the league slowly grew to 16 teams by 2010, eight playoff berths seemed sufficient. Portland and Vancouver make for 18 teams this season and Montreal for 19 next year, and eight still sounds perfect.
L.A. would have reached the 2006 playoffs had this format been in place, but nothing could have saved the Galaxy in 2007 and 2008. And forget Chivas last year or in 2005.