Bruce Arena's Los Angeles Galaxy could have been in contention for a CONCACAF Champions League title and a US Open Cup.
But pratfalls in Tukwila against the Seattle Sounders and the Home Depot Center against the Puerto Rico Islanders put the Galaxy on Easy Street.
And while the opponents the Galaxy will face are not pushovers by any stretch of the imagination (a road contest against the Chicago Fire, combined with homestands against the Columbus Crew and New York Red Bulls are still on the cards), a manageable calendar is a manageable calendar. It's what we informally call a breath of fresh air.
“It’s strange,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said on the reduced slate of remaining matches. “Our schedule suddenly went from crazy-hectic to pretty good. Now we have one game a week from here on out. We’ve played as many games as any team in the league. It’s going to set up well. I think we only have four more road trips. The league is definitely our focus now."
"You want to win those competitions [like the US Open Cup], you want to do well, but when you’re out, that’s definitely less games. Especially the Champions [League]; that’s six games that would have been jammed into the second half of our year."
“No question about it, we wanted to be there, but when you’re out, you look at the bright side and say, ‘Our schedule is a lot more favorable.’”
Of course, if the G's do win the MLS Cup, at least they will not have to deal with those opportunistic Islanders until the group stages of the 2011-12 edition.
“[The Supporters’ Shield] is in our sights,” Dunivant added. “We’ve kind of been in first all year and we don’t want to relinquish that. Now you look at other teams that will have those [Champions League] games – that should be an advantage for us.”
The Galaxy take on the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, August 21 at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. PT and will be televised locally by Fox Sports West and Telefutura.
INS AND OUTS:
A.J. or the highway!
Galaxy defender A.J. De La Garza has been earning his stripes, according to Arena. The second-year man out of Maryland has filled the shoes of Todd Dunivant quite nicely in stifling the chances of players like the Red Bulls' Dane Richards in LA's 1-0 shutout win.
“When there is an opportunity to get him on the field, we want to get him on the field,” Arena said of De La Garza. “He does give us a lot of versatility in the back. He’s been great.”
De La Garza started 21 games on the right and left sides of the Galaxy defense as a rookie in 2009 and has also been used in central defense so far this season.
“I was surprised it happened so late,” DeLaGarza said regarding the start against New York. “I don’t know whether this is something that had been bothering Todd for a while. It was something that wasn’t expected but I was real excited for it."
“At first, I wasn’t that comfortable using my left foot, but after I got a few touches and settled in the game I was all right. I felt good.”
Assistant coach Dave Sarachan was equally pleased with De La Garza's performance.
“The first thing about A.J. is he’s a defender and knows what his job is,” Sarachan said during training. “Whether you play him in the middle, right or left he understands the defending concepts. As far as the pure defending goes, the alertness and the awareness, we didn’t hesitate to use him there."
"[De La Garza] understands what it means to be a professional every day. He comes to work every day; even though he’s a young player his background put him in the position to where he didn’t miss a beat at this level. When you come and work every day and hone your craft, only good things will happen. For a kid like that, it’s sort of proven out.”
Don't be surprised to see De La Garza make an impact on the backline during the 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs should they punch their ticket later this season.
On the topic of Un-Designated Success...
The 2010 Major League Soccer transfer window was a hectic whirlwind for the rest of the league.
D.C. United took a gamble on Montenegrin Branko Boskovic, Toronto FC welcome Spaniard Mista. The Chicago Fire saw Nery Castillo enter the fray. The Seattle Sounders sgined Uruguayan Alvaro Fernandez and Swiss international Blaise Nkufo to deals.
The San Jose Earthquakes brought in Brazilian Geovanni. Omar Bravo will be playing in the strip of the Kansas City Wizards next year. And the New York Red Bulls are hoping to make a come back into contention for the big postseason prizes in the duo of Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez.
As for the Los Angeles Galaxy, well...they chose to thumb their noses at signing new DPs. After all, they already have their star DP in local product Landon Donovan and David Beckham is inching closer to match fitness.
Plus, they are still at the top of the overall ladder, so if it ain't broke, why fix it?
Then again, the defending MLS Cup champs Real Salt Lake also won without designated players and are chasing the Galaxy for the Supporters' Shield.
So, yes, teams in MLS don't really need to go the DP route to gain leverage on the competition. Or at least purchase new ones.
Case in point: RSL and the G's.
Bruce Almighty still feeling the bite?
One week after induction into the US Soccer Hall of Fame, Arena was still feeling the effects of dengue fever.
“It’s likely that. I was obviously bit by an infected mosquito,” Arena said after training. “The blood work is still days away but that’s most likely the case."
“It certainly wasn’t the flu – I can promise you that. You're very ill. You have no appetite. You’re exhausted. You have fevers. The other part of it is that if it’s not caught appropriately, it impacts some of your major organs. It impacts your liver as the starting point, and that’s not ever good."
“I’m already treated for it. That mosquito is probably dead anyway, the one that bit me. I have the medication in me for that particular...fever and a couple of others that they’ve concluded are probably the culprit. It will be like any other flu or fever at this point, that it’ll take you a couple of days to recover. It shouldn’t have any long-term effects."
“Those things happen. I got the one mosquito that was infected in Puerto Rico. I got the one in a million.”
Get well soon, Bruce. After all, optimists with a savvy for managing teams the right way are Hall of Fame material.
In fact, when this does follow the route of King Solomon, the medical minds and moguls of the world may need to consider placing him in the Dengue Fever Survivor Hall of Fame.
A little resume booster, if you will forgive the bad puns...