It won't be long before tailgaters turn up the grill for the college football and National Football League seasons. As for Major League Soccer, the race for the Supporters' Shield is heating up, and in the middle of it all are Bruce Arena's Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Galaxy are currently MLS's best team with a 13-4-4 record (43 points) and will have seven of their final nine games at home.
“It’s good,” Arena said during practice. “It’s been a long haul. We’ve been on the road a lot this year. It’s been tough and hopefully we can take advantage of our home games and win [them].”
Since early June, the Galaxy have been 2-3-1, and the need for consistency could not be emphasized any further.
“We’ve just got to tighten up the screws, I guess,” said forward Edson Buddle. “We have some time to get things right before the playoffs.”
"One of our advantages all year is being able to just look at the game that’s ahead of us. For us, that puts the most emphasis on Kansas City,” midfielder Chris Klein said during training. “When you look at the schedule and see the amount of games at home, I think that makes this game that much more important … to gain that confidence at home.
“Where we are right now, one of our clear goals is to win the Supporters’ Shield. When you do that, if you get out of that first round of the playoffs, you’re guaranteed home-field advantage again. The time is now for us to start establishing the Home Depot Center as a place where no team wants to come and play.”
With Columbus and Real Salt Lake having playing 11 home games in the 2010 MLS regular season, all signs point to the G's taking advantage of a golden home-cooking opportunity. But will it pay off this time? Stay tuned.
INS & OUTS
Michael Stephens...the next great Rookie?
Galaxy midfielder Michael Stephens may be on the outside looking in when compared to Philadelphia’s Danny Mwanga, New England’s Zack Schilawski, D.C. United’s Andy Najar and New York’s Tim Ream in the race for the MLS Rookie of the Year Award.
But don't tell that to his peers.'
“It wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone to see him get it,” midfielder Chris Birchall said.
Forward Mike Magee echoed the same sentiments.
“One hundred percent,” Magee said. “I’ve known what kind of guy he is and what kind of player he is. For him to come in right away and do what he’s done is pretty freakish.
“It’s a good time for him.”
As for Stephens, all the right chips seem to fall in all the right place.
“Coming into the season my first goal was to get playing time,” Stephens said. “You never know what’s going to happen when you go into a new environment, especially such a big jump from college to the professional game, but I’ve worked hard and prepared myself very well and I’m happy with where I’m at right now.”
As the old Spanish adage goes, Que sera, sera.
Donovan close to another milestone
Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan is one goal away from tying the club record for most regular season goals in Galaxy history.
Current assistant coach Cobi Jones had 70 goals in his 12-year career. Since 2005, Landon has scored 69 in the regular season. However, when including the MLS Cup Playoffs and MLS Cup, the Champions League/Champions Cup, the SuperLiga, and the U.S. Open Cup matches, Donovan already has scored the most goals in club history with 87.
Here's hoping for a penalty conversion, No. 10.
Dunivant is back...and Bowen too!
Not only was defender Todd Dunivant back training with the Galaxy after suffering neck and back spasms, but so was forward Tristan Bowen, who recovered from flu-like symptoms.
“I had a rib out of place and I couldn’t breathe the last two weeks,” Dunivant said on his injury during training. “I had a little bit of it before the (Real) Madrid game but I kind of played through it. It finally got to the point where it was so bad I could hardly lay down.
“Something like this makes you appreciate your health. You take it for granted sometimes, but it’s our livelihood and if you don’t have it, it makes all the difference in the world. It was difficult watching the two games."
“I still have a little shortness of breath,” Bowen said, “but you just have to keep going at it. I haven’t been sick in about six or seven months. I guess it just caught up with me.”
Midfielder David Beckham will be removed from the Disabled List after Saturday's match against the Kansas City Wizards at the Home Depot Center. Also out this week is defender Gregg Berhalter, who is also recovering from a viral infection.