Los Angeles Galaxy Ins and Outs, Feb. 23, 2011

Jo-Ryan SalazarSenior Analyst IFebruary 23, 2011

Two out of three ain't bad

Bruce Arena's Los Angeles Galaxy ended their Arizona training camp with a 2-0 victory over Teitur Thordarsson's Vancouver Whitecaps to improve their MLS preseason record to 2-1-2.

Adam Cristman opened the scoring off the delivery from Argentinean Miguel Lopez in the 58th minute. Then in the 74th minute, Hector Jimenez found Chad Barrett for the final margin.

“We’re pleased with the progress that the entire group is making, being where we are in preseason,” Galaxy assistant coach Curt Onalfo told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday. “Having said that, we know that we need to, as we head into the last phase of our preseason, fine-tune things even more and make sure that we continue to get better each day.”

Despite the starters playing the first match and the backups playing the second, Onalfo did have an intention to make it as such.

“Part of preseason—especially when you have a lot of new players—is to make evaluations and try to figure out what the best combinations are and try different sorts of things," Onalfo said. "For us, it’s a continuing evolution of us evaluating the group, seeing guys in different positions so that we can make sure that we have what we feel is a very competitive team to start the season.

“We got ourselves away from Los Angeles for a period of time and it’s a great time to team-build and bond as a group off the field and on the field, make sure we move along physically to continue to get better from a physical standpoint, from a technical standpoint and a tactical standpoint. We certainly achieved what we wanted to so, from that standpoint, we would certainly say it was successful.”

With the team returning to Los Angeles today, the Galaxy will resume training on Thursday ahead of their final preseason game, the San Diego Clasico against Tijuana on Wednesday, Mar. 2. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT/10:00 p.m. ET.

Read to achieve...

Local schools from Carson, Compton, Gardena, Long Beach, Lomita, Lynwood, Torrance and Beach cities’ elementary schools are invited to participate in the third annual Reading Garden Challenge, a joint initiative of the Los Angeles Galaxy Foundation, The Home Depot Center Charitable Foundation and The Home Depot.

The Reading Garden Challenge encourages schools and students (grades K-5) to focus on Earth Day by reading Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax and creating 8.5” x 11” posters based on one of the following environmentally friendly themes: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, Save a Tree, Don’t Waste Water, and Conserve Energy.

The top five schools with the most posters submitted reflecting the themes will be entered into a random drawing conducted by the LA Galaxy Foundation, The Home Depot Center Charitable Foundation and The Home Depot to have a Reading Garden built at their school.

More info can be seen here.



The new playoff system

Earlier today, Major League Soccer unveiled its long-awaited revamped postseason structure for the 2011 season on Wednesday, giving 10 teams the chance to vie for MLS Cup in a unique twist on the league’s format from the last two seasons.

The league’s new structure will include the top three seeds from each conference and four wild-card berths—regardless of conference affiliation—but the postseason will now include two play-in games for those wild-card teams.

"While some will say that expanding the playoff field dilutes the regular season, we believe that in a certain way, it actually enhances it,” said Nelson Rodriguez, MLS executive vice president of competition and game operations. “It will mean that the battle and the race for the playoffs will have added intensity and last longer through the regular season. And that, on balance, should be a good thing for the play on the field, and for the fans in the stands and at home.”

How does this work? Well, the seventh seed will host the 10th seed while the eighth seed hosts the ninth seed in a one-off playoff game to reach the final eight. The lowest remaining team will then meet the regular-season Supporters’ Shield winner and the second-lowest remaining seed will meet the other conference champion in the Conference Semifinals.

“It’s the essence of rewarding regular-season performance,” Rodriguez said. “And as we look to the future, we need to continue to construct a playoff format that confers benefit to those teams that do well over a long season."

This system ensures that the Supporters’ Shield winner will play the lowest-seeded team available in the Conference Semifinals—a luxury not necessarily awarded to the regular season’s top team in the past. This also reduces conference crossover.

“We’ve eliminated the possibility of having two out-of-conference teams competing for a conference championship,” Rodriguez added. “And we’ve decreased the likelihood of an out-of-conference team winning an out-of-conference championship.

“In the end, we took the course that rewarding regular-season performance and pitting the No. 1 seed against the worst advancing wild card was more important."

However, the system has its drawbacks. The Supporters' Shield winner is faced with a long travel haul when playing a cross-conference game in the opening leg of the conference semis.

“There are so many variables that any system is imperfect in that regard,” Rodriguez said. “You could be facing the lowest-remaining seed who’s on a 10-game winning streak to close the season and they’re the hottest team in the league. … Any playoff system has within it, some fault or a flaw that could easily be pointed to.

“At the end of the day, you try to create a playoff system that is fair and relatable to the regular season,” Rodriguez said. “And also one that is a compelling format in and of itself. We think this iteration is an improvement over the last and we will spend the next bit of time trying to finalize a long-term playoff situation that can take us into the future.”

An announcement for the location of the MLS Cup will take place later this year.

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