At Ease, Captain...
Los Angeles Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, was given time to recuperate from a grueling set of friendlies for the U.S. Men's National Team, who drew 1-1 with Argentina and lost 1-0 to Paraguay.
"Landon's getting a little rest," said manager Bruce Arena to MLSSoccer.com's Luis Bueno after Wednesday's practice session. “He had a long week last week, with two international [games] and the Philly game. He doesn't need to be out here."
The team leaves Los Angeles today for a 10-day road trip which includes matches against D.C. United, Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire.
Before Arena and assistant coach Dave Sarachan decided to give Donovan the start against the Philadelphia Union (whom they defeated 1-0 last Saturday), they both weighed their options.
"We could have kept him out of the Philly game or just given him some rest this week," Arena said.
"It’s early in the year where we can be more cautious," Sarachan added. "We're hopeful [that he will be in the lineup this weekend]. We’re kind of seeing where that all plays out, but we hope he is [in the lineup]."
Will the G's dominate the East again?
Last year, the Los Angeles Galaxy had been getting their way against the MLS Eastern Conference on the road, in spite of dropping a few matches here and there.
Can they do it again?
"Personally, it’s important just to get these road trips out of the way," said goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to LAGalaxy.com's Larry Morgan. "On the soccer side, it’s going to be a test."
Los Angeles faces D.C. United this Saturday. They will then clash with Toronto FC on Wednesday, April 13 before battling the Chicago Fire on Saturday, April 16. Victories from all three matches are sure to send a statement throughout the league.
"D.C.’s never an easy place to play in," Arena said. "Being able to beat the heat and humidity this time around is not bad. We’ve been there in July and August the last couple of seasons, I think, and it’s been unbearable. The conditions should be a little bit better."
The Galaxy manager had no complaints about the tough schedule LA faced early.
"We’re in a marketplace where I would have kept us home early," Arena said. "But it is what it is. Then we play in Salt Lake in those conditions at altitude on a fixture date (the U.S. played Argentina that day). That, to me, doesn’t make any sense, but it is what it is. I have enough headaches besides scheduling."
Los Angeles comes into the match against D.C. without the services of Chris Birchall, who was sent off in last Saturday's match against the Union.
"By game three," Arena said, "there’s going to have to be some changes in our lineup. We’re going to have to use more than 11 players, for sure.
"It’ll be interesting to see how we rotate players, and everything will depend on results, injuries, suspensions and conditions. The players need to step in and produce. It’ll be interesting to see."
"Last year, I think our road record was phenomenal," said defender Todd Dunivant. "It might have been better than our home record, I’m not sure.
"We’ve been a good road team the last couple of years and we’ve got a good track record on the road. That’s a good sign going into this trip."
Return of the Big Cat from Montego Bay
Donovan Ricketts' grand return to the starting lineup was punctuated by a 1-0 shutout of the Philadelphia Union at the Home Depot Center on Saturday.
"I was in no rush," Ricketts said to MLSSoccer.com's Luis Bueno. "[Backup goalkeeper] Josh [Saunders] is a good goalkeeper. He did his thing and I took my time, and I’m back."
Arena also noted that the return of Omar Gonzalez turned the fortunes around last week.
"We like to think we have a deep team, but it’s hard to replace your top players," Arena said. "We’ve been without some of them for a number of games and it hasn’t been easy. You see a little bit of a difference with Donovan and Omar in there."
For Ricketts, it was all about continuity, as well as consistency from the back line.
"I’ve been playing for years, so it’s OK," Ricketts said. "Once I get back on, I just get right back in the groove.
“We played pretty solid. As you see, I didn’t have much to do. They didn’t let a ball go through. I like nights like [that]."
Ricketts also credited his own personal tactics as instrumental parts of the result over at Victoria Street.
"I just tried to talk to the back four, yell at the midfield just to keep in touch with the game so I don’t fall asleep," Ricketts added.
At Ease, Captain...