No Beckham? No problem
Bruce Arena's Los Angeles Galaxy understand the importance of the bonds between a player and a former teammate.
Just ask Juan Pablo Angel and Landon Donovan, who, along with the G's, saw David Beckham off for a testimonial match for fellow Manchester United legend Gary Neville.
"That's what I've been talking about the whole year—the team is the whole squad, the 28, 30 players we have," Angel told MLSSoccer.com's Luis Bueno. "Those kinds of circumstances appear throughout the season and we have to have players that will step up."
Beckham and Neville were part of the Manchester United side that won the Treble of the UEFA Champions League, FA Cup and Premier League in 2000, along with a plethora of other silverware.
“For the rest of the world, testimonial games—especially for players who won everything for the club—are very, very important,” Ángel added. “It means a lot.
“Sometimes friendships don't come very often in this sport. You move back and forth to teams, you move from place to place and it's hard to just make friends. I believe that Gary is one of those close friends to David. Rightly so, he's going to be part of an important time and moment of Gary's life, and I think it's an honor for David just to be part of it.”
“You have to understand the unity that that group of players has,” Donovan said. “When I was at Everton talking to Phil Neville, you understand what a family they are.
"It may have been a case where David would have been rested anyway like we did a few weeks ago at Philadelphia and I know it was really important to him. We have no issue with it.”
Another tough stretch
After the match with Houston, Los Angeles travels to Boston to take on the New England Revolution on Saturday. The summer will be a gauntlet, with U.S. Open Cup action in June, friendlies against Real Madrid and Manchester United in July and CONCACAF Champions League action in August and September.
“I think for the most part our guys have done well,” Arena told LAGalaxy.com's Larry Morgan. “We could have had a few more points out of this whole thing this year, but for the most part we’ve done well. We just have to see if we can get through this week and get some results.
“It’s all touch and feel. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of science to it. You’ve just got to take it one game at a time and try and make decisions that make sense.”
According to Morgan, Arena pointed out that the 10-day East Coast trip earlier this season seemed to make sense more than anything.
“That was probably the best part of this whole schedule,” Arena added. “We’re on the east coast and then we get to play in what are almost local venues in Toronto and Chicago to follow. When we go across country it would be nice if we add another game instead of coming right back.
"We had to go to Philadelphia (on May 11) and then come right back and play Kansas City (May 14). My preference would be [go to] Philadelphia and D.C. or New York, whatever. That kills two birds with one stone.”
“We’d rather get these long trips out of the way than have them still to come,” said midfielder Chris Birchall. “You have to try and not think of it in a clump of games. It’s been hard on the body, and that’s where the strength and depth of the squad need to come in.”
“Sometimes when you play in a professional environment you get stretches like this," added goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, "but I think our coaches have managed it well. I think it’s taken a toll, but we can see the light so we keep on pushing. I'm good to go now."
Physical encounter on tap, says Angel, Donovan
Angel and Donovan expecting a tough, physical challenge from the Houston Dynamo tonight at Victoria Street.
“They're physical…We have to be ready for it,” Ángel told Luis Bueno. “We expect a physical game, and [we must] try to get three points. It’s important for us to continue with the winning mentality that we've had the last few games, getting the results at home.”
“Between [Geoff] Cameron and their two forwards, they have three horses who are very good in the air, attack the ball well and they've had a lot of success this year scoring goals,” Donovan said. “It’s going to be a tall task for us.”
Los Angeles defender Todd Dunivant credited the Houston midfield as the workhorses behind Houston's production.
“They have Colin Clark and Brad Davis serving balls in wide and it makes it real tough on the defense when you give them space and they get the service in to their big guys,” Dunivant said. “We have to do a good job of cutting off that service and being ready for those through balls.”
“[Houston are] in a little bit of a rebuilding stage,” Donovan added. “They've lost a few players over the last few years, but they're starting to get their identity back. You can see that they're getting more and more comfortable and they're playing well.
"They probably should have beaten New York last week so they're going to come in really with nothing to lose, and they're going to come in pretty confident.”
No Beckham? No problem