Kick Off: Ahead of Clasico, Galaxy simply "playing better"

Bruce Arena

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Leave it to that sound-bite genius Bruce Arena to perfectly explain the LA Galaxy’s recent success.

"[We’re] just playing better," the club’s manager said. "It's as simple as that. You can make these things all complicated, but at the end of the day it's about how you're playing.”

The Galaxy will next take that better form up the coast to face the San Jose Earthquakes in Saturday’s California Clasico (10 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com). The first-place Earthquakes must be considered the favorites, but the visiting Galaxy come in on a three-game winning streak, and it’s all very confusing for one longtime MLS observer.

Nothing confusing about the torrid form of the rejuvenated Landon Donovan. “You’ve got to keep an eye on him at all times,” Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop said.

The Galaxy will have to keep an eye on Golden Boot leader Chris Wondolowski, of course, but the entire Quakes team seems to be operating as a cohesive unit these days. With good reason. "We hang out in social settings,” Yallop said. “I think that makes a difference when you go on the field. We like each other."

Before Saturday’s big West Coast clash, though, there is a Midwest battle. Friday night, Sporting Kansas City host the Chicago Fire at Livestrong Sporting Park (8:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).

The Fire will not have playmaker Sebastián Grazzini for the match, but they will have him for the rest of the season after picking up his option. Managing Director Javier Leon explained the reason why there was even a debate.

Sporting are “a little banged up,” but they confident they “can handle it.” If they get the win, they will take over first place in the Eastern Conference.

The current East leaders, D.C. United, added another attacker on Thursday, as the transfer window opened. Chinese striker Long Tan arrives at RFK after a much-publicized Twitter fail in Vancouver. Tan is eligible to debut when United host Montreal on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).

Speaking of Twitter, it’s hard to imagine CNN talk-show host Piers Morgan realized what he was getting into when he tweeted about David Beckham and the LA Galaxy. Both Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl and FoxSoccer.com’s Ives Galaracep had some choice words for him.

Seattle general manager Adrian Hanauer had some choice words for his Sounders, who are winless in their last seven MLS matches and under fire after a few on-field incidents: “This is not Seattle Sounders soccer and we’re not going to tolerate it unless it changes.”

One of those incidents was a postgame scuffle after a US Open Cup win at San Jose on Tuesday. Head coach Sigi Schmid is still disappointed about the entire episode. “It’s important for us to maintain our composure," he said. "But when somebody kicks you, your first reaction is to kick them back at some point.” The Sounders are on the road at New England on Saturday (8 pm ET, MLS LIVE).

Neutrals weren’t disappointed with the massive tifo display the Portland Timbers fans unveiled before last weekend’s match against Seattle. Well, maybe the Sounders fans. It seems there is a raging tifo war between the Timbers and Sounders supporters.

New Montreal striker Marco Di Vaio, who should once again be in the lineup on Saturday, will hope for a better performance than the one in Wednesday’s loss. “I was hoping for a win, a more engaged performance from everyone,” he said.

Philadelphia manager John Hackworth will hope to get engaged performances from new center back Bakary Soumare. But will Soumare play when the Union travel to Houston on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), considering the form of transformed midfielder Amobi Okugo? "Amobi is turning out to be a fantastic center back," Hackworth said.

Either way, the Union will be without one defender on Saturday, Raymon Gaddis, who was suspended by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for an incident last weekend.

But Houston will have their newest attacking weapon: Oscar Boniek García. The Honduran international went through his first training on Thursday. (SPANISH)

Could D.C. United be without Andy Najar soon? Perhaps. “I know the day is coming soon when I have to leave, but right now I am focused on United,” he told The Washington Post.

What about Landon Donovan? He is selling his house, after all, and that’s got people speculating about where he might be moving. England? Or just across town?

England — or Great Britain to be precise — is in the news this week after Team GB Olympic coach Stuart Pearce snubbed the Galaxy's David Beckham. Donovan called the snub "devastating," and it won't get any better now that the reason is starting to emerge.

Don’t expect to see longtime AC Milan star Clarence Seedorf moving to LA anytime soon. Galaxy manager Bruce Arena quashed that rumor with a Dumb and Dumber quote, of all things.

The Red Bulls, who are at Toronto FC on Saturday (7 pm ET, Galavision) are still wondering if Luke Rodgers will be allowed to move back to New York. They’re awaiting word on his visa situation.

A player almost certainly on the move is US international Maurice Edu, who looks set to leave Rangers. No word on what his American teammates, Carlos Bocanegra and Alejandro Bedoya, will do, but Edu “felt kind of bad” that he convinced them to join the financially strapped club in the first place.

American free agent Mike Grella is contemplating the financials of an offer from Scunthorpe.

Finally, in a revealing interview with veteran writer Charles Boehm, longtime US international Josh Wolff gave his take on Jurgen Klinsmann and the direction of the national team. “We want to be like the best in the world … the Englands, the Italys, the Germanys. But there’s some evolution to it. We’ve got to bridge that distance. We’re not going to get there by just changing formation or changing the coach, per se."

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