LA Galaxy get welcome respite from turbulent season with string of friendlies

CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy are hovering near .500 in MLS play, alternating stunning displays with woeful last-minute collapses, and face a thicket of games in two competitions over the final two-and-a-half months of the season.

What better time is there for a “break,” one that will send them up against three top European clubs over the space of a week?

That's the Galaxy's take on their International Champions Cup assignment, which begins Thursday night with a match against annual summer foe Real Madrid in Glendale, Ariz.

It's the fourth straight year and fifth time since 2005 that LA has met the Spanish powerhouse in a summer friendly, and games follow Saturday against Juventus or Everton at Dodger Stadium and then Aug. 6 or 7 in Miami against another European side. They're quite happy to step away from the league wars to test themselves against top opposition.

“There's no pressure, and taking a little break from the league probably isn't the worst thing at this point,” defender Todd Dunivant said before the Galaxy trekked to Phoenix. “I think we'll take the break when we can get it. It's not much of a break when you're playing against top-level competition. Obviously, it's not an easy day at the office, but at the same time, mentally it is different, and we've had an up-and-down season.”

The Galaxy on Thursday will be without Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez, who have All-Star Game duties Wednesday night in Kansas City, and Robbie Keane is still finding his way back from a torn hip flexor, and that's fine. Keane gets more time to recover, and Bruce Arena and his staff will provide valuable playing time to reserve players who will be needed when their CONCACAF Champions League slate opens Aug. 20.

“That part is good,” says associate head coach Dave Sarachan. “We've had some reserve games, but now with these games and mixing up lineups [for the ICC matches], it's going to ramp up everybody's minutes so that, hopefully, players that we call upon as we get into Champions League and further down the road, it will pay off."

The Galaxy have 16 games, a dozen of them in league play, from Aug. 11 through Oct. 27, with the Champions League schedule contributing to three heavy stints: three games in six days in August, five in 15 the latter half of September, and four in 12 to close the campaign.

“We knew coming into this year we had multiple games with this tournament and Champions League and stuff,” defender Sean Franklin said. “It's all part of it. It's about being smart and taking care of our bodies, and I'm sure Bruce has if figured out, how he want to play the starters or reserves for these next couple of weeks.”

Everybody healthy figures to see action in the next week, especially with games two days apart to start the exhibition tournament.

“That's odd,” Arena said of the scheduling. “That's certainly not a good way to do this, but we've known about it for quite some time. Don't know yet how we'll do it. We'll figure it out.”