LA Galaxy's Jaime Penedo eyes MLS Cup to fill Brazil-sized hole in his heart
CARSON, Calif. -- Jaime Penedo says he'll live the rest of his life with Panama's failure to hold off the US national team and move within one step of an unprecedented World Cup berth, but he hopes to ease the pain by winning an MLS Cup championship with the LA Galaxy.
He can't wait for Sunday's California Clasico against San Jose at the StubHub Center (9 pm ET, ESPN), his first action since conceding stoppage-time goals to Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson as the US rallied for a 3-2 victory on the final day of CONCACAF qualifying.
Had Panama held onto their lead Tuesday, they would have advanced to next month's home-and-home playoff with Oceania winner New Zealand, with the victory heading to the finals next year in Brazil.
“It's difficult, especially the way it happened,” Penedo said through a translator after returning to the Galaxy camp. “I'm not going to lie. It's hard for me to sleep right now, and I wake up every day thinking I'm still going to play in the [playoff]. But the reality is we're not going to play.
“As the saying goes, you must take what you can from every failure to become better.”
Penedo, LA's No. 1 goalkeeper since signing after a superb performance in Panama's run to the CONCACAF Gold Cup title game in July, says the Galaxy's bid for a third successive MLS Cup crown -- they'll clinch a playoff berth with a win or draw against the Earthquakes -- provides motivation to put the World Cup behind him.
“I'm in a team that's trying to win a championship,” he said. “The best thing I can do is focus 100 percent on the Galaxy and put all my efforts into winning the title. ... The best medicine right now is to get back on the field -- not just get back on the field, but win out there. That's one way to get rid of the taste of [Panama's] loss.”
Penedo's Galaxy teammates have been sympathetic, even those with US national team experience. LA have two current US players, Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez, but both missed Tuesday's game because of injury.
“I feel bad for him,” Donovan said. “When he walked back in, you can see in his face that he's still carrying it a little bit. The good and bad with sports is it keeps going and it moves on, and so for him, it's kind of good to come back and be with a team that isn't still sitting in what that was.
“We need him,” Donovan added. “The message will be: 'We need you here, and we want to win a championship with you,' and hopefully that will put some of the disappointment behind him.”
Head coach Bruce Arena, who guided the US in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, says Penedo is “going to be disappointed for awhile. Every player handles it different [and] it's going to disappear at some point, but certainly those are games and results that players feel for awhile.”
Penedo figures that's so.
“What happened with the national team is something I'll always have to live with,” he said, “but, of course, making it to the MLS Cup final would be very rewarding.”