CARSON, Calif. — Any time between March and November, an LA Galaxy three-game losing streak could be grounds for lineup shuffling and soul searching.
But how does Bruce Arena handle such a streak in the middle of February?
“I’m not losing a whole lot of sleep over it, to be honest,” the Galaxy coach told reporters on Tuesday. “For us, it’s evaluation and fitness, basically.”
Tuesday was the club’s latest setback, as Montreal handed the Galaxy a 3-0 defeat. LA have now lost preseason matches to Montreal, Houston and Portland by a combined score of 8-1.
Still, dropping the result to the Impact means little in the grand scheme of things.
“It was a good morning for us; we got a lot out of it,” Arena said. “A real good game to evaluate things, which is good and the purpose of these practice games.”
Arena praised the center back pairing of A.J. DeLaGarza and Tommy Meyer, the midfield’s ability to raise the level of play in the quarter-hour before and after the intermission, and the chances the team created. Additionally, Josh Saunders had a pair of dazzling first-half saves to keep Montreal from doing further damage and David Beckham slammed a 20-yard free kick off the woodwork.
So while the club continues to surrender goals, winning and losing is not at all the focus. Not yet, anyway.
“We’re not going to win any championships in these first couple of weeks in the preseason,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said. “As it continues, we need to keep getting better and keep getting our fitness back.”
One wrinkle that was different Tuesday — at least from the Galaxy’s side — was the starting unit. Instead of having the starters play 45 minutes, Arena did not make mass substitutions until the 61st minute, when he pulled Beckham, Dunivant, Meyer, Michael Stephens, Edson Buddle and Marcelo Sarvas. Saunders, Kyle Nakazawa and Paolo Cardozo left the match at the intermission.
It’s an indication that the team’s fitness has been getting better.
“That part is improving,” Dunivant said. “Sixty minutes today felt a lot better than 45 minutes on Friday, so that’s a good sign. If we can keep doing those things, the rest is going to come.”
The Galaxy will play their final such practice match on Thursday against Chivas USA before leaving for Tucson, Ariz. There they’ll play four preseason friendlies against MLS competition ahead of the CONCACAF Champions League opener vs. Toronto FC on March 7.
“It’s on schedule for us,” Arena said. “Other teams maybe have a greater sense of urgency to get things going right now. This is just a six-week break. We’re not putting everything we have into preseason games right now. In another week it will be better and in two weeks it will certainly be a lot better.”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org