While most teams around MLS are preparing for the weekend's full slate of matches, the Galaxy are preparing to host the Yokohama F-Marinos, the reigning champion of Japan's J-League. The teams will meet Wednesday at The Home Depot Center (7:30 p.m. PT).
For some, the game's timing seems a bit curious considering that Los Angeles is about to embark on a four-game road swing to be played in just a two-week span. But the Galaxy staff feels the game is a perfect opportunity to test out their youth and reserves some more in preparation for the summer months that will again see several regulars absent through national team duties.
"The objective is to play a decent team that will press us and force us to play," said Galaxy coach Steve Sampson, "and to give guys an opportunity to get significant minutes against a meaningful opponent."
The J-League is currently in its midseason break, a six-week gap in between halves of the season so the 18 clubs in the Japanese top flight don't endure the numerous international absences as in MLS. The F-Marinos finished the first half of the season in ninth place, with the second half due to begin on July 2. As such, the Galaxy is expecting the Japanese side to play many of its regular starters.
For the Galaxy, several of the first team will get a bit of a break, and not many familiar faces will be playing the entire game on Wednesday.
"A number of veterans will only see 45 minutes," Sampson said. "Guys like Ned Grabavoy are going to see significant time. Steve Cronin is going to start in goal."
For Cronin, the game will be his first real test of the year, as he's backed up Kevin Hartman throughout the first portion of the season. But Hartman is on a short list of 'keepers around MLS that could get called in by U.S. national team manager Bruce Arena for this July's CONCACAF Gold Cup. If that should happen, Wednesday's international friendly will be an invaluable experience for Cronin.
Hartman isn't the only player potentially gone for stretches of the summer. With so many national team players on the Galaxy roster, several players, including Troy Roberts, Herculez Gomez and even Grabavoy have been called upon to step into the starting 11. This game is yet another competitive venue for them to further their development.
Aside from the experience factor, the game takes on another meaning for the Galaxy. Already one of the most consistent teams in the history of MLS, the Galaxy are striving to show they can compete outside of the 12-team league.
"It's important we show that we're not just a team that plays domestically, but that we can play internationally," Sampson said.
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League SOccer or its clubs.