CARSON, Calif. — Entering this past Saturday’s match against Sporting Kansas City, the LA Galaxy had plenty of obstacles to deal with: Weary legs from a midweek trip to Philadelphia. A potential mental letdown after the way the Union match ended. Illness to both Donovan Ricketts and Omar Gonzalez.
But if the match vs. Sporting KC was an exam, then the Galaxy passed with flying colors in a 4-1 win. Players said it merely showed that the team has unmatched character and a strong will.
“I’ll tell you, I can’t be more proud of our team,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said of his squad's victory. “It was a real challenging week. … A lot of teams could use that as an excuse and our guys performed great. We had a chance of winning all three games as well but came up a little short.”
The Galaxy will now have a full week in order to rest and recover from their three-game, eight-day stretch that included a cross-country trip and will have ample time to prepare for Saturday’s SuperClásico match against Chivas USA.
Perhaps the most glaring obstacle the team had to overcome Saturday, though, was Ricketts’ absence. Josh Saunders got word he’d start only hours before the match was set to kick off. But when the rest of the squad learned of the change in goal, it was a bit of ho-hum news.
“We come in [Saturday] and our goalkeeper — who we think is the best goalie in the league — can’t go and we have a guy waiting to step in that, when Bruce tells us he has to play, nobody bats an eye,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “Josh has been great for the last few years.”
Defender Gonzalez said there is no dropoff from Ricketts to Saunders, a telling sign of the strength of the club’s roster.
“Every single time Saunders comes in he has a great game,” he said. “We have full confidence bringing him in. The team doesn’t change. It’s just a sign of how deep we are.”
Gonzalez also was battling issues and had IV therapy before the match to replenish his own system after battling stomach issues the night before. For good measure, Gonzalez inadvertently added another obstacle to overcome when he re-directed a Sporting KC cross into his own net.
“It was a bit unlucky," Gonzalez said, "but I wasn’t too worried about it because we were dominating the game and I knew that we were going to get our chances, and we did. I just forgot about it right away.”
Perhaps Gonzalez did well to put a defensive error out of his mind because he had someone who had the same issue right next to him. Sean Franklin’s ill-advised back pass against Philadelphia led to the Union’s only goal in a 1-1 draw at PPL Park on Wednesday, but that did not cause him any mental issues before Saturday’s match.
“I thought about it for a little after the game, thought about it and was like, ‘I’ve got to get ready for Saturday, can’t keep thinking about it, just got to go out and have a good performance,’” Franklin said. “I thought I did OK [Saturday], thought the whole team did well.”
When the team returns to training ahead of the rivalry game against its in-stadium rivals, players will do so with a much-needed boost of confidence.
“For confidence, it was a big thing,” Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said. “We needed to get back to our winning ways and finishing off teams I think we did that. The goals that we scored, the possession that we had in the second half set it up right for us, but it’s just another three points and we move on to the next game.”
- MLS LIVE