CARSON, Calif. – Sharing the field with Real Madrid is old hat for the LA Galaxy, who take on the Galácticos for the the third straight year Thursday night at The Home Depot Center and the fourth time since 2005 (10:30 pm ET, ESPN2).
It doesn't get old – very few would shy away from the chance to battle against Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, Mesut Özil and Kaka – but the novelty has worn off.
Not so for Marcelo Sarvas, whose increasing influence in midfield has helped fuel the Galaxy's current 7-2-1 league run. The Brazilian attacker, signed in December from Costa Rican power Alajuelense, can't wait to test himself against the Spanish champions.
“It's something that you keep in your life,” he said following LA's training session on Tuesday. “It's a huge experience for every player. It's history – one day when you retire, to keep in your mind, in your history.”
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Sarvas said he's particularly excited to see his fellow Brazilians on Real Madrid, Kaká and Marcelo, and to “have a chance to talk and to exchange shirts.”
The 30-year-old Sarvas has started 10 of the Galaxy's last dozen games, including last week's friendly against Tottenham Hotspur, after appearing in just seven of the first 16 matches in all competitions, with just four starts. He was brought in to replace fellow Brazilian Juninho, whose return on loan from São Paulo in early February muddled his responsibilities.
Juninho is a classic two-way midfielder; Sarvas is more attack-minded, capable of playing in the middle or on the flank, and it took him some time to acclimate to a struggling team in a new league. Winning has helped immensely.
“Some players take longer to adapt,” he said. “It's not about football, it's about yourself in the locker room, yourself in the team. Now I feel so much more at home.
“It's about the results. When the result doesn't come, everybody has difficulty to do your best job. It's about confidence, about the right [mentality], to just play football and make what you like. With results, with points, you see the progress in the table, so it's much easier.”
Sunday's league game at Seattle is far more vital than Thursday's exhibition, but playing Real Madrid will prove a special occasion. Sarvas has played against big European clubs before – Tottenham last week, Valencia, “teams from Holland” – but the Spanish giants are on another tier.
“Real Madrid is one of the biggest teams in the world,” he said. “Everybody is very excited to play, to have this moment. ... You want to do you best, you want to win the game. We won't make it easy for Madrid.”