CARSON, Calif. – Amid the LA Galaxy’s busiest stretch of the year, the club’s depth will undoubtedly be put to the test.
From a Sept. 5 match at Kansas City to an Oct. 4 fixture in New York, the Galaxy will play a total of nine games. To help combat possible fatigue, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena must reach into the team’s depth pool in order plug some holes and not overuse the regulars.
Paolo Cardozo may be one of the players who benefits from this the most. The club’s first-round SuperDraft choice, Cardozo started and did quite well for himself against Colorado on Friday, testing Rapids ‘keeper Matt Pickens five times in the first half alone and helping create space and break down Colorado’s defense.
Check out Cardozo on MLSsoccer.com's Team of the Week
According to head coach Bruce Arena, the club has changed its approach to how it's bringing the player along — and Cardozo has responded.
“In the beginning of the year we adapted to him and tried to help get him a little bit refreshed with this league," Arena said. "Over the last couple of months we’ve kind of forced him to adapt to us. It’s never easy, but it’s all part of the development of a young player.”
Cardozo made the trip to Morelia for Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League match but did not play. However, with a match against Vancouver sandwiched between the game in Morelia and a Champions League tilt in Costa Rica, Cardozo could slide into the starting lineup once more.
Whether he starts, comes off the bench or does not play at all, Arena said the rookie’s approach has been positive and that he’s responding well, no matter his role.
“He’s had such a great attitude over the last couple of months, to try to get better, to listen to some of the things we talked to him about,” Arena said.
On a crowded street in Morelia on Tuesday, a taxi driver wearing a Galaxy jersey carved through downtown traffic. On display in a soccer shop selling mostly knock-off jerseys, international clubs were on display alongside local teams: Among the jerseys for sale were those of Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Galaxy.
Walking around outside of Estadio Morelos before the Galaxy’s match against Morelia on Tuesday, two different fans sported Galaxy jerseys, a brave undertaking as a vast majority of the 30,000 or so fans there donned Morelia jerseys.
“It’s pretty impressive actually how much cache there is around our team now," Landon Donovan said. "Everybody knows who we are wherever we go. Most MLS teams come down here [to Mexico] and people aren’t aware of who they are.”
In MLS, Galaxy road games typically draw sizable crowds. Across borders, the Galaxy’s CONCACAF Champions League matches are quickly becoming an event. The match in Morelia grabbed attention from both the local and national media.
“It’s good. It’s putting our league in a good light and it’s a positive,” Donovan said.
Filling out Group A
Though the Galaxy are focused on Saturday’s match against Vancouver, players and coaches will likely spend some time on Thursday night keeping an eye on two other rivals’ game.
Alajuelense and Motagua will meet in Tegucigalpa in a pivotal Group A clash. Alajuelense beat Morelia and lost to the Galaxy in previous Champions League encounters while Motagua has two losses in two games.
How the Galaxy will approach next week’s match at Alajuelense could rest on Thursday’s result.
“A lot depends on what happens Thursday with Motagua and Alajuela,” Donovan said. “It’s likely going to mean that we’re going to need to win the game next week.”
After Tuesday’s loss in Morelia, the Galaxy and Morelia are even on points with six. Should Alajuelense pull off the victory in Honduras, there would be a three-way tie in the group, and Wednesday’s tilt in Costa Rica would mean that much more.
Had the Galaxy received more favorable calls against Morelia, perhaps things would be different. But even with the loss, Galaxy players are confident about their standing in the group table.
“We would have been in a real good position with a win but we’re still fine, we’re still in a good position,” Donovan said. “Six points after three games is more than fine and we’ve got to now do a real good job next week.”