CARSON, Calif. – While the two weeks between the MLS Conference Championship games and Sunday’s MLS Cup (9 pm ET; ESPN, Galavision, TSN 2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) have made for a nigh interminable wait for fans, they were a godsend for the bruised and battered LA Galaxy, according to head coach Bruce Arena.
“We wouldn’t have beat anybody last week,” Arena said on Saturday afternoon after LA’s final training session before the Cup. “But we weren’t playing last week. This week, everything turned up and everyone looks good.”
That “everyone” includes star midfielder David Beckham, who had missed the previous two days of training with a cold and is still nursing both a slight hamstring injury and a sore back. Beckham took part in training on Saturday, and said he doesn’t expect any problems on Sunday.
“No, my body feels great,” Beckham said when asked specifically about the hamstring injury. “It shouldn’t be a problem. Obviously I’ve had issues with my back all season, but I was able to train today and come through it with no problems.”
Also coming through training with no problems was Landon Donovan, who’s been fighting off a number of injuries all season, most notably a quad strain that’s hampered him since August. Donovan also practiced and said he’s feeling fit and ready for the Cup.
The two weeks of rest came on the heels of three big playoff games in the span of nine days, a stretch that taxed a Galaxy side that’s been playing two games a week seemingly all season. Between the regular season, the CONCACAF Champions League, the US Open Cup and the World Football Challenge, LA are approaching 50 games across all competitions.
Add in international duty for a number of players, and it’s taken a physical and mental toll. That’s why the two weeks off were welcomed by everyone in the Galaxy camp, even those who weren’t nursing injuries.
That said, in Beckham’s words, “It seems to have gone so slow.” Both Arena and defender Todd Dunivant echoed that sentiment.
“It was kind of a lull,” Dunivant explained. “You can’t stay at such a high level physically and mentally for that long a time, so we kind of had a drop off for that following week and this week, and then after a day off we came back and we’re sharp. Everyone is firing on all cylinders and training was really good.”
It’s what Arena wanted to see and what he expected to see from a group that’s remained largely intact in the two years since their loss in the 2009 MLS Cup to Real Salt Lake.
“I think we have a better lesson from the 2009 final than from the rest of this year,” Arena said. “One thing we learned from 2009 is you may never have a chance again, so when you have that moment, you have to take it and produce.”