CARSON, Calif. — Already down one star, the LA Galaxy hope to minimize their key absences in their crucial CONCACAF Champions League tilt against Morelia on Wednesday (10 pm ET, FOX Soccer).
David Beckham will miss the match due to yellow-card accumulation, but the club hopes to have Ireland international striker Robbie Keane available against the Mexican club.
Keane missed Saturday’s league match against Columbus due to a gluteus injury and did not train on Tuesday. There was not one particular incident that has Keane’s status in doubt, but rather a series of events has led to his less-than-desirable physical condition.
“It’s been a tough grind, a lot of games in a short period of time and it took its toll on him,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “He had a little bit of a nagging injury and it made it a little worse. He’s had time to get better over the last week, so hopefully he’ll be ready to go.”
Playing 90 minutes against Alajuelense on the artificial surface at Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto in Costa Rica last week did not help.
“He had the injury before that. He played hurt in that last game. Maybe [it was] a mistake playing him. That surface was a joke. It’s like playing on this right here,” Arena said, slamming his foot down on a concrete walkway for emphasis. “It’s not good.”
Keane has one goal in three Champions League matches and has scored three goals in all competitions since joining the Galaxy on Aug. 20.
Beckham a loss
While Keane could appear in the starting lineup or possibly on the bench, there is no such hope for Beckham. After picking up a yellow card in the 1-0 loss at Alajuelense, the midfielder is out on suspension.
“It’s going to hurt,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said of Beckham’s absence. “Particularly when we play here, his quality is unmatched and it hurts not having his ability on the field.”
Beckham has picked up two yellow cards in the three Champions League games he’s played this season, although both were head-scratching decisions by the respective referees who dealt out the punishment.
Still, the one match he did not play in was a game from which the Galaxy should have gotten at least one point. Beckham did not travel to Mexico and missed out on the 2-1 loss at Morelia. But even without the superstar midfielder, the Galaxy were able to put pressure on Monarcas and scored two goals — although only one counted.
In his absence, Arena could feature a midfield with players like Juninho – who also missed the contest in Morelia – as well as Mike Magee and Michael Stephens.
“We’ve got a number of guys that can do a good job,” Donovan said. “They’ll be ready.”
The Galaxy’s lineup on Saturday against Columbus was a bit different. Neither Keane nor Beckham dressed – the latter was watching at home – while Donovan played only the last half-hour. Todd Dunivant did not play for the first time this season while regulars such as Magee, Adam Cristman and Chad Barrett all split time.
For Donovan, the chance to have rested some players on Saturday could be a boon ahead of Wednesday’s CCL match.
“It helps a lot,” Donovan said after training on Tuesday. “I felt today as fresh as I’ve felt in a long time. I think a lot of guys felt the same way.”
After the Galaxy played in Costa Rica last Wednesday, the club made the six-hour trip to Ohio. Despite the considerable lineup change, having been together for nearly a week and having the chance to reach deep into the bench helped.
“It was good to be with the team and have some time to bond and just get some camaraderie with the guys,” said Donovan. “But it was also good not to play heavy minutes except for a few guys on Saturday.”
The scenes in Morelia and Costa Rica were wildly different than what the Galaxy have faced in their own stadium for CCL games.
In Morelia, whistles and anti-Donovan chants and jeers were prevalent, while in Costa Rica the team was pelted with verbal abuse as a sold-out, enthusiastic crowd was at a deafening roar for a good portion of the match.
By contrast, four-digit crowds have supported the Galaxy in their first-ever foray in the Champions League group stage. It’s not that the Galaxy’s supporters are less passionate than their Latin American counterparts, though.
“We have the same passion, we just don’t have the numbers they have,” Donovan said. “That’s because they’ve been playing in their leagues with those teams for many, many decades. Our goal is to just get those numbers and increase the passion.”