HARRISON, N.J. – It’s sometimes tough to pry a grin from Bruce Arena's face, even when the LA Galaxy are playing as well they have this season.
The Galaxy manager certainly wasn’t smiling on Tuesday night, with any chances of a huge road win and a firmly secured and Supporters’ Shield done in by a lackluster 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls.
Instead the look on Arena’s face was one emblematic of his club, which has fallen out of favor with the schedule gods in recent weeks.
Simply put, they’re exhausted.
“We looked like a tired team tonight, and this is the culmination of a lot of games in a short period of time,” Arena said. “And it showed.”
The Galaxy have run the gamut of games in the last month, logging countless miles to both Mexico and Costa Rica for the CONCACAF Champions League while delicately straddling a run to one of the best MLS regular season records in league history. The match on Tuesday was postponed from late August after Hurricane Irene lifted the original game and dropped it smack at the end of a grueling stretch of nine games played in just under a month.
And with more than a few outcomes yet to be decided in the coming weeks – that Supporters’ Shield is still up for grabs and their CCL fate hangs in the balance of a match in Honduras on Oct. 20 – the Galaxy are more than happy to put their feet up for a bit. Although the loss to New York leaves them with a bitter taste in their mouths heading into some deserved time off, at least they’ll get the chance to get away.
The Galaxy return to action at home against Chivas USA on Oct. 16 before their final CCL group stage match at Motagua on Oct. 20.
“We’re a bit tired after all the games we’ve been playing, but it was disappointing losing, of course,” said midfielder David Beckham, who admitted some soreness in the dying minutes due to the taxing schedule. “We had a hard game over the weekend against Salt Lake, and then obviously the travel, the time zones, and all that. It was a quick turnaround."
“A few of the lads are tired, a few of the lads are aching a little bit,” he added. “We’ve got a few players that are beat up, but we have a long layoff until we play Chivas, and then we’ll see.”
The Galaxy played without both Landon Donovan (hamstring injury) and Robbie Keane (international call-up), and struggled to mount much of a comeback after New York’s Luke Rodgers thumped home a rebound midway through the first half.
That they trailed at the break at all was a rarity for the Galaxy, who found themselves behind at the break for just the fourth time this season.
Striker Chad Barrett, who missed a golden scoring chance in the 27th minute and struggled to find the scoring touch he’s had in each of the team’s past two league games, pointed the finger at the obvious culprits.
“CONCACAF has taken its toll on us,” he said. “You can see we were missing players due to injuries here and injuries there, and international duty. But that’s gonna happen. We need the other players to step up and do the job, and we’ve been doing that up until now."
“But you slip up for one game, and it’s not the worst thing,” Barrett added. “This team’s not down, we’re just gonna enjoy our break.”