CARSON, Calif. – For LA Galaxy players, Thursday’s preseason match against Chivas USA was not about fitness, finding a rhythm or even a result, despite the nature of the rivalry.
It was about jobs.
The Galaxy trotted out a group filled with youngsters battling for roster spots, hoping to state their case in what is the last of four practice games the club has played against MLS competition in the last two weeks.
If the effort was any indication, it will be difficult for the coaching staff to decide on what players stick around and what players depart. A reserve-laden Galaxy squad dominated Chivas USA’s first team, scoring three times in the first half and holding on for a 3-2 victory on a warm and breezy afternoon.
Players said their standing on the club was certainly on their mind when the match began.
“There was a sense of urgency,” Galaxy rookie Brian Gaul said. “You could tell the first 15 minutes when we came out, we were pressuring really hard, we were working as a team and we were working really hard as a unit.”
Gaul paired with Andrew Boyens in central defense, and the match marked the longest the duo have played together thus far. With players like Juan Pablo Ángel and Alejandro Moreno lining up opposite them, the pairing did well to keep Chivas’ experience from doing damage. The Goats had a scant few opportunities in the opening 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy had the run of play in the attacking end. Pat Noonan buried an early opportunity and Adam Cristman added a goal minutes later to double the lead.
For Noonan, who seemingly has a spot secure on the roster, the team's performance on Thursday was much-needed.
“We weren’t playing very well,” Noonan said of the club’s previous efforts. “We’re at the point now where we’re around three weeks away from the first game in Toronto [in the CONCACAF Champions League]. We need to start getting results, we need to start getting sharper and more focused both in trainings and in games.”
Dan Keat knocked in the Galaxy’s third goal – and the eventual match-winner – just before the intermission. That the makeshift Galaxy squad was able to control action in the first half was not a surprise the young New Zealander.
“All of the guys in this squad believe they can play on the first team,” Keat said. “It’s an important part of us going forward, us showing that one through 30, we can all contribute.”
The atmosphere in the match may have been intense but for Keat, that part was nothing new.
“It’s always like that here,” he said. “It’s such a deep squad and [there are] so few minutes to fight for just because of the amount of players we have and the quality we have. It’s always like that every day in training and it only bodes well for the success of the team.”
Chivas USA got back into the match with a pair of second-half goals, but the Galaxy hung on and ultimately walked away with a positive result to reflect their effort.
“A lot of us haven’t played 90 minutes in quite a while,” Keat said. “It was definitely good to get that out there. We’ve got a lot to learn but it was a good building block for us. The result’s really not what’s important in preseason, but you take a win over Chivas every day.”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.