CARSON, Calif. – Todd Dunivant arrived a few days late in the LA Galaxy's preseason camp, and he liked what he saw. Things were different than they'd been a year ago, when a championship hangover bred a lousy start to the season.
“The guys, you can already see it, are more upbeat,” reported Dunivant, who skipped the first few days of fitness training while honeymooning in Fiji. “Everyone's excited to be back, everyone's kind of anxious for the season to get going already. We certainly have time [to prepare]. We're not going to go 100 miles per hour straight out of the gate. I think we're kind of easing into it.”
The Galaxy were still weary, following the 2011 MLS Cup triumph and postseason trek to Asia and Australia, when they began preparations last year, and a poor preseason – with Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane away on loan – led to a poorer first three months of the campaign, with a quick exit from the CONCACAF Champions League and a 3-8-2 start in league play.
LA played the best soccer in the league from that point, captured their second straight MLS Cup last month, then called off a planned postseason trip to the Middle East.
“I think not going on tour this year helped us, because we would have been absolutely exhausted and we would have been required to come back later [to start preseason] as well,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “It's good we could start [last] week and slowly build our team up toward the opening game.”
The tour cancellation led to Dunivant's delay. He and his bride, Caroline, set their wedding date for Jan. 10, figuring camp wouldn't open until this week at the earliest. The Galaxy's season opens March 3 against Chicago.
“I was planning on a week buffer [after the honeymoon],” Dunivant said. “But it was fine. I only had to miss a couple days, and I was able to stay fit and jump right in with the guys.”
Keane is away training with Tottenham and is expected in camp this week, Arena said. A date is yet to be set for Donovan's arrival in camp after an extended layoff. Dunivant thinks the time off will be good for the Galaxy captain, that “it'll be better for us and better for him that he's fresh and he's kind of got a clean slate mentally and physically.”
Having a strong preseason is a priority after last year.
“Obviously, we want to right the wrong of last year's start and come in with a good attitude, and everyone's buzzing a little bit ...,” Dunivant said. “Everyone's looking forward to our first few scrimmages. I think we're going to take that very seriously. Not that we didn't last year, but something was just off and there was a little bit of that championship hangover.
"It's almost good in a way that we had that start last year. It woke us up when we needed to get woken up. And I think it's woken us up this year as well.”