GOLETA, Calif. – Major League Soccer's reigning champions wrapped up their preseason slate Friday night, then declared that they're ready for the season to start.
At least they think so.
“You never know where your team's at,” LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena noted following his team's 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids at UC Santa Barbara's Harder Stadium. “You have to start playing games and find out, you know?”
The Galaxy are pleased with what they've done over the past month, are mostly happy with their play in seven preseason matches – posting a 5-1-1 record – and are itching for the March 3 opener against Chicago at the Home Depot Center.
“We've prepared everything and done everything that we possibly can do, to be honest with you,” forward Robbie Keane said. “It's gone as well as any preseason could go. Most important thing is fitness because it's all well and good playing friendly games and preseason games, but it counts when that first game comes around. We're ready. We're looking forward to it. ... Everybody wants to play the real games.”
“We looked like a complete team at times tonight,” Arena said. “We defended well, we created chances, had good possession, passed better as the game went on. I think those are all good signs.”
Arena trotted out most of what is expected to be his lineup against the Fire, with only one clear starter missing: Omar Gonzalez, who was in Colombia with assistant coach Curt Onalfo making an appearance for club sponsor Herbalife.
The Galaxy will head into the opener without the services of as many as five players: Landon Donovan (on a leave of absence), Jose Villarreal (with the US Under-20 national team), Tommy Meyer (hamstring strain), and Kenney Walker and Gyasi Zardes (recovering from foot surgeries). None of the drafted rookies have yet signed contracts, and decisions loom on the two Brazilian trialists.
Ready or not, right?
“We have to be [ready], don't we? We have no choice,” Keane said. “If we're not ready, I'm sure the other team will let us know. ... Tonight was a good exercise; if you look at the overall play of the players and the way we pressed, and the way we worked hard, I think that will stand us in good stead for next week.”
Arena thinks it should.
“I feel good about the fact that we've made progress, we have a healthy attitude with the guys,” he said. “But once the season kicks off, as they say, stuff happens. So we have to see where we are, but I think we're mentally ready to start the season the right way, and I think we've made the kind of progress that we need to make, and hopefully that translates into some wins in the early part of the season.”