CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy's immediate goal this season is to avoid a start like last year's, when they quickly exited the CONCACAF Champions League and drifted to the Western Conference basement with a 3-8-2 start.
They finally decided championship fatigue, following the 2011 MLS Cup title run, was to blame, and they expect the lessons gained will assure no repeat collapse after repeating as league champs.
“Our goal this year is to start better than 2012,” head coach Bruce Arena told a fan gathering as LA prepared for Sunday's MLS opener against Chicago at the Home Depot Center (5 pm ET; UniMas). “I think if we can do that, we're going to position ourselves to win three [MLS Cup titles] in a row. And that's going to be our mindset from the beginning.”
There's been a positivity during the Galaxy's preseason camp that was missing a year ago, and the club heads into the regular season with a confidence that was lacking when last season kicked off.
“We didn't start off well [during the 2012 preseason], and, obviously, that carried into the season. We had a slow start,” defender Todd Dunivant said. “In six, seven weeks of preseason, it was just the vibe wasn't good. And we really didn't get much of a break, and I think 2011 took a lot out of us. It took us awhile to get over that.
“This year we've come in, we've had more time off, it's been a shorter preseason, which has helped us. And we'll see how that translates in the next few games.”
The Galaxy face the same sort of start as it did last year, with a Champions League quarterfinal home-and-home against Costa Rica's Herediano looming following the game with the Fire. Arena says what needs to be done is fairly simple.
“We were a mess last season, for whatever reason,” he said. “So don't be as messy to start the season.”
To aid in that, LA did not take a postseason trip after beating Houston in the Dec. 1 final – they went to Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia after winning in 2011 – and they stayed home for preseason, playing six of seven games at HDC and the seventh following an overnight stay in Santa Barbara.
“I think the fact that we've had some kind of continuity in training and stuff like that [has helped],” Arena said. “Last year, with the [preseason] trip to Tucson, we never got into any kind of rhythm. This year I think we established more of a rhythm in our training and the buildup with the way we've pieced out games together. We can slowly build guys in with their minutes and their play and the different guys covering positions. ... We just felt with the overload we've had over the last three, four years, we needed to be settled down a little bit in preseason.”
It has made a difference.
“You can't underestimate [staying home],” Dunivant said. “Most teams can't afford to do that, because of the weather, but here we've got teams coming through and plenty of teams to play, and, obviously, the weather to be able to train every day. We love it.”