TORONTO – For most MLS clubs, the opportunity to face the LA Galaxy when they are without both Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane in the lineup would be a welcome opportunity.
Not so for Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen and his players, who are actually disappointed that they won’t have the opportunity to test themselves against two of Major League Soccer’s marquee stars when his side takes on the Galaxy at BMO Field on Saturday afternoon (2 pm ET, TSN/RDS in Canada, watch on MLS Live in US).
“I was really disappointed that they aren’t playing, to tell you the truth,” Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com. “I really wanted them to be playing. It would have been great for us in terms of proving where we are. I think all the guys are disappointed. But they also know that whoever puts on an LA Galaxy shirt is going to be a good player.”
As reigning two-time MLS Cup Champions, the Galaxy are not only the team that every other club in the MLS wants to beat, they are also a worldwide brand and are considered by many to be the league’s glamour club.
As one of the new faces on Toronto FC this season, Welsh striker Robert Earnshaw admitted on Friday that he is looking forward to facing off against LA for the first time.
“Everybody over the last four or five years – because of [David] Beckham, Keane and Landon Donovan – is familiar with them. They have won things as well, which has made them even bigger,” Earnshaw said. “Everybody knows the name, but we aren’t going to be playing against a name. We’re going to be playing against football players and it will be 11-v-11.”
While much of the discussion around the Galaxy in the lead up to Saturday’s fixture has centered on the return of US superstar Landon Donovan and the injury to Republic of Ireland international Robbie Keane, as well as the fact that neither are likely to see the pitch on Saturday, Nelsen sees coaching counterpart Bruce Arena as the key figure at the Galaxy and he fully expects his opposing head coach to have his players completely ready for Saturday’s battle.
“Bruce Arena has done such a fantastic job with [the Galaxy],” Nelsen said. “To be able to win back-to-back championships is very rare in this league. What he has done is fantastic and it is going to be a real challenge for us. He did it with D.C. United and with the US national team. If Bruce took over an underwater lawn mowing business, he would have made it successful. He is that type of guy. Some are people like that. No matter what they do, they are successful. I think Bruce Arena is one of those people.”
If Nelsen and Toronto are to get one over on the coach he admires so much, they are going to have to find a way to break down one of the stingiest back lines in the league, which has conceded just one goal in three games so far this season.
“They are very good team with some very good players [at the back],” Nelsen said. “Obviously, they brought in Carlo Cudicini over the offseason and he is a fantastic player. They have a very solid back five. We have some creativity ourselves and some goalscorers. We’ll be doing our best to break them down.”
Added Earnshaw: “I’m glad they have only conceded one goal so far. I think it is a great challenge for us. It’s going to be an exciting game."