Bruce Arena defends personnel shuffle as LA's winless August continues

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Bruce Arena was typically honest and forthright in his assessment of his side’s hard-fought 2-2 tie at the Chicago Fire which saw the LA Galaxy extend their winless run in August to five games.

The Galaxy head coach pulled no punches in explaining why he decided to make five personnel changes from their 1-0 defeat at New York City FC on Saturday, leaving Designated Players Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard out and starting with Giovani dos Santos, Nigel de Jong and Ashley Cole on the bench.

“We have a game Saturday,” Arena said when asked about the tactical shift ahead of an important Western Conference clash against the Vancouver Whitecaps (10:30 pm ET, TSN1/4/5 | MLS LIVE in US). “We’re going back home, you can’t play, it’s very hard to play three games in a week. If we learn how to schedule properly, you’ve got to do this Saturday, Wednesday, Sunday. When you go Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday that third game makes it real difficult.

“If we put a full team out tonight we have a tough time on Saturday, so we tried to balance it a little bit,” he continued. “A couple of guys needed a break anyway, it’s still going to be difficult for us to get our team ready for Saturday, but that’s part of it.”

The visitors, who climbed to fourth in the Western Conference, showed no signs of a hangover from the weekend as their early dominance gave them the lead early through Gyasi Zardes in the 31st minute. However, with temperatures in the high 80’s and humidity also having an impact, the Fire responded immediately to hold a 2-1 lead at the break. 

“It was a pretty sloppy game, difficult conditions, it was very hot and humid and as you could see the last 20 minutes of the game the game was wide open and pretty sloppy,” Arena said. “We played a good first 30 minutes, and I don’t know how we fell apart last 15 minutes of the first half but it was a killer and we were fortunate that they didn’t get the third goal at the start of the second half.”

The Fire did most of the running after taking the lead, and on another day could have been two or more goals ahead before dos Santos’ 69th-minute equalizer but for unlucky finishing from the likes of David Accam and Luis Solignac.

The visitors stuck to their task and the introduction of dos Santos and Alan Gordon helped inspire their comeback, with the two combining superbly to level the game as Gordon pulled the ball back from the endline for the Mexican international to hammer home from seven yards.

And while Arena lamented the heat and scheduling, he was not content with a point gained on the road that sees them with three ties and two defeats so far this month across all competitions.

“No,” Arena said when asked if he was happy with a point on the road. “It’s a game we should get three points, in my opinion, and didn’t. We are capable of winning this game, our team is capable of winning this game.”