It’s only a preseason tournament with a grand name, but both games of the Pan-Pacific Championship are live on ESPN Classic tonight (the Galaxy game against Japanese team Gamba Osaka airs at 8 o’clock) and it’s the first chance to see what a Ruud Gullit Galaxy team looks like.
Gamba Osaka is reportedly missing seven players through injury, but Gullit conceded last weekend he knows nothing about the Japanese team. Still, he said a win is not the most important thing about the game anyway.
I spoke with Donovan and a couple of other players last weekend before the team left the state.
Donovan said that at least the attacking half of the team looked good in scrimmages last week against two college teams even without striker Carlos Ruiz:
“Attacking-wise we look pretty good because we have a lot of talented players,” Donovan said. “We still dont have Fish on the field and thats going to help too (when he returns). Defensively is where were going to need to get better and thats just because you dont know the guy next to you. You dont know how he moves. Its a new coach so you don t know completely what style he wants to play. Those things you have to figure out. And unfortunately, you can get away with a lot playing against college teams.”
Newly-anointed starting goalkeeper Steve Cronin sounded eager to get between the posts, too:
“Since I’ve been with the national team I’ve basically been practicing, doing fitness and stuff like that for a month and a half now so I’m real anxious to play a competitive game,” he said. “I want to solidify my spot on the team, gain the players’ confidence.”
It’s a tough game so early in preseason, but midfielder Pete Vagenas welcomes the challenge:
“They’re quality opponents so theres going to be tough matches,” he said. “It’s important we schedule games in preseason where you’re going to face adversity. Its a waste of time where you go out and face college teams all the time and dont face any type of adversity, dont even lose. Sometimes it’s good to see your team and players struggle to see how they come out of that because we all know MLS is a grueling season and everything is not going to always go great. So for me the most important thing is to schedule the toughest games you can. And if that means you’re going to have to lose and take something in the behind because your team is not exactly ready, so be it. I think in the long run it benefits us.”
The Galaxy Web site has pictures of the players working out Monday and tonight’s weather looks ideal for a soccer game, which could encourage reportedly tepid ticket sales (only 10,000 or so sold was the word Tuesday). All sorts of discounts are on offer.