Headed out to Galaxy training today largely to see how new signing and former UCLA Bruin Eddie Lewis was doing after that ghastly looking head injury in Guatemala last week.
Turns out the 34-year-old Cerritos native was just fine – albeit with a chunk still noticeably missing from his head – and went through the entire 80-minute practice with no restrictions and no problems.
Highlights of the interview are below, but a couple of notes from training before I forget:
*Bruce Arena had pretty much his entire squad out on the field today including a presumably jet-lagged David Beckham fresh from his stint “driving” a double-decker bus in China at the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. As Becks ambled past after training he observed he had flown back into LAX at 8 a.m. today and then pretty much drove straight out to training at 10 a.m. in Carson. Brutal.
*Arena knows he has little margin for error if the Galaxy are to make the playoffs (they are just two points out of third and final guaranteed playoff spot in the Western Conference he reminded his troops today): “Everybody’s brain has to be in the game every play,” he said at the end of training.
*Two members of the Under-20 Gambian National Team – 17-year old defender Amadou Sanyang and 16-year old forward Ebrima Bojang – entered their third week of training with the Galaxy today. Under FIFA rules neither is permitted to sign with the Galaxy until they hit 18 years of age so this is really just an opportunity for Arena to take a longer term view of the pair, as well as see how they adjust to living away from home in a foreign country.
Now, here’s what Eddie had to say:
Q: First off, how’s your head?
A: Not too bad. To be honest my ribs are probably a more tender than my head. It was an open cut, but it’s a tough part of your head. It was a split and a few stitches, but I’ll be fine.
Q: Did you see video of the incident?
A: I actually did for the first time this morning. I hadn’t seen it and my sister had it and she showed it to me. I was a little bit hesitant to watch. I probably don’t need to see it again – that’s enough for me. It was a good hit.
In a lot of ways it represented what the qualifiers are all about. If everything that was going on off the ball could be documented you’d think it was more of a wrestling match than a soccer game. It’s how it goes, but certainly there were a lot of Guatemalans upset about Ruiz going in and me coming the other way so there was a lot going on that night. It was a tough hit and probably there was a little bit more going on behind it than just going for the ball.
Q: By the way, is that a slight bit of a Yorkshire accent I detect?
A: My accent is so mangled I can’t tell you. I’ve been from London to Manchester to Yorkshire. Half the time people think I’m South African. I don’t even know. I’m sure after a few weeks back home here I’ll get the California slang back.
Q: Did playing in England (for four different teams) meet your expectations?
A: For me the whole point of going over there was that the sky’s the limit. If you were the best of the best you’d be at the top of the top. If you were not good enough, you’d be sent home right away. I loved it, the whole eight years I was there. There were some great moments, I played in some great games against a lot of good teams. For me it was the memory of a lifetime. As a professional soccer player that’s about as good as anywhere to play.
Q: What was your best on-field memory?
A: It’s hard to say. I thought about that a few times. Certainly, the Premier League and playing at the big clubs is always exciting. Believe it or not probably both (Championship) playoff finals (at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium) probably had an atmosphere I’d never been a part of my entire life. They were better than the World Cups. Two teams split down the middle, 40,000 (fans supporting) on each side – it was an amazing, amazing atmosphere. And my last game in England was against England at Wembley. That’s a memory I’ll always have. … I loved Leeds (United) as a club – I thought that was just an amazing time. Great people.
Q: What prompted the move back to Southern California?
A: I had one more year (on my contract) at Derby and I planned to see that out before making my way back. But they bought 13 players in the off-season and basically had a wage bill they said was out of control. They thought it would be easier to shift some of the players, so they sort of started from the top down. They started with Robbie Savage and started coming at everyone offering them deals to come home or to go saying ‘we’ve got to get rid of this wage bill. It was just too much. We’ve got to cut down some of the earners.’
At that point I talked to (MLS), didn’t really think much of it, but all of a sudden it just fell into place. Derby gave me a great opportunity to come back a year early. I wasn’t going to miss that.
Q: I suppose of all the places in MLS this was the place you wanted to be?
A: Exactly – it was probably the only place. This is an amazing opportunity.
Q: After enduring the year Derby had (unsuccessfully struggling against relegation from the EPL), you come here and the Galaxy are struggling.
A: I should be quite comfortable (laughs). This league is entirely different. Someone said today we’re two or three points off second place (actually third, but close enough). It’s so tight that (if you go on) a small run you’re right in the middle of the playoffs.
The last few games they’ve been having a bit of trouble getting results, but it won’t take long before Bruce’s influence on the whole team improves.
Q: Glad to hook up with Bruce again?
A: Yeah, he’s a fantastic manager, his record speaks for itself. I’m just hoping to fill whatever role he wants to make the team a bit better.
Q: Would you rather play left back or left midfield?
A: We haven’t had a chat. He said we’d sit down at some point during the week, but he probably knows the team a bit better than me at this point. I think really we’ll just see what works best for everybody. For me it’s about trying to help the team get back on track. I’m certainly far along in my career that I just want to do what’s best for the team and enjoy the soccer. Wherever Bruce sees me (doing that), I’m happy to do it.”
Q: How much longer do you want to play in MLS?
A: I’d like to play the rest of this (season) and a couple more. It’s similar to the U.S. team – I’ve never really put any time lines on anything. … As soon as someone tells me I’m not good enough any more or they’re not happy with me, that will be the end. But at this moment I feel good and I’m having fun and playing well so that’s really it.