Wednesday Road Kicks: Galaxy in Tuscon, Chivas USA in San Diego

*The Galaxy are in Arizona for the four-team Desert Diamond Cup, which kicks off at 5 o’clock tonight with the opener between LA and the New England Revolution that will be streamed live here.

Here’s a video update from the Galaxy on the importance of the preseason tournament:

And here’s more on the Galaxy travel roster via the club:

Of the six players that did not accompany the team to Arizona , only Landon Donovan and Michael Stephens are scheduled to join the club for a portion of the trip. Robbie Keane remains in England to finish out his loan with Aston Villa while Omar Gonzalez, Kyle Nakazawa and Jose Villarreal are all recovering from injuries.

Donovan is scheduled to arrive in Tucson on Wednesday ahead of the tournament opener against New England, while Stephens is scheduled to arrive on March 1 after representing the U.S. Under-23′s in a friendly against Mexico.

Keane was named in the Republic of Ireland squad that faces the Czech Republic Feb. 29.

*Meanwhile, Chivas USA find themselves playing one of the best teams in Mexico tonight, – CD Guadalajara remains rooted to the foot of the Mexican first division, BTW – Club Tijuana in San Diego, which the latter club considers their home market these days.

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Weekly Column: Pasadena Pete returns to SoCal with Chivas USA

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Robin and his merry men: Chivas USA Coach and former Galaxy defender Robin Fraser has turned to a familiar face to provide stability in midfield for the Goats (Photos by Staff Photographer Steve McCrank).

When former Galaxy midfielder and captain Pete Vagenas contemplated an offer from Chivas USA, it’s fair to say he thought long and hard about the decision given his history with the first MLS team in the market:

“I’m honored to be here playing for Robin and Greg Vanney and I’m honored to be playing for Chivas,” he said. “I understand the issues from my past. I wasn’t insesnsitive to that when this decision was being made. I wanted to make sure I was making it for the right decisions and at the end of the day I want to be here and I want to play for these guys and I can’t wait to get started.

“Robin was Obama before Obama to me, in the sense of I had so much respect for him,” Vagenas added. “Not only was he a great player he was a great leader and he put the team first and sometimes that led to confrontations with our coach. But he said what needed to be said and I remember thinking specificallty as a young kid if I ever had the opportunity to be a leader I want to do it in that similar way.”

Incidentally, Vagenas laughed when I asked him about his old “Pass Back Pete” nickname – and he made no apologies for it:

“It’s a very possession oriented game and we have to establish that rhythm, but at the same time like Robin said this morning in the preseason we’re trying to maybe play a bit too much. That leads to costly turnovers and before you know it you’re down one nothing. Nobody want to play a prettier game thah I do, but at the end of the day you’ve sometimes got to play ugly because you’re trying to win games.”

And somehow you’ve got to think that with the presence of Vagenas in midfield, Chivas USA stands a better chance of exceeding their win total over last season.

For more, here’s today’s column.

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Pete’s Prayer: Former Galaxy midfielder Pete Vagenas wanted to finished his career in Southern California where he grew up; this year his wish came true when Chivas USA came calling.

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Chivas USA Camp Update in Photos

I headed out to Chivas USA preseason training at Home Depot Center Monday and was joined by staff photographer Steve McCrank, whose work is seen below

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Familiar Face: To Galaxy fans, if not in this jersey. Pasadena’s Pete Vagenas has returned to Southern California with Chivas USA – even if the club has yet to formally get around to announcing his signing, despite the fact he’s been in camp a month.

I’ll have more in Tuesday’s column on Pete Vagenas and his return to the Home Depot Center with Chivas USA, a team that has more associations with the Galaxy than you first think – especially when you see Coach Robin Fraser, Assistant Coach Greg Vanney and former Galaxy defender Dan Calichmann talking to each other at the end of practice.

Incidentally, Chivas USA has three new trialists in camp, although reporters today were asked to hold off until later Tuesday until naming two of them until the club registers them with the league as discovery players. Coach Robin Fraser has not been reticient about bringing in new faces.

I can tell you that one, however, is former Houston Dynamo draft pick Karo Okiomah, a striker.

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Did you know department: Striker Juan Pablo Angel has not actually finalized a contract with the team, with an unspecified, but minor point apparently remaining. No one seems particularly concerned.

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In Control: Yet another former Galaxy player – Alejandro Moreno – trains Monday under gloomy skies at Home Depot Center.

Lastly, the MLS Reserve League schedule was released today – and the first game has the Galaxy playing Chivas USA at 11 a.m. March 12.

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LA-based AEG rules out Spurs bid

Because really, Americans only like to buy properties in leagues that have salary caps. Here’s more from the Associated Press:

LONDON (AP) — The Anschutz Entertainment Group ruled out buying Tottenham Hotspur on Friday while reasserting its strong ties with the Premier League club.

Speculation about the owners of Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy buying Tottenham has simmered since they jointly bid to move into London’s Olympic Stadium after the 2012 Games.

After that bid failed, Tottenham initiated a search for investors to fund a new venue adjacent to its current White Hart Lane base and the club delisted from the stock market.

But AEG President Tim Leiweke has moved to quash talk of his company adding Tottenham to a sports portfolio that includes NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and an interest in the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team.

“The stories that AEG is interested in or has been negotiating for the purchase of Tottenham are untrue,” Leiweke said in a statement to The Associated Press. “We currently enjoy a very good business and personal relationship with Tottenham and have been involved with a number of transactions over the years. However at no time have we had a desire to purchase that club. “We will continue to have a great relationship with (chairman) Daniel (Levy) and Tottenham moving forward.”

Harry Redknapp’s side is currently the top club in London, sitting third in the Premier League seven points behind leader Manchester City.

Tottenham is mostly owned by ENIC, which is controlled by Bahamas-based businessman Joe Lewis.

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A Few Words With Galaxy midfielder Kyle Nakazawa

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Cali kid: Kyle Nakazawa of Palos Verdes Estates is now a Galaxy player.

I’ve followed the career of Palos Verdes Estates’ Kyle Nakazawa since he pulled the strings in midfield for UCLA.

Now he’s joined his hometown Galaxy and will (hopefully) play regularly at Home Depot Center, a stadium where you can see the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the distance.

I recently had the opportunity to chat briefly with Nakazawa after one of his first training sessions since joining the club from the Philadelphia Union.

Question: Are you glad to be home?
Answer: I went from not too good of a situation (in Philadelphia) to the best situation ever – being home, playing where I grew up. I couldn’t ask for anything (better). My entire famiy is super happy; my parents were ecstatic when they heard the news, so it has been a positive transition for everybody.

Q: What is going on at the Union with all these major players changes?
A: To be honest, I have no idea. I just know they’re making a bunch of changes and I think they’re going in a different direction with their team. Some players they decided to keep, some players they had different plans for. In the end it worked out for me because I ended up coming back here, back home, but I think they’re just doing a big overhaul of their team.

Q: Was the trade a big surprise to you?
A: It wasn’t a huge surprise. I played a lot during the first half of last season, but then during the last half of the year I was struggling to find playing time. The most important thing for any player is to finish strong and towards the end of last season I wasn’t playing much and had a feeling the team had a different outlook as far as my future (with it).

We had barely even started training over there (this year) and then there was talk of me heading west. I didn’t think it was going to be resolved this quickly, but obviously I couldn’t be happier. I was on the first flight out (of Philadelphia) the next morning. I was ready to get out of there.

Q: What about your opportunities with the Galaxy? They have a pretty loaded roster in midfield.
A: It’s probably the most competitive midfield in the league. But I’m here to work hard and contribute anywhere on the field that I can. If I continue to work hard and improve every day I’ll get a chance.

Q: How is it being back on a squad with former Bruins Michael Stephens and Brian Perk?
A: It’s kind of like a UCLA reunion. I had played with those guys even before that in (U-17) residency (in Bradenton, Fla.). It’s a weird feeeling, but it’s also really cool. There’s a lot of players here on the Galaxy (squad) I’m really familiar with and trained in the offseason with while I was at UCLA. So I’m comfortable with how the guys play – it’s a great feeling (to be here).

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Galaxy’s Payne out in AEG “reorganization”*

*Post updated

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Galaxy President of Business Operations Tom Payne, 47, (right), responsible for all the club’s front office moves, and Director of Communications Patrick Donnelly, a long-time fixture in the team’s public relations department, have both left the franchise in what parent company Anschutz Entertainment Group is characterizing as a “reorganization.”

In place of Payne comes Palos Verdes Peninsula resident Chris McGowan, chief operating officer with the Los Angeles Kings, who will assume the same title with the Galaxy. He has been with the Kings 16 years.

Michael Altieri, vice president of communications and content with the Kings, will head up the Galaxy’s PR efforts.

Youth Academy Director Chris Klein will also take on an expanded role in the club’s front office, deputizing for McGowan.

The changes, plus others within AEG, are expected to be formally announced Friday. They were first reported by former Galaxy GM Alexi Lalas on Wednesday who Tweeted: “AEG says current @LAGalaxy President Tom Payne is “transitioning out of the organization”.”

Payne joined the Galaxy in 2003 as assistant general manager and rose to the position of President of Business Operations in November 2008.

In that role he assumed responsibility for ticket sales, marketing, communications and the like.

Perhaps significantly, the Galaxy did not regularly sell out 24,500-seat Home Depot Center last year, despite going unbeaten at home and hoisting the MLS Cup at year’s end.

The New York native is the brother of D.C. United executive Kevin Payne.

Donnelley had been with the Galaxy for more than 10 years, rising through the ranks of the club’s communications department.

Updated Friday

Here’s what Galaxy and AEG CEO Tim Leiweke had to say today about the appointment of the 38-year-old McGowan to the COO post:

“With our recent MLS Cup Championship, the return of David Beckham and our outstanding roster heading into this season, the Galaxy will continue their rapid growth in this marketplace under Chris’ leadership. Also with the addition of our new partnership with Time Warner Cable Sports, we now have a tremendous opportunity to significantly increase our reach and support in both the English and Spanish-speaking population, and with Chris’ knowledge combined with AEG’s resources, we expect that growth to be unprecedented in our history with the Galaxy.”

Reading between the lines, it seems that under the leadership of Tom Payne, the Galaxy simply wasn’t growing its audience at the pace the hard-charging Leiweke expected.

Nevertheless, Payne claims it was his decision to leave the Galaxy:

“After nine great years here at the Home Depot Center, I have made the decision to leave the Galaxy organization. I have enjoyed my time with the club and have fond memories of all the great things that we have accomplished, including winning the MLS Cup last year in front of our home fans. During my time I have been able to see the growth of this club not only here locally, but also nationally and internationally, and I am proud to have been able to play a significant role in that growth.”

Payne will temporarily remain with the Galaxy to assist in the transition.

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Thursday Kicks: Galaxy’s Stephens, Chivas USA’s Villafaa still in Olympics mix & more

*Galaxy midfielder Michael Stephens and Chivas USA utility man Jorge Villafaa were both named today to a 10-day training camp in Frisco, Tex., involving 23 players that begins Sunday.

Senior squad regulars Dallas’ Brek Shea and New York Red Bull Juan Aguedelo are among five newcomers to the roster.

The camp and a Feb. 23 game against their U-23 Mexican counterparts marks the final chance for players to impress Coach Caleb Porter ahead of Olympic qualifying, which begins March 22.

“I think Mexico is going to be about as close to a qualifying atmosphere as we can possibly get,” Porter said. “We’re going to have, for the most part, our entire group together for the first time.”

The roster:

Goalkeepers – Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)

Defenders – Greg Garza (Club Tijuana), Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo), Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact), Jorge Villafaa (Chivas USA)

Midfielders – Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Gent), Dilly Duka (Columbus Crew), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union), Michael Stephens (LA Galaxy)

Forwards – Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union), Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Tony Taylor (Estoril Praia)

*The Galaxy beat Chivas USA 3-2 this morning in Carson. Pat Noonan, Adam Cristman and Dan Keat scored for the Galaxy as LA sprinted to a 3-0 lead at the half; Trialist Cesar Romero and Michael Lahoud replied for the Goats in the second 45 minutes.

*Single game Galaxy tickets went on sale today for the club’s 17 home MLS games starting at $30. Call 1-877-3GALAXY.

However, tickets for mini-plans, for as few as three games, start at $22 a game.

The Galaxy went undefeated at Home Depot Center last season.

*Landon Donovan was named Everton’s Player of the Month after assisting on five of Everton’s eight goals in January, and added another lovely dish against Chelsea last weekend. Donovan returns toi the Galaxy after Saturday’s fifth-round FA Cup match against Blackpool (live 6:30 a.m. Fox Soccer).

*The Premier Development League, which includes five teams in Southern California, released its 2012 season schedule today.

The season begins April 22 when the newly-named LA Misioneros (formerly LA Legends) visits the Fresno Fuego.

*Loyola Marymount University announced today its 11-member 2012 recruiting class, highlighted locally by Bay League Player of the Year Michael Meissner of Palos Verdes High.

“Michael is a very versatile and talented attacking player,” said Coach Paul Krumpe. “He is one of the top players in the South Bay, which is an area that has produced some of our best players. I expect him to be able to contribute in our midfield in a variety of positions.”

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Report: Chivas USA to leave Carson’s Home Depot Center in 2012

That apparently is what the club is aiming for, according to this Spanish-language report.

The club sounds no further along in figuring out exactly where it is going to play beginning in 2013, however.

A potential, although unspecified, five different locations are still mentioned as possibilities for a new or refurbished stadium including, apparently as a last-ditch option, the LA Memorial Coliseum.

The club’s small crowds, already dwarfed by the 24,500-capacity HDC, would be swallowed almost entirely by the cavernous 90,000-seat Coliseum, likely giving its games an atmosphere closer to a women’s college game than an MLS one.

Supposedly the club, which unveiled the 2012 version of its jersey on a commercial flight between LA and Guadalajara Wednesday, will make a decision by this summer.

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Wednesday Kicks: Galaxy lose, Chivas win against the same team (sort of) & more

How glad was I to skip a long-mulled holiday weekend trip to Palm Springs? Pretty glad.

Instead I simply stayed away from the keyboard for a few days and by way of catch-up should note that:

*The Galaxy lost yet another preseason game Wednesday at Home Depot Center, although much more important than the result was that Palos Verdes Estates’ Kyle Nakazawa saw his first minutes in a scrimmage since joining the club from the Philadelphia Union and draft picks Tommy Meyer and Bryan Gaul continue to audition for a central defensive slot partnered by A.J. DeLaGarza.

*Speaking of center backs: the Galaxy is making injured stopper Omar Gonzalez available to the media Thursday for the first time since his knee surgery after the club’s closed door scrimmage with Chivas USA.

*The Galaxy have pared their roster to 34, releasing 2011 draft picks Ryan Thomas and Dustin McCarty and 2012 draft pick Stephen Posa from camp. The only minutes Thomas, a defender, experienced was in the meaningless 2011 season finale, while midfielders McCarty and Posa simply had no chance to crack the star-studded Galaxy midfield.

*More important is the early return of Landon Donovan to the club in the wake of yet another sparkling performance for Everton against Chelsea that included an assist on the goal that sealed an unlikely win for the Liverpudlians. Would LD like to stay longer? Oh yeah, and it sounds like that is a more permanent stay is a distinct possibility eventually.

*Chivas USA, playing the Impact’s second-string Wednesday following the Canadian club’s game against the Galaxy, beat Montreal in Carson.

The club unveils its new 2012 jersey at around 30,000 feet somewhere between LA and Guadalajara today and have similarly high hopes for this young highly-rated Ecuadorian newcomer.

*Good to see former Galaxy veteran Chris Albright sign with his hometown team.

*Finally, is Diamond bar’s Alex Morgan poised to become the latest American golden goal to win the nation’s collective heart at this year’s Olympics? Sure seems so.

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