Weekly column: MLS is back, bigger and better than ever


Hard as it is to believe, Major League Soccer is back already for another season.

My column today is intended to set the stage and bring casual fans of the sport up to date on the growth and success of the sport.

The immediate focus this week is on the CONCACAF Champions League opponents Toronto, who have never seen their on-field sucess match their fans’ fervor off it.

The current version of the team boasts UCSB product Luis Silva, whose playmaking ability is already being talked up.

The Galaxy’s Landon Donovan, still recovering from illness, said he is about 90 percent fit. His ailment partly nullified the work he had put in in England with Everton, he said Sunday before the Galaxy headed north:

“The frustrating thing was I was as fit and healthy as I’ve felt in a long time, but then when you’re ill and you don’t train for two weeks it kind of takes it out of you, so this week I’ve been trying to get my fitness back and be sharp again.

“It was good for me and important for me to play a bunch of games in the off-season at that (EPL) level.” he added. “I think it’s only going to help me. We can see now how Robbie is much sharper than he was when he first came here last year. Edson having been in Europe and having played some games there has come back a better, more confident player so I think for all of us its been a big benefit (to play in Europe).”

Toronto will need to much impoved if they hope to stay with a Galaxy offense even more loaded than last year with Buddle rejoining the team:

“It’s not a front six I would ever want to play against if I were an MLS defender,” Donovan said. “And having Edson back there’s not many teams that are going to make a better acquisition that that. We were under the impression we had lost Juninho so to get him back is a big plus, too.

Donovan said the team senses they are closing in on a major piece of silverware:

“You don’t get many opportunities to do something like this,” he said. “We think we have a team that’s capable of doing something special so you don’t want to take that lightly. We know Toronto is an improved team. That first game there is going to be a massive game for them.”

The biggest question mark for the Galaxy is in central defense, where dominant MLS Defender of the Year Omar Gonzalez is absent through injury:

“Obviously (not having) Omar is going to hurt there’s no question about it,” Donovan said. “But Bruce has a system in place and has done a lot of work with the young guys and Andrew to get them ready to fill that role. We’ll have some mixing and matching of some guys, but we still feel confident.”

Incidentally, the last eight of the Champions League gets under way tonight with Morelia playing Monterrey at 7 o’clock.

On Wednesday, the Seattle Sounders-Santos clash follows the Galaxy game on Fox Soccer and Telefutura at 7 p.m.

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