“Bite” arrives in the LA Galaxy midfield, that’s Mr. Pablo Mastroeni to you

photoWhen Landon Donovan was getting ready for Galaxy practice this morning in the locker room, out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw someone who looked an awful lot  like his former U.S. midfield teammate Pablo Mastroeni.

“I thought I was dreaming because I hadn’t heard anything (about the trade),” Donovan said. “I had no clue. It was bizarre.”

Well, not that bizarre.

Leave it to Bruce Arena to tinker on an off weekend with the Galaxy suddenly struggling. And add yet another member of his coaching staff, excuse me, a veteran player he knows well to a squad that needs a little kick up their collective butt.

“He’s the kind of player we’ve been looking for,” Arena said simply as if it should be self evident the qualities Mastroeni possesses that the Galaxy lack (Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas in the middle of the park, he’s talking about you).

And Mastroeni is the butt kicking sort Arena was talking about (even if he didn’t use those words) this stuttering club needs at the midway juncture of the season. Even after 350 or so MLS games over 15 years and 60-plus U.S. internationals including on two Arena-led World Cup teams.

Still, the Galaxy are a club step up for Mastroeni from the Rapids, where he was seemingly being gradually frozen out, — and he knows it.

“It’s exciting to come in and have to raise your level, make a difference here,” he said. It’s a super environment and one I can thrive in. … My contribution has to be one that matches the competitiveness of what already exists here.”

Incidentally, despite a concussion that restricted him to two games last year, Mastroeni says he is healthy and no longer wears a helmet, a largely psychological hurdle he had to work through:

‘I’ve been trying to cheat time since I turned 30,” he said. “Last year I suffered some concussion stuff so it brought me another year – I’m really 35.”

Told that veteran players tend to come to the club as a prelude to coaching, Mastroeni conceded that likely was in his future, too, emphasis on the future.

“If I’m already thinking coaching and I’m gravitating toward that, I think for me as a player it’s so important to just stay focused on what the goal is, one, to remain healthy and, two, to contribute, and if you lose track of those two things you’re going to be a coach sooner than you want to be.”

Incidentally, the Galaxy lost an international slot and a second round draft pick in the trade that included the rights to former Bosnian-American Chicago Fire midfielder Baggio Husidic, currently with AEG-owned Hammarby in Sweden until his contract expires at year’s end.

The move sounds more like an insurance policy than a firm alternative, Arena describing the makeweight in the deal as an option for both player and club, saying he hadn’t spoken to manager Gregg Berhalter at Hammarby or the player.

I’ll have more in Tuesday’s column, including what Landon Donovan thinks Mastroeni will bring to the club (hint it’s in the blog post title).


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Soccer Saturday: Downtown Los Angeles seeks soccer stadium & more

  • It doesn’t sound like Chivas USA know a thing about it, but that didn’t stop LA city officials from dropping the club’s name in connection with a rather pie in the sky plan for a downtown soccer stadium.
  • The U.S. Women’s Team is back in action tonight with Hermosa Beach resident Abby Wambach closing in on a famous Mia Hamm mark.
  • The Galaxy’s Jose Villarreal was on target in the U-20’s final game before the World Cup gets underway.
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Chivas USA gets new coach, Carson stadium a new name

braintrustChivas USA brain trust: From left, Director of Football Paco Palencia, President Dennis Te Klose and new coach Jose Luis Real Casillas explain the club’s direction at a press conference in Carson Thursday where new coach Casilla was introduced to the media (Photo by Staff Photographer Brittany Murray).

The Galaxy and Chivas USA each held press conferences Thursday a few minutes and a couple of miles apart.

Staff Writer Phil Collin attended the Chivas USA announcement at the Doubletree Hotel, while I hung at the newly-named StubHub Center.

Here’s more from the coach from the Chivas USA press release:

“I don’t just arrive to manage the team simply for personal gain, I come on behalf of the institution,” said Real. “This is a huge difference from what’s been done up to this point.  We are seeking to achieve a unified system and to integrate [Chivas] Guadalajara’s ideas while always adapting them to the country we live in. The key word is integration, which should not be confused with the notion of doing exactly the same things as they are done in Guadalajara.


“The overall idea will be the same but there will be adaptations to a country that is different. Above everything, we need to implement whatever adaptations with great respect to the League and the country we are working in. I am intrigued and excited about the opportunity to influence, prove and demonstrate to the non-believers that we can accomplish that, [use a unified and integrated idea adapted to this League].”

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World Cup qualifying TV ratings (and Landon Donovan speaks on missing the U.S. game)

The Galaxy’s Landon Donovan reacts to my question today in the Tout video above about what he thinks of the U.S. progress in World Cup qualifying given his absence (and yeah, what do you expect him to say?).

Those of you who read my column this week know that I was musing about the ESPN World Cup qualifying doubleheader from a ratings perspective, especially with the U.S. game receiving a strong lead-in from the preceding Mexico game.

Well, the Mexico-Costa Rica contest earned an average rating of 0.3 meaning it was seen by 540,000 viewers. Plenty of them likely stuck around to watch the U.S. beat Panama, which was the second-most viewed international game ever on ESPN, beaten only by the Mexico-U.S. showdown in March (1.4 rating).

U.S.-Panama came in with a 0.8 rating and was watched by an estimated audience of 1,436,000. The San Diego market was tops in the U.S., pulling in a 2.5 rating.

The Spanish language coverage of the two games on UniMas delivered 2.8 million viewers for Mexico-Costa Rica and 1.2 million for U.S-Panama/

Next for the U.S. in World Cup qualifying: Tuesday in Salt Lake City verses Honduras (live on ESPN and UniMas)


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Wednesday Kicks: U.S. World Cup qualifying video highlights & more

With arch rivals Mexico stumbling to another World Cup qualifying draw Tuesday night, the U.S. took command of the Hexagonal with its best performance of the year so far defeating Panama 2-0 before an energized Seattle crowd that may just have been the best ever to cheer on the Americans.

It was a feel-good night all around for the U.S. with Sounder Eddie Johnson sealing his return to national team glory before what is now his home crowd, Jozy Altidore still clicking with yet another goal and a midfield that controlled the game from start to finish.

And if Seattle ever gets a grass field, it should immediately become the favored U.S. home field don’t you think? Who wouldn’t like to turn the daunting Azteca tables on El Tri?

In other soccer news:


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Weekly Soccer Column: ESPN scores with tonight’s World Cup Qualifying Doubleheader

seattleposterWhich, along with a short piece on the Galaxy’s goalkeeping issues, is the subject of my column today.

Incidentally, the cool poster above, produced for tonight’s game in Seattle, is available for purchase. More details here.

A game preview is here.

Is Seattle the best soccer town in the country? This story would suggest it is.

Incidentally, guess who the top performing U.S. player is, according to this measurement (hint, it’s not Clint Dempsey)? Answer here.

Meanwhile, Rancho Cucamonga’s Carlos Bocanegra is not in the U.S. squad for the game, but will be inducted into the UCLA Hall of Fame later this year.

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Video: LA Galaxy at Real Salt Lake

The Kings weren’t the only LA team to go down to a defeat Saturday night as our sister newspaper The Salt Lake Tribune reports.

If you were busy watching soccer on ice last night, here are the lowlights of the Galaxy’s game against Real Salt Lake.
Landon Donovan scored as if to make a point to someone,  but it wasn’t enough for the depleted Galaxy.

Quotable: “In this league you don’t have a roster of 20 or 25 guys that are sort of all the same,” said Landon Donovan. “In other leagues in the world you have more of that. In this league when you miss 3 or 4 guys that are instrumental, it makes a difference.  We can still be better as a group with the guys we have. We have done enough for the most part to get some points in these games, but we’re falling short when it matters.”

Incidentally, Cudicini’s absence was variously diplomatically described on Twitter as “coaches decision” and “lineup rotation.” Where I come from that’s called “dropped.”

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena didn’t sound thrilled the Galaxy were one of the few MLS teams to play a reduced schedule because of World Cup qualifying: “They got the goal at the end, and that made the difference.”

Gotcha, Bruce,

Next for the Galaxy: in Portland against the Timbers June 19.


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Soccer Saturday: USMNT video highlights, Galaxy preview

Old Torrance’s Tortilla Cantina wasn’t showing the Jamaica-U.S. game when I walked through the door Friday night and asked them to turn on BeIN Sports

By the time the game ended, many people in the bar were cheering the Americans’ dramatic win.

Wach the highlights and you will know why.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy are in Salt Lake City today as part of a reduced MLS slate (live at 6:30 p.m. Time Warner Cable). Sister paper The Salt Lake City Tribune has the game preview.

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World Cup Preview: U.S., Mexico & more

With Japan becoming the first nation to qualify for the World Cup this week, winners and losers are beginning to emerge along the long road to Brazil.

Hexagonal basement dwellers Jamaica, led by former Galaxy netminder Donovan Ricketts, will face the U.S. tonight (6:30 BeIN Sport) with the knowledge they could soon join the ranks of the losers, but are nonetheless exuding confidence publicly.

Other televised CONCACAF games include:

*Panama-Mexico, (7 p.m. Telemundo), where first place in the group is up for grabs.

*Costa Rica-Honduras (9 p.m. BeIN Sport)

BTW, Tuesday’s games are back on ESPN, which has a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m. with Mexico-Costa Rica followed by U.S.-Panama.

Meanwhile, ESPN has announced it will show all 52 games from the Under-20 World Cup that kicks off June 21 with all three U.S. group games on either ESPN2 or ESPNU. As expected, the U.S. squad has a large Southern California contingent.


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