U.S.-Mexico in review: Three bullet points from a Los Angeles perspective

A compelling 2-2 game between the U.S. and Mexico Wednesday in Arizona provided plenty of talking points as the World Cup looms.

Here are just three from a Southern California/Galaxy perspective:

  • What message was U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann trying to send Landon Donovan by not starting him in the U.S. XI?

    That he is not indispensible? That in a midlfield featuring the likes of the creative Michael Bradley, the crunching Kyle Beckerman and the foraging Graham Zusi there is not necessarily a place for the most influential American player of the last generation. That Klinsmann wants a sometimes self-contained — or is that a smug Donovan — to show a little bit more fire in the belly outwardly? Or that in the wake of what was essentially a demotion to the scouting ranks for assistant coach Martin Vasquez on the eve of the game in favor of the fast-rising Tab Ramos that no supposed fixture can afford to become complacent? All of the above probably. Donovan shrugged off the slight with an offhand “I’m entering a different phase of my career” comment to the Los Angeles Times, which is likely not the reaction Klinsmann wanted to provoke  Even though the Mexican team essentially ceded the territorial advantage to the U.S. in the first half before changing tactics and erasing that dominance in the second, it won’t have escaped Klinsmann’s notice how the U.S. played with Donovan until his belated entrance with around 30 minutes to play. It’s clear Donovan needs to show leadership and raise his game as the World Cup approaches. Is he capable of doing so?

  • What does the emergence of Michael Bradley mean for the U.S. and Donovan?


    The newly-signed Toronto star arguably had his finest 45 minutes in a U.S. uniform during the opening half of the game. He was everywhere with perceptive passing, all around leadership and hustle and penetrating offense. Looked a lot like Donovan in his prime, frankly. Did Klinsmann tell him to up his game, that the playmaker mantle is his for the taking if he only shows he’s willing to grasp the opportunity? Frankly, I can’t believe that Klinsmann wouldn’t take Donovan to Brazil. But he’s clearly sending messages here, continuing to challenge his players as the tournament approaches.

  • Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez needs to show he is the undisputed leader on the back line. The Maryland product is a designated player with the Galaxy and the clear first choice in central defense for the U.S. But if there’s a knock on him, it’s that Gonzalez is somewhat reserved and needs to demonstrate his leadership, too, and ability to play whoever is put alongside him. The sight of Gonzalez turning on Beckerman after the Rafa Marquez goal even though the Galaxy defender was not marking anyone in particular, does not bode well when the U.S. faces sterner foes than Mexico this summer. If Gonzalez wants a big money move to Europe in the wake of the tournament, he needs to demonstrate he’s an elite player worthy of playing for a top club.
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U.S.-Mexico Preview: Is striker Julian Green ready for prime time?

It’s not easy to overshadow a U.S.-Mexico international (live at 8 p.m. on ESPN), but the excitement over the likely debut of emerging German-based striker Julian Green is managing to do that.

For a complete breakdown of the game click here.

Lastly, here’s an interesting profile of Galaxy and U.S. international defender Omar Gonzalez, who supposedly embodies the new breed of American player.

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Former Chivas USA forward Braun returns to Carson to haunt LA Galaxy II

It figured.

Lightly regarded MLS reject Justin Braun may not have had a convincing top level career, but USL Pro appears just right after the former Chivas USA striker scored the Sacramento Republic’s inaugural goal in a 1-1 draw against the Galaxy II Saturday night at the StubHub Center track and field stadium.

A crowd of 1,085, including visiting Republic fans, watched former Chivas USA coach Preki almost steal a point against an old foe before sub Chandler Hoffman equalized late in the game.

“I thought on a better day we walk away with the three points,” Preki told the Republic website. “There is still a lot of room for improvement and I know that as the season goes we will get better and better.”

LA Galaxy II Starting XI (2)LA Lads: How many of the Galaxy II starting XI can you name? (Photo courtesy LA Galaxy).

LA Galaxy II lineup: Brian Rowe; Oscar Sorto, Daniel Steres (Kofi Opare 72’), Tommy Meyer, Logan Emory (Eder Arreola 88’); Aleksandar Đoković (Alejandro Covarrubias 61’), Rafael Garcia© (Bradford Jamieson IV 79’), Kenney Walker, Raul Mendiola; Charlie Rugg (Chandler Hoffman 55’), Jack McBean

The Republic returns to the South Bay April 7 to play a game at the same venue against Chivas USA reserves.

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LA Galaxy Update: James Riley, Preki, Justin Braun and more

Galaxy*The Galaxy have a bye in MLS play this weekend ahead of the April 6 SuperClasico with Chivas USA, although the Galaxy II play their second ever game Saturday in Carson against the Sacramento Republic coached by former Chivas USA coach Preki and with a forward line led by former Chivas USA striker Justin Braun.

Republic will play its inaugural USL pro game against the Galaxy.

Goalkeeper Brian Rowe, forward Chandler Hoffman and defender Tommy Meyer were loaned to the reserve side for the game, the Galaxy announced this morning.

*Coach Bruce Arena will undoubtedly welcome the extra time to prepare his first team after learning this week that veteran defender James Riley, an off-season pick-up from the Seattle Sounders, is out six months  — basically the season — after undergoing surgery on his left knee joint.

Riley suffered the injury in the 32nd minute of the Galaxy’s 1-1 draw Saturday with Real Salt Lake.

The injury essentially will erase Riley’s 10th MLS season and at age 31 seemingly puts his career in jeopardy. He had played just twice for the Galaxy, but was seen as the successor to the departed Sean Franklin at right back.

*Omar Gonzalez and Landon Donovan are heading to Phoenix to link up with the national team ahead of Wednesday’s game against Mexico. The 22-player roster is here.

*Finally, in what amounts to a strengthening of its commercial relationship with primary sponsor Herbalife, the Galaxy announced the formation of a sports science department headed by trainer Armando Rivas, who becomes director of sports medicine. Alex Savva becomes the club’s manager of sports science.

From the club’s press release:

In his new role, Savva will ensure players are able to perform optimally by implementing nutrition and supplementation programs in line with their training and weight goals. This will include nutritional consultations; dietary planning; measuring body fat and weight periodically; hydration testing; blood testing to assess nutritional deficiencies; analyzing GPS data; and providing feedback to coaches and medical staff.

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Major League Soccer Video Previews: Galaxy-Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas-Chivas USA

Todd Dunivant could return for the Galaxy today to bolster the back line against Real Salt Lake in rematch of the season opener (live at 1 p.m. on NBCSN).

Here’s a look at the match-up by the numbers.

Chivas USA are in Dallas for a a 5:30 p.m. game that will be streamed live here. Stats, injuries and more here in the pre-game break down.

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The LA Galaxy and Chivas USA play road Major League Soccer games this weekend, but you can still watch the clubs play live in Southern California

USLPropromoThe Galaxy (0-1-0) play Real Salt Lake (1-0-1) in Sandy, Utah Saturday (live at 1 p.m. on NBCSN), while Chivas USA (1-0-1) play in Texas against 1-0-1 FC Dallas (streamed live here at 5:30 p.m. Saturday), but local fans can still watch the team’s play live and in person this weekend.

The Galaxy II play their inaugural USL Pro game against the newly-rebranded Orange County Blues at the track & field stadium on the Cal State Dominguez Hills campus.

Parking is free. USL Pro games will also be streamed live this season on YouTube.

From the USL pro press release:

The Galaxy II, led by Coach Curt Onalfo, will have a variety of talent at their disposal with Homegrown Players Jack McBean and Oscar Sorto set to compete alongside USL PRO veterans such as 2013 All-League selection Daniel Steres.

 

The Blues, meanwhile, enter with a good returning group that is led by forward Chris Cortez. The former Chivas USA forward, who had nine goals a season ago, is set to be joined in attack by new addition Gibson Bardsley, who arrives after an All-League season with the Dayton Dutch Lions in 2013. The Blues will also have a new face in goal after former Chivas USA goalkeeper Patrick McLain joined the side.

Later Friday the Galaxy announced players loaned to the Galaxy II are Rafael Garcia, Bradford Jamieson IV, Jack McBean, Raul Mendiola, Charlie Rugg and Oscar Sorto as well as a trio of other Galaxy players also available for selection Saturday  Kyle Venter, Kofi Opare and Kenney Walker.

Meanwhile, Chivas USA’s Youth Development Academy hosts a SuperClasico tripleheader Saturday against the Galaxy at the Bell Gardens Sports Complex, 8000 Park Lane.

The U13/U14 teams face off at 9:30 a.m., followed by the U17/U18 teams at noon and the U15/16 teams at 2:30 p.m.

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CONCACAF Champions League Video Highlights: LA Galaxy go to the dogs in Tijuana against Xolos

The Galaxy’s failure to advance to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League Wednesday in Tijuana was magnified by the manner of the 4-2 aggregate loss: LA conceded two goals inside nine minutes and a third inside the opening half hour.

That quick 3-1 turnaround from a 1-0 lead going into the game meant the Galaxy were never likely to overcome such a deadly opening salvo against class opposition even if on paper the away goals rule meant progression in the tournament was as tantalizingly close as just one more goal.

In practice however that was never likely with Club Tijuana clearly superior to the Galaxy on their familiar fake field before zealous fans even if Galaxy coach Bruce Arena sounded unwilling to publicly proclaim how much better the hosts were than the MLS outfit.

“It wasn’t our intention to make this game entertaining but it certainly became an entertaining game — our first half play was awful right from the start,” Arena said. “We didn’t win a tackle, our backline was very poor. Let’s be fair, we weren’t good. How good they were I don’t know. They were certainly better than we were.”

Landon Donovan was far more honest about just how shocked the Galaxy were at the opening turn of events that blew their game plan out of the water right away:

“It’s hard to explain,” he said of what occurred. “I don’t know what happened to be honest. We seemed ready, we seemed prepared and we spoke about how we wanted to approach the game, but then one ball bounce around in the box and we weren’t alert, then the next thing you know, we were down a goal. Then we didn’t pay well and we’re okay for a minutes, but they got the second goal and it became more and more difficult. It took us till halftime to recuperate and get ourselves going again. We gave it a good effort, but it wasn’t enough.”

Perhaps Robbie Keane summed it up best: the Galaxy were simply DOA, quickly letting down the sizable contingent of traveling fans:

“The game was over in the first 10 minutes,” keane said. “It’s as simple as that. We started off slow and when you concede a goal in the space of 57 seconds, you can’t start away from home like that especially in a game like this and go on and expect that everything is going to be okay.”

No, you can’t.

Next up for the Galaxy: Real Salt Lake Saturday in Utah.

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CONCACAF Champions League Preview: LA Galaxy at Xolos tonight in Tijuana

So it was a soft goal for Tijuana to concede and a lucky one for the Galaxy to score, but the Galaxy have a slim one-goal cushion after last week’s first leg win in Carson as American clubs look to best their Mexican counterparts this weekend in the oft-overlooked CONCACAF Champions League.

I take a look at the U.S. chances in this week’s column.

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