MLS Commissioner Don Garber gave his state of the league address today via roundtable and the biggest news that was announced was the MLS Best XI.
Defender Omar Gonzalez, midfielder Landon Donovan and forward Robbie Keane of the Galaxy were named to the squad. You can’t argue with the selections of the team’s three designated players unless the cynics point out that A.J. DeLaGarza was named the Galaxy’s defender of the year ahead of his longtime teammate.
For Donovan, it was his seventh selection to the team to establish an MLS record.
Keane is also up for the league MVP award, which will be announced in downtown L.A. on Wednesday. With 19 goals and 14 assists this season and earned his third consecutive Best XI honor.
Landon Donovan was the last Galaxy player off CenturyLink Field after the Galaxy eliminated rival Seattle in the MLS Western Conference finals to reach the MLS Cup.
He was, per custom, trailed by a number of media. But before he ducked into the tunnel to head to the locker room and celebrate with teammates, he took some time to soak in the admiration from fans. Even Sounders fans who understood this was the last time they would see him play in their stadium. Actually, it seemed like Donovan was taking it in far more than the fans were.
In an apparently impromptu gesture, he took the shirt off his back and gave it to a fan and didn’t hesitate to sign autographs.
He wasn’t done and headed toward another group to sign autographs and shake hands.
Oh, and endure the wrath of a different kind of fan.
Warning. Adult language here. Or as they say, NSFW.
Donovan will play his last game on Sunday at StubHub Center when the Galaxy take on New England for the MLS Cup title.
Just a guess, but that’s a part of the game he might not miss so much.
His career comes down to one game, next Sunday’s MLS Cup against New England at StubHub Center. Then on to retirement.
Donovan will be trying to win his sixth MLS Cup, the Galaxy will be trying to capture their fifth, which would set a league record.
In the latter part of the season, the Galaxy turned to Stefan Ishizaki more and more to take the Galaxy’s free kicks and corner kicks.
For the most part, the midfielder had been effective. But when the Galaxy earned a corner kick early in the second half Sunday in Seattle, captain Robbie Keane told Landon Donovan to return to his role as the team’s corner kick man.
“Stefan was struggling with it,” Donovan said. “He had some really good free kicks but he was struggling with his service from the corner. I just wanted to try to put it in a good position and we’ve been waiting for Juni all year to get one of those good strikes on target in a good spot and he made a great shot and a great goal.”
Donovan’s corner kick was headed in the direction of a natural target, the 6-foot-5 Omar Gonzalez, but Gonzalez wasn’t in position to head the ball. Instead, he clipped it to Juninho and the Brazilian midfielder sent a low shot just inside left post for the goal that sends the Galaxy into next Sunday’s MLS Cup at home against New England.
It was the first goal for Juninho since Sept. 21, 2013.
A clear day in Seattle greeted the Galaxy, who will face the Sounders this evening with a trip to the MLS Cup on the line. Game time temperature is forecast at 34 degrees, dropping to 32 about the time the game ends. All the snow that was on the field for the Galaxy’s practice Saturday has miraculously disappeared.
Also on the line? For the second time in three weeks, Landon Donovan faces the prospect of playing his last game before retirement.
The lineups will be out soon. It remains to be seen if the Galaxy’s Leonardo, Marcelo Sarvas or A.J. DeLaGarza will be involved. From Seattle’s standpoint, the word is Lamar Neagle and Osvaldo Alonso will return to the Sounders lineup after missing Game 1 last week.
What we don’t know is what will become of Chivas USA. The club’s lease with StubHub Center expires at the end of this year, basically the same time frame MLS outlined to have the club under new ownership. With a new stadium. With a new name. With an entirely new focus on the future of a two-team Los Angeles market.
MLS has been tight-lipped on the subject and Chivas president Nelson Rodriguez, appointed by the league to run the franchise for the 2014 season, insists he can’t shed any new light on the state of the franchise.
He met the media at halftime of Sunday’s game against San Jose. He was engaging and on point. Trouble is, there apparently is no point.
“Do you expect to hear from the league when the club is sold?”
“Yes,” Rodriguez said.
“I don’t know.”
OK. Both Rodriguez and Coach Wilmer Cabrera said that they will continue to function as usual until told to do otherwise. The players, on the other hand, are left to wonder what their fate will be in any kind of dispersal draft. To a man, they acknowledge they’ve been auditioning for their MLS futures for a couple of months now.
Midfielder Eric Avila, by the way, has few concerns since he struck a deal with Santos Laguna in Mexico. Ecuadorian Felix Borja, who scored his third goal on Sunday, might be headed back to Quito. MLS holds the option rights to Erick “Cubo” Torres, who scored a club-record 15 goals this season and has earned some street cred in Mexico for scoring for El Tri in an exhibition game.
But what do you do with a cast of characters who have no idea what tomorrow, next week or next month will bring to do?
“It’s difficult, especially considering the circumstances, that it would almost be unfair to ask them to continue to train so we’ve developed off-season programs for each individual player,” Rodriguez said. “We’ll start with conducting what we call off-season meetings as early as (Monday).
“Wilmer and the coaching staff and I have been having discussions about our player pool here currently and other players that we might like to acquire. We still have the responsibility to prepare as if we’re playing next year.. We’ve had those discussions, we’ve formulated a plan, we haven’t finalized that plan because we wanted to see how the rest of the year played out.”
It’s played out. The rest is on MLS.
Now, what do you do if you’re a first-year head coach?
“Since the start of the season we were living like ‘Who’s the owner? What’s going to happen? It’s going to be no more franchise, no more team.’ That’s not easy to deal with,” Cabrera said. “When you have to deal with that every day, you get burned (out) and you have to come every day to motivate players.
“Soccer is not only running and kicking the ball, soccer is a mental game and when you have to say it’s going to be it’s fine, it’s going to be OK, let’s do our job, you have to be creative. In this case my coaching staff, I have to give every credit to them to keep all those players motivated that’s something fantastic and I really appreciate that. And obviously the president himself was unbelievable.”
At the same time, Cabrera wasn’t rushing to circle the wagons around whatever becomes of this club.
don’t know what’s going to happen with me, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be involved in this sport that I love and the things that I do best – soccer,” Cabrera said. “Today I’m more prepared than one year ago, or the beginning of the year, from this learning process that we had to go through.”
Whatever lessons were learned on that scale, it can only be hoped that MLS learned from it as well.