Monday, March 12, 2012

Galaxy Can't Have It Both Ways

The Galaxy loaned out Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan in January and December, respectively, and supposedly it was really no big deal. At least, that's what the consensus was from the coaching staff. Keane and Donovan were key parts of the club, sure, but they were quite familiar with the players, system, tactics... etc. Their absence wouldn't be felt much and, in fact, would be a benefit because they would hit the ground running after having spent two months in England.

After their first leg in Toronto, though, the tune was a little different.

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena lamented that his team had had just two training sessions together, and on Friday said that was the first time he'd had his team full team together all year. Other players too said after the Toronto match that it was a difficult encounter in part because of the lack of familiarity the Galaxy players had with one another.

Landon Donovan, after the Toronto match: "We’ve probably had two full training sessions together and we’re a team that has probably had eight weeks’ worth of training. We have to do some figuring out on the field, when we get a chance to settle down and do  some training, I think that it will help."

AJ De La Garza: Yeah, it was our first time with the whole group, but that’s no excuse for a corner kick… and not marking in the box. You can’t use that as an excuse, but after the first 20 minutes, I thought we kind of settled in and started playing well.

Of course, De La Garza was quick to not make it an excuse but the first thing he brought up was the unfamiliarity with one another.

Did that hurt the team on Saturday? Bruce Arena blamed fatigue, not the unfamiliarity, on the 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake. Perhaps the defensive breakdowns were indeed caused by fatigue, maybe they were caused by not having played together as a unit very much, or maybe it was a combination of both.

Whatever the case, the season has not gotten off to the start many had hoped or predicted - five goals surrendered in two games is not ideal - but the Galaxy can sort things out fairly quickly with a triumph over Toronto FC in Wednesday's return leg. Should they book a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, this topic will be a bit moot.

But if they don't, then the short-term winter loans will be wide open for debate.

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