Saturday, April 16, 2011Posted: 5:00 PM
By Dieter Kurtenbach
When the MLS schedules are released, few, save for the supporters of Sporting Kansas City, circle the matches against the Chicago Fire. But every team knows when the Los Angeles Galaxy come to town.
David Beckham and Landon Donovan are Major League Soccers stars, filling stadiums all across North America. Like the Pele and Beckenbauer-led New York Cosmos of the NASL, the Galaxy are the driving force of the league nearly as large as the league itself.
After adding strikers Juan Pablo Angel and Chad Barrett in the offseason, the Galaxy are again favorites to win the MLS Cup in November.
In the meantime, the Galaxy is still trying to gel as a team. Injuries and suspensions will affect head coach Bruce Arenas lineup on Sunday. The Galaxy traveled to Chicago without Landon Donovan (knee injury), David Beckham (suspension yellow cards) and Juninho (suspension red card).
Barrett, who scored 17 goals in 82 appearances with the Fire between 2005 and 2008, did travel with the team, and talked about his new squad, the Fire and MLS referees at the Galaxys pre-game media day in the ritzy Sax Hotel. Thanks Beckham.
Q: Back in Chicago, new team, hows it been thus far for you?A: Its been good, you know. Its been kind of a learning experience, learning how to gel with all of my new teammates, on and off the field. Theres a lot of good players here; theres a much higher caliber. Competing for jobs is much tougher. Ive accepted that. Its not easy to get a starting spot, keep a starting spot on this team, so it makes you work everyday that much harder.
Q:Its a little different being in a place like this a hotel lounge that appears to have been designed by a 17th century French king and having a pre-game media day, as opposed to Toronto and even Chicago.A: This doesnt hold a candle to what it would be like if Landon and Beckham were here...You have stars on this team, the faces of the league people want to hear about what they have to say, how they prepare for games is how they have been doing it in the highest leagues in the world.
Its important for them to see day in and day out, what we do, so they dont think its all glitz and glamour out there on the field. We stay in, like you said, these nice places to stay in, but rest is just as important as game times are. Coming here and getting proper rest, proper relaxation that you need, especially when you are playing three games in 10 games, all on the road. Its very tough.
Q: You guys come into the season, and its almost an expectation to win MLS Cup. That has to be a bit different in its own regard. A: You mentioned MLS Cup, and at the beginning of the season, we do set long term goals, but this team is really good that we feel we can go pretty much anywhere and take three points away. Thats been a difference than other teams I have been on in the past, where youre hoping to win your games at home, tie the games on the road, and maybe get a couple wins in there. But this team has a firm belief that when we go to these places, we should be able to take three points out.
I feel the past two places we went, DC and Toronto, I think we got robbed in DC and then in Toronto, we had the chances to put that game away too, but we didnt take advantage. Weve been playing very well defensively...we have good depth on this team. Especially on this road trip, with the injuries and red card issues that weve come up with, people have done a very good job to step up.
The final goal is MLS Cup. Theres an expectations, but theyre expecting us to win every game every weekend, and thats an expectation that Im OK with.
Q:Back-to-back games in cities that youve played in. Thats just a weird scheduling quirk, isnt it?A: Im kind of getting everything: I saw my family in DC, went home to Toronto and back to my first home, here in Chicago. Seeing a lot of people, lot of friends... counting all my cards this one trip.
I got the start in Toronto, and everything you try to do is try keep your spot on this team. I dont know what Bruce has in plan for us on Sunday, but Im sure whatever he puts out is going to get it done.
Q:No one really knew what to expect from this Fire team going into the year. Theyre at the bottom of the table now, but theyve played fairly well. Whats the game plan?A: Theyre not as bad of a team as is represented in the standings. Theyre a team that can attack fast. It seems like they were down and out of the game last night, down 3-0. They had a nice little comeback, got it to 3-2. I thought they could have pushed for another goal, but Portland did well to get another one.
Theyve got a lot of new players...good leaders, in Logan Pause. Theyre a fairly young team. I think its a good thing to play this team early in the year, to capitalize on the disarray in the mindset that they have.
I dont think any team has the advantage when it comes to the rest aspect of it. I think were both going to be playing with some tired legs out there. Thats where the thinking aspect is going to take over in the game...I think theres some holes in their team that they can exploit, and I think that we can get three points.Q:LA Galaxy is one of the deepest teams in the league. Is Sunday an opportunity to go out there and show that this isnt two guys and a couple of new players?A: We have a lot of faces. We have Juan Pablo, Beckham, Donovan, three of the most heralded players in MLS. Its very easy to get cast in the shadows in that, in the public. But on the field, you toss all fame and fortune is aside and we all play our hearts out for each other.
The veterans do a great job, no matter how big or small they might be...We keep a very tight locker room. Thats what needs to happen to be successful. Thats how it was when I first came to Chicago. We had Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch, C.J. Brown we had a bunch of older guys who led by example and by voice.
Q:The big topic of conversation, and its been coming out of your camp, is cards and refereeing. Has it reached a level of overall frustration with your squad? It seems like youve been the most vocal about it. A: The league came to us before the season and they said that they would have to bring in some new refs because of more games. Its kind of like youre playing against two oppositions. It feels like were playing against the other team and were playing against the refs. Its not just us its every game Ive watched. It seems like there has been a red card in at least every game. I havent looked at the stats, but I would imagine that the red cards and the cards in general are up almost two-fold.
It kind of feels like theyre taking too much control over the game. They dont need to protect us that much. Were not fragile, were not pieces of glass we can take a hit.
It sucks though. Its just not part of the game you want to see, a referee becoming the star of the game, taking away points from you, that you earned, like what happened in DC. Whether they decide to change the way they think, or whatever its not up to us.
The Fire will host Barrett and the Los Angeles Galaxy Sunday at 3 p.m. at Toyota Park.