YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Galaxy seeks to continue turnaround against Chivas USA

Galaxy has won three of five after a flurry of ties, and Chivas has cooled off after a hot start. A Galaxy win would move the team to within three points of Chivas.

July 11, 2009|Grahame L. Jones

Standing in the shade of a tree on a hillside at the Home Depot Center on Friday morning was one of Major League Soccer's all-time great players: Salvadoran midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos.

He was watching Chivas USA go through its paces ahead of tonight's match against the Galaxy.

Cienfuegos, who graced the Galaxy midfield for eight seasons and was an MLS All-Star in seven of them, was not there to spy for his former club but merely to study.

The 41-year-old former El Salvador national team standout retired in 2004 and is a Pasadena restaurateur and a coach these days, not necessarily in that order. Every chance he gets, he watches and learns. Every game and every training session has something to offer.

Tonight, Cienfuegos will be back in Carson, seeing if the suddenly resurgent Galaxy can continue a turnaround in which it has won three of its last five games after tying 10 of its first 12.

Or perhaps it will be Chivas USA that reverses course. After starting out 7-2-3, Coach Preki's team won only once in June and was knocked out of both the SuperLiga and U.S. Open Cup tournaments.

"That's the way football is," Preki said Friday. "You know you're never going to have a perfect season. We knew there was going to be a point in the season where we were going to have a little tough time.

"You have to weather those tough times and, hopefully, you don't stay in that slump for too long and you don't throw too many points away."

Chivas USA once led the league by a good margin and is still in second place overall behind the Houston Dynamo, but the Galaxy, in ninth place overall, has closed the gap in the Western Conference to only six points.

"They've been playing better," Preki said. "They've been showing signs of changing things around. We'll have to be aware of that, but we also have to believe in ourselves. That doesn't change."

The Galaxy lost 15 games in 2006, 14 in 2007 and 13 in 2008, so progress has been minimal, but Coach Bruce Arena appears to be gradually restoring some order to the team. Matters should improve even more in the coming weeks.

One reason is the return of David Beckham, who will make his 2009 MLS debut on Thursday night at the New York Red Bulls. Then there is the return of Landon Donovan after being away for a month with the U.S. national team. He will play tonight.

Then there is the addition of forward Alecko Eskandarian, acquired last week from Chivas USA. Finally, there is the addition of English-born midfielder Chris Birchall, 25, a Trinidad and Tobago international who will be eligible to make his Galaxy debut against the Red Bulls next week.

Donovan says he believes the team is on the upswing.

"I think everybody senses it," he said. "Alecko senses it. I think David's going to sense it when he gets here. We're going somewhere. Not many teams have gotten this much stronger at this point in the year. They've had me gone for a while. Alecko's here now. Birchall comes in. David's back. That's a lot of good additions."

Chivas USA midfielder and captain Jesse Marsch senses it too.

"It's no secret it's been a tough go for us lately," he said. "We're trying as a group to do the right things to get ourselves going.

"Even though we have a better record right now, I think they're playing pretty well. You've got to give them credit. We're going to see the best Galaxy team we've seen in a long time. I don't think that bodes well for us, because they get fired up for this game even when they're playing badly.

"Landon's playing the best football he's been playing maybe ever. I expect a real tough game."


Los Angeles Times Articles