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Galaxy feels the pressure moving forward

Coach Bruce Arena has set goals for his team to have the best regular-season record, to advance out of group play in the CONCACAF Champions League and to win the MLS Cup.

August 20, 2011|By Matt Stevens | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
  • Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena says: "We want to win championships. We're not afraid to say that."
Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena says: "We want to win championships. We're… (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images )

Landon Donovan, David Beckham and new teammate Robbie Keane endured a marathon 30-minute news conference Friday, and whether because of exhaustion or boredom, they delivered some answers that were vague or evasive.

There was one point, however, that the Galaxy brain trust took care to be perfectly clear about: They know the pressure is on, and they're ready for it.

"Let me answer that," Donovan cut in when asked about the pressure to win. "We all play to win. In my opinion, pressure is perceived. When you're a top athlete doing what we do, the reason you do it is to compete and to win. And in my opinion, our job got easier by bringing Robbie here."

For that reason, it's now championship or bust.

It has been four years since the Galaxy made headlines by signing Beckham. Adding the British star to a team that already had Donovan was supposed to guarantee a title in the relatively weak MLS. Then injuries got in the way, and Beckham went on loan to AC Milan on two occasions. Now the Galaxy sits in first place and was the favorite to win even before it acquired Ireland's best striker this past week.

Consequently, Coach Bruce Arena laid out three goals for the Galaxy moving forward: win the Supporters' Shield (given to the team with the best regular-season record), advance out of group play in the CONCACAF Champions League and win the MLS Cup. With a team payroll that exceeds $10 million, anything short of that trifecta might ring of failure.

"We want to win championships," Arena said. "We're not afraid to say that."

And neither is AEG Chief Executive Tim Leiweke. Friday, the team's ownership representative said he doesn't mind "having a target on our back," and then increased the size of that target, quipping that "everyone dislikes us." Leiweke's remarks charged up an already energized group of Galaxy supporters who appear ravenous for their first MLS Cup since 2005. As an expensive midseason addition, Keane is aware that he is supposed to push the team over the top.

"There's always pressure on me," Keane said. "I've had that since I was 7 years of age. That hasn't changed. There's always pressure on you when you're a striker to score goals, and that's something that I relish."

Arena acknowledged that the addition of Keane changes strategy "in a sense" by giving him a more dangerous attacker. So now the task is to get everyone to jell, and quickly. In order to balance their MLS and CONCACAF commitments, the Galaxy will play two games a week from now until the end of October.

"I like challenges, and this is a great, great challenge for me," Keane said. "I'm not here to be on holiday."

matthew.stevens@latimes.com

twitter.com/mattstevenslat

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