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Expanded MLS means a longer season, starting March 15

The Galaxy faces the longest season of all, starting opening night at Seattle and finishing in the league's last regular-season game, Oct. 23 at Houston.

February 10, 2011|By Grahame L. Jones
  • Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena doesn't have any major complaints about his team's 2011 schedule.
Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena doesn't have any major complaints about… (Elaine Thompson / Associated…)

Acting on the assumption that it is better to release its schedule before the season actually begins, Major League Soccer did just that Thursday.

Better late than never.

For Chivas USA, the newly minted seven-month regular-season schedule includes a stern challenge — a nine-game stretch beginning July 31 that includes seven road games.

"We have a tough stretch in the middle of the season, toward the middle and end of the summer, when the guys generally in this league start to get worn down a little bit," said Greg Vanney, Chivas assistant coach. "That will be a stretch where we'll have to manage [players] well."

For the Galaxy, there were no such surprises in the schedule, but the team does have to play at Seattle on a midweek night in the MLS opener, and Coach Bruce Arena had his own take on that.

"Very strange, very bizarre," he said of MLS opening its 16th season Tuesday, March 15, 10 days earlier than last season's MLS opener. "It's an awkward one. We can predict cold weather, rain and [playing on artificial] turf, and we need to be ready for it."

The Galaxy, which tied the San Jose Earthquakes, 1-1, in a scrimmage Thursday, will also be involved in the final game of the MLS regular season, at Houston on Oct. 23.

The league schedule is balanced, with each of the 18 teams playing one another home and away in a 34-game season, four more games than last year because of the addition of the expansion Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps.

Arena said he believes MLS did the best it could, given various constraints, including having teams simultaneously competing in the U.S. Open Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League.

"I think the schedule is difficult this year with the number of midweek games, but I think they've done a good job trying to balance it," he said

"I have no major complaints. There are some things we don't like, but I think for the most part it looks fine."

The league all but apologized for the lateness of the schedule, saying last Friday: "We recognize that the timing of the [schedule's] release has caused some inconvenience and we appreciate our fans' continued patience."

Meanwhile, Chivas USA and the Galaxy are heading to Arizona this weekend to continue preseason drills.

Chivas USA returned this week after spending 10 days in San Luis Obispo working primarily on fitness.

The man leading the drive was Jim Liston, the team's new strength and conditioning coach. Liston served in a similar capacity with the Galaxy for five years in the days when Vanney and Chivas USA Coach Robin Fraser played for the Galaxy.

"He's the best," Fraser said. "He has a way of inspiring people to go further than they want to go. I know that from personal experience. I really feel like I learned to train because of Jim and his methodology, and I think the sooner people can get introduced to Jim the better their lives are going to be."

Liston said Thursday that the Chivas coaches have been "pleasantly surprised that we've progressed much more than we anticipated.

"Some guys come in highly fit, some guys come in moderately fit," he said. "We want to get everybody on the same page."

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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