BY ADAM SERRANO
LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has never been a man that bites his tongue, and on Wednesday he launched a rant about results in recent friendly matches between MLS and European sides.
On the heels of a 7-0 defeat for the Seattle Sounders to Manchester United, Arena launched into a scathing review of these types of friendlies. Many have criticized MLS teams for their poor performances despite the fact that the American teams are currently in mid-season while the Europeans are in many cases just starting their preseason.
However, after Wednesday's 1-0 victory for Arena's LA Galaxy, the manager stated that the odds that MLS teams face during these summer friendlies — in particular the World Football Challenge — are stacked against them.
"It's a lot more difficult in these games, the way they're set up in this format for the MLS clubs then it is for the visiting teams because the whole tournament is set up to accomdate them," said Arena on Wednesday evening. "Our needs are not addressed at all."
During the summer, MLS teams have fallen to European teams like United, Real Madrid, West Brom and Bolton. The Sounders defeat on Wednesday sticks out in particular after Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid labeled the match an "embarassment" when speaking to reporters after the seven-goal loss. Results like these have led to wide spread criticism of validity of such friendlies during MLS' congested regular season calendar.
The Galaxy went through their own difficulties with a friendly last weekend as the league leaders were soundly beaten 4-1 by Real Madrid. The gulf in class was apparent even though Madrid had been in preseason training for less than a week. While the European teams are much deeper than MLS squads, Arena believed that with the game format, it made it near impossible for MLS teams to compete.
"It's worst when you play an elite club that can play more players. When you're down 0-2 at half and you step onto the field and Ronaldo is there. If you tell these guys that they only have to play 45 minutes, then it's 45 minutes of hell," said Arena. "It's an advantage to these clubs when they can play all of their players because they obviously have better players, deeper rosters so it's difficult.
"Listen, I'm not betting the house on the fact that if we play regular rules and there are 3 subs that we're in much better shape, but I'd rather play in those conditions."
The Galaxy complete their run of friendlies on Sunday when Los Angeles face FA Cup winners Manchester City at the Home Depot Center.It is a match that will be Los Angeles' fifth in two weeks and one that will likely feature a heavily reserve line up for the Galaxy due to roster congestion as well as a series of injuries that have plagued the club recently.
Although Arena was critical of the friendlies, the Galaxy head coach admitted that it was valuable experience for young players to face off against some of the best players in the world. As Arena and the Galaxy now turn their attention to Manchester City, the Galaxy boss understands that team will face the gauntlet, but regardless of the result, positives can be found.
"I love any game that I can watch or coach in that I don't have to win and I don't get that many of them in my life and I enjoy that," said Arena. "I think [friendlies] are fun to play in and I think that's how the players should approach it and give their best effort. I enjoy them, I just wish they were spaced a little bit better.
"I know Man City is going to be eager to play because they had a bit of a fiasco in Vancouver with the field conditions so they're going to have their players ready to get 90 minutes on a field that's pretty good to show what they can do."