MLS- LA Galaxy

Galaxy Notebook: Birchall looking to fill in, HDC at limited capacity and more

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CARSON, Calif. – Depth all over the field has been one of cornerstones to the Los Angeles Galaxy's success this season, and if they are to advance past the New York Red Bulls in Thursday's Western Conference semifinal second leg, they will need their bench to be decisive yet again.

A red card to Brazilian midfielder Juninho in a post-game scuffle after the first leg will cost the Galaxy one of their key contributors for Thursday's second leg against the Red Bulls. Chris Birchall appears the most likely to fill in for Juninho as the Galaxy hope to hold their 1-0 aggregate lead against New York, but he is not the only possibility.

"We have plenty of options, we'll make that decision by Thursday," said head coach Bruce Arena on Wednesday. "Birchall is an option, and we have three or four guys that we're considering. He's an experienced player that has played a number of games and he and David [Beckham] have played a number of games together."

Other options for the role include offensive-minded midfielders Michael Stephens and Paolo Cardozo, who have each seen time in Juninho's stead this season. 

"Losing Juninho, there's only a couple of choices, and I haven't been told for definite if it's going to be the case, but I'm hoping so," said Birchall. "It'd be a nice game to step into, but anyone that steps in is going to do a good job, because that's the kind of squad that we've got."


The Galaxy will play their biggest game of the season in front of limited capacity due to a long-standing agreement between the Home Depot Center and Cal-State Dominguez Hills, but it was nearly much worse.

On Wednesday, the Galaxy announced that they would increase capacity from 15,000 as initially planned to 20,000 due to an agreement  toreduce congestion for the university's mid-week classes. The Galaxy will also be offering parking from nearby locations and complimentary shuttles to offset the reduction from the Home Depot Center's normal 27,000 capacity. 

This will mark the second time this year that the Galaxy will have played in front of a reduced crowd, as the club defeated Morelia, 2-1, in a pivotal CONCACAF Champions League match last month under the same circumstances. Should the Galaxy advance to the Western Conference final, the capacity would be returned to normal for Sunday's match-up.


Josh Saunders will be hard-pressed to duplicate his performance from Sunday, but for the Galaxy to advance to the Western Conference Final, he just might need to. 

Having spent much of the season filling in for the injured Donovan Ricketts, Saunders was awarded with the start over a healthy Ricketts and made a lasting impact. Saunders made five saves, none bigger than a point-blank denial of Joel Lindpere's chance in the second half, preserving the result for the Galaxy. Although Saunders was decisive last week, he knows that there is still much work to be done.

"It's halftime right now, we still have one game to go and hopefully that we can build as a group and build off it myself as well," said Saunders. "The coaching staff has been preparing me for moments like this, and in the last couple years I've had to come in difficult circumstances and that's only made me a better player."


  • Good Jeremy

    Eh. I really hope they can get an exception to the 15K rule for playoff and CCL games next season.


  • Tres

    So let’s see…

    … one NY-LA game postponed by a hurricane, which caused MLS to lose a prime-time ESPN slot on an NFL-free Sunday night …

    … one NY-LA game (makeup for the hurricane match) marred by the absence of Donovan and Keane …

    … one NY-LA game with a pitch ruined by snow and bulldozers, a light crowd, stuck in the middle of a Sunday afternoon against 20 gazillion NFL games …

    … and now a NY-LA game in a glorious prime-time spot with emotions high and everything on the line — and a stupid rule that will leave the stadium half-empty.

    Will MLS ever get a break with its marquee match-up? This is what these DPs are here for, yet we never get to take full advantage of it. We always get cursed by some crappy luck, and the league doesn’t get to put on its best show.

    (I will grant that the first NY-LA game of the season, back in the spring, had all the right ingredients going for it, and sure enough it became a phenomenal showcase for the league. But that’s what MLS needs out of this match-up EVERY time, not just once in a blue moon. Instead we keep getting hexed by these bizarre twists of fate that put a crimp in the whole thing. I’m mad at the universe about this.)


  • Ezra

    Or at least have them use a different facility for these important games. Play at the Rose Bowl or the Coliseum or anywhere that’ll let you seat more than 15k fans. I know this probably won’t be a popular thing to say, but I don’t care if there is football striping on the field, I’d rather have more than 15k fans for a playoff game.


  • Dimidri

    Don’t forget the biggest * of all-RBNY constantly underperforms/doesn’t maximize its talent. That does more to undermine this rivalry than anything else.


  • Tres

    “maybe it’stime they realize there are other matches that are more marquee”

    Except that, like, there aren’t.

    There may be BETTER match-ups on a sheer soccer level (and I’d certainly argue there are), but in 2011 there is none more important or high-profile for the league than Galaxy-Red Bulls. I’m not sure that’s really arguable, to be honest.


  • Bob Dobalina

    When AEG get’s their downtown NFL stadium, I would expect those big weekday games to be played there.


  • Bob Dobalina

    Hardly. Hell, NYRB didn’t even sell out their first leg of the playoff. This NY/LA thing doesn’t translate.


  • jim

    yes it does its keane beckham donovan henry marquez thats what people are attracted too unfortunately mls didnt realize that these two need to be in mls cup for a huge ratings boost not just playing in the semifinals nobody wants to c real salt lake vs dynamo in mls cup or union vs sounders cmon what a bore


  • Ezra

    I certainly expect it will be the case if and when Farmers Field is finished. But that’s still at least 5 years away. And if no NFL team decides to move here, it might never be built.


  • vik

    I thought so too; though, Grant Wahl wrote some numbers on twitter earlier today about how NY, LA, and PNW games get fantastic tv ratings. Way above traditional MLS numbers.

    Not saying that other teams in the league that play good soccer should be neglected, but it might explain some why NY and LA are such priorities for the league.


  • Kishan Jeter

    I think that because the game is on Thursday and during the regular work week they have to abide with the reduced capacity. If it were the weekend then they could probably do whatever they want.


  • Uche

    You will never find a bigger MLS fan than myself, but even I have to say, for a premier LA – NY play off game to be cut down to 15,000 fans.. Bush league… no way to sugar coat it.


  • Catamount

    It depends on whether people tune in to see teams or individual players. It appears from TV ratings that tube-watchers tune in for individual players. But it also appears that fans in the stands show up for teams. That would explain why Chivas USA and NYRB have trouble selling out their stadiums. The Galaxy were a quality team long before the celebrities showed up and the real fans, the ones that show up at the HDC are there for the Galaxy and not the celebrities.


  • Jake

    I would much rather see Cardozo come in to control possession….Birchall is a turnover machine and a red card waiting to happen.


  • Artita

    Saunders is still no Ricketts, but he has earned the right to start. Credit the solid Galaxy defense also.


  • Lil' Zeke

    As long as Birchall’s red card continues to wait to happen (never has I think), we’re good to go with stronger-on-the-ball play than you could expect from Cardozo.



    NJRB got 22,500 fans on a football sunday. La now can only have 20,000 b/c of regulations, advantage NJRB!! Cant wait for this game, there is no bigger match, sorry to break it 2 u. If you follow MLS how can u not be amped for this game. Its the MLS version of El Clasico lol


  • Lil' Zeke

    Hey this real fan’s fortress is on his lazyboy watching Rogo on ESPN2, and I’m pleased as punch not to have to see your flabby painted body undulating in the corner of my eye during games.


  • dan

    Absolutely ridiculous rule about the stadium capacity, you have GOT to be kidding me.

    Further reason to move out of HDC and give it to Chivas while we get a new stadium IN LA


  • The Dream

    Guys it’s going to be at 20,000. So only a 7,000 fan reduction. It should still have a mostly full look on TV.


  • PD

    MLS is changing the paradigm, and yet we’re trying to force this round peg into the same damn square hole.

    This is all so much the tail trying to wag the dog.

    Geography and expense account do not entitle you to quality, only empty hype. Let the quality of the play dictate who the marquee matchup is. Until now there has been nothing remarkable about this series, except for the fact that Beckham manages to run around like he’s a 19 year old… PHL HOU had more pyrotechnics, RSL SEA had prettier football and KC COL has the feel good story.


  • soccerroo

    +1 on this being a major problem. No other league would be made to do this in America. If the School needs the parking then LA needs to find an offsite parking facility and bus people in.


  • galaxy 1

    1: The galaxy will take this series.

    2: The galxy should be move to Downtown L.A.

    3: The galaxy is the best in the league.

    4: NYRB does not have a chance.


  • Cabrito

    I doubt they would fill HDC with 27,000 on a Thursday night anyway. There were a lot of “sellouts” at the HDC that looked like 5,000-10,000 never bothered leaving the concession stands for their seats.


  • trickhog

    Exactly what they’re doing. Now that they have the 15,000 seats sold, they are opening up another 5,000 tickets and providing free off-site parking and shuttle service.

    And I bet if they sell all 20,000 tickets, they’ll add some more shuttles and increase again.

    BTW – this restriction has been in place since the HDC opened up. This is just the first year MLS has had mid-week playoff game at the HDC.


  • Dinho

    Disagree. I thnk they would certainly sell out. LA fans are notoriously fairweather (and this is the playoffs).

    By the way, I’m a Gals fan, so I’m not hating.


  • PanchoMiguelMoralesdeConejo

    I’ve yet to see evidence of either. He seems to come in ‘elbows up’ in a protective stance that anyone moving into a fracas would do. Doing so, does not constitute ‘throwing a punch or an elbow”.


  • bryan

    dude, the article plainly states they increased it from 15K to 20K. there are only 7K seats left. while i agree, they should be allowed to sell out a massive playoff game, it’s not like it’s going to be half empty.


  • bryan

    Cardozo should get the start. but Becks would have to do a lot more defensive work.

    As for the whole capacity thing, I think it’s annoying the contract doesn’t have an exception given the circumstances. But it sounds like they’re making it work. 20K out of 27K isn’t too bad considering they are only supposed to have 7K (e.g. Morelia game).


  • Mike Bassett

    Chivas USA needs to move to San Diego and re-brand. Or, else they may not be around much longer. They can barely get 5,000 to attend any game.


  • Mike Bassett

    I think Cabrito might be right. Has there been a sell out mid-week game this year?

    And I mean sell-out in the sense that most seats are filled, not in the sense that the seats are paid for, but the people don’t show up.


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