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Arena: MLS teams needs “not addressed at all” in friendlies

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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."


  1. You make these comments but what makes you think MLS teams can even afford to raise the salary cap at this point? Their TV contracts are nowhere near that of European clubs and neither is merchandise sales. Only 2 teams made a profit last year. RBNY went and got a bunch of big name expensive players and can’t even fill their seats. Keep the salary cap and move slow. Right now the league just needs more exposure which is what these friendlies provide.

  2. There’s a few issues that some people here who long for a European season schedule don’t seem to get. If MLS played from September to March, they would be competing for TV coverage and TV ratings with college football, NFL football, and college basketball, and they’d lose, hands down. I’m as avid a supporter and proponent of soccer as anybody on this forum, but I’m also realistic and acknowledge that it will NEVER EVER trump sports like football and basketball in the U.S. Playing in the late spring through the summer allows them to mainly compete with baseball and the late stages of the NBA season, which is manageable.

    As well, the weather in cities like NY, Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia in the winter months would be brutal, and would result in many game delays and cancellations.

    Lastly, Arena makes a good point regarding the format of these games. They should play regular rules, particularly in regard to subs. The European teams are MUCH deeper, and are at a distinct advantage in these matches with unlimited subs. MLS teams may obviously still lose to powerhouses like ManU and Real Madrid playing the 3 sub rule, but perhaps would be able to keep the scorelines more respectable.

  3. Oh, I think they realize it and would love to play their best. But when you have a plane to catch the following morning to fly across the country to play a MLS game that actually counts for something 3 days later, you rest your starters.

  4. His risk, not yours … until multiple teams fold and take the league down with it.

    I think the time is coming where the salary cap needs to be significantly raised in order to raise the overall level of talent and if that means teams who are struggling to fill their stadiums (Columbus, New England, Dallas … looking at you) have to move (either to a better located stadium or elsewhere) to compete then so be it. However, completely eliminating the salary cap would create mutually assured destruction as one or two clubs would accumulate all of the wealth and the rest would be mired in also ran status and eventually fans would tune out (the lesson of the NASL when Cosmos was king and nobody could compete … they did such a perfect job of it they folded the entire league).

  5. “They provide an excellent benchmark of where our game is relative to the best in the world. It just proves we have more work to do”


    I’d agree with you if it was starters vs starters (which would take buy in from the traveling clubs AND scheduling accommodations by MLS to accomplish). As it is, these are a couple of MLS starters vs 50-75% traveling club starters with ridiculously liberal subbing in.

    These are exhibitions and not taken seriously. The only people who take the results seriously are fans who don’t pay attention to who actually played and just see the team names and result.

    I take nothing from Portland’s 3-2 loss to West Brom last night. The Timbers started only 3 of their regular starters, took 1 off at half and the other is suspended for Saturday’s MLS match due to card accumulation with the third coming off a card suspension so was ready to take on a little extra playing time.

    I don’t need reserve heavy (both sides) exhibitions with teams in vastly different parts of their season readiness to tell me that top European Clubs (ManU, Arsenal, Chelsea, Ajax, Barca, Real Madrid, etc.) are better than anything in MLS has to offer (I just need a roster and my own two eyes). But are we to believe that last year’s mid-table EPL teams are the same as Portland (1 goal win in the 91st minute) and San Jose (freak 1 goal loss) … bottom dwellers in the MLS? If the gulf between the top and middle of the EPL would contain nearly the entire MLS, then the EPL is in sadder shape that I thought with its disparity.

  6. Whether Sigi was right or not to sub-out everyone at halftime, is irrelevant. His intentions were known and his assistants needed to have those scrubs ready, at least to know where they’re playing and their marking responsibilities. Sigi’s assistants failed miserably, as any point in the second have video will show.

    Arena is right, the coach had other responsibilities to think about and so subbed out a very good starting 10. When I watched the game the second time it was easy to attributed 6 of United’s goals to just three Sounder players. But the assistants were more to blame.

  7. International soccer and international basketball are two completely different things. I agree that we should not be messing around with friendlies in the middle of the MLS regular season, but to say we should not allow players to play for their national team sides and equating that to international basketball is a bit ridiculous.

  8. Arena, please retire from American soccer….you have now turned the USA and the Galaxy into boring teams…mission accomplished!

  9. I’ve no problem with mid-season friendlies (so long as we don’t play more than one) and no problem with the Sounders or any other team getting trounced by Man. Untd.

    What I would like to see though, is a system that guaranteed all these profits are turned around and invested in something meaningful. A league-wide kitty to help fund youth development, a residential academy, stadium improvements, etc.


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