Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com
By ADAM SERRANO
CARSON, Calif. — For four years, current Montreal Impact head coach Jesse Marsch was a fulcrum in the midfield for Dave Sarachan's Chicago Fire sides, but on Saturday, the former Fire boss will see his former player lineup against him in the opposing coaching box at Olympic Stadium.
Currently the associate head coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Sarachan was Marsch's head coach for four highly successful seasons with the Fire. Together they combined to lead the Fire to an MLS Cup final appearance, a Supporters' Shield, a U.S. Open Cup title and another Open Cup final appearance.
During those four seasons, Sarachan received a first-hand look at the tenacity and grit that made Marsch a standout professional, and now as the pair prepare to face off against one another, the former Fire boss can't help wonder what role he played in Marsch's journey to become a head coach.
"I like to believe that it is a mutual thing, and I think that I learned some things from Jesse and I like to believe that he learned some things from me," said Sarachan. "When you become your own man, I always found that you should get a blend of all the experiences of the coaches that you had — you take a little here and a little there. It's like comedians stealing jokes. These guys steal little ways on the way to becoming their own people. We'll see how it all plays out."
The past behind them, Sarachan knows that his current club is in for a challenge when they face Marsch's expansion side, especially after Montreal's surprising 2-0 road win over Sporting Kansas City last weekend.
"Obviously they seem to be going in the right direction right now, and so much of it is confidence," said Sarachan. "Just like us, when you drop a few, it doesn't matter what level you play, you lose a little confidence.
"Now when you put a good result together, I'm sure they're going to go into our game thinking that they can beat the LA Galaxy. It's a long term process, but they seem to be getting the right pieces at this point."
Marsch and Sarachan won't be the only set of familiar faces that will do battle this weekend. Marsch also played sparingly for current Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena when the two were with D.C. United in 1996 and 1997, and the Galaxy will face off against their former goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts for the first time since he was dealt to the Impact for allocation money in the offseason.
Although it may be a bit different to see the Jamaican keeper on the opposite side of the field, the club admits that it will be all business once the opening whistle sounds.
"It'll be nice to see him to say hello, but at the end of the day, he is on the opposite team and I'm hoping we get a couple goals on him," said defender Sean Franklin. "But he's a great goalie and they're a good team. They've got one of the best goalkeepers in the league in their net, so it's going to be a tough game."
JIMENEZ GIVES RIGHT BACK A TRY
The competition for spots on the Galaxy is a fierce one, and sometimes to break into the starting XI a position change is necessary.
Hector Jimenez, a second-year winger, may have made his own switch on Tuesday, going 90 minutes at right back in the club's 1-1 reserve league draw with the San Jose Earthquakes. Jimenez admitted after the match that it was his first extended appearance at right back after "playing for a few minutes" at the position during reserve league play last season.
“I felt good,” said Jimenez. “I thought offensively I got involved a lot, it's just the defensive part, where I need to get used to checking the line and stuff like that, but I thought I played good for the 90 minutes.”
Jimenez's move is an interesting one for the Galaxy, who have long desired to push up Franklin from his current right back slot to the right wing, possibly opening a spot for Jimenez in the starting XI. Against San Jose, Jimenez was active throughout the match combing well with right midfielder Michael Stephens to make several dangerous overlapping runs.
“If you look at his game and you compare it to when he plays in midfield, he had just as much an influence going forward — or maybe even more," said Galaxy reserve coach Curt Onalfo. "The combination of Stephens coming inside and him overlapping, I thought was good. Would have liked to see more goals from it. It was a game where we possessed and had really the majority of possession, the majority of play. It's a game where you think you're going to get three points from.”
The emerging second-year player from the University of California is open to the potential position switch — especially if it translates into a spot in the starting lineup.
"If they need me there and I can find time there, then I'm up for it," said Jimenez. "This is L.A., and it's one of those teams that is full of stars, so finding time on the wherever on the field is the key."
KEANE DEPARTING AFTER SUPERCLASICO
The Galaxy knew that they would be without the services of forward Robbie Keane due to Ireland's participation in the European championship this summer, and now they have a better idea of how long he'll be gone.
Keane departs on May 20 for Ireland's pre-tournament training camp one day after the Galaxy take on cross-hall rivals Chivas USA in the SuperClasico. The European championship take place in Ukraine and Poland and stretches from June 8 to July 11, but Ireland is in a tough group with Spain, Italy and Croatia and could have their tournament run end as early as June 18, the day of Ireland's final group game.
PERK, LEONARDO PLAY IN RESERVE MATCH
While Jimenez was cutting his teeth at a new position, two other members of the Galaxy were simply focusing on returning to full health.
Goalkeeper Brian Perk and defender Leonardo each participated in Tuesday's reserve fixture, with Perk going 90 minutes while the Brazilian centerback saw 45 minutes of action. Perk has been out since the beginning of the season due to a sports hernia, while Leonardo was making just his second reserve game appearance after tearing his knee ligments in a match last April.
“It was great to get Leo out there for 45 minutes," Onalfo said. "He looked really good, and that's a real positive sign. He's really picked up his play and has looked closer to game form in the last couple of weeks, and I think you saw that in the first half. And Perk was real solid the whole game as well. Those were real positives that we take away from today.”