By: Alex Baker
(Carson, CA) – The Los Angeles Galaxy held their first press conference of 2011 Wednesday as they commenced their pre-season training camp in Carson. Head coach Bruce Arena and members of the Galaxy squad spoke to reporters outside the team’s locker room at the Home Depot Center.
“We’ve done a good job in the offseason trying to improve our team and hopefully we’ll see that during the season,” said Arena. “I think this year the league is gonna be even more competitive than we’ve seen in the past. I think some of the teams that have been at the bottom are gonna move up and for some of the teams that have been at the top it’s gonna be even more challenging and more competitive for playoff positions. So I think it’s gonna be a real challenging year for us in the league. With the addition of the Champions League and the Open Cup we’re probably playing about 42 games. Having a team that’s fit, injury free and depth is gonna be important.
“We’ve done a good job of improving our team as far as depth. We still have the right balance of new players and experienced players. Also we’re hopeful some of these new additions to our team are gonna help up.”
Some of the new additions to the Galaxy lineup include Team USA veteran Frankie Hejduk as well as 2011 MLS SuperDraft first round pick Paolo Cardozo, a Uruguayan who came through the River Plate young system in Argentina.
A native of Southern California, Hejduk, who’d spent the last few seasons with the Columbus Crew, was excited about joining the Galaxy and playing under Arena.
“For me it’s an ideal situation to come back and get to end my career where it started,” said the former Bayer Levekusen defender. “What I’m looking forward to with this team is obviously nothing less than a championship. I didn’t come here to not win a championship. This club has some big time tradition and I want to be a part of that. I’m here for the team and wherever Bruce wants to put me and wherever he feels I fit in a situation, I’m all for it. The main thing is to be a veteran, help all the young guys out, be positive and be a good locker room guy and be competitive on the field.
“Obviously I know a lot of guys in the locker room with Landon (Donovan), Gregg (Berhalter) and Jovan (Kirovski), some of the guys that I’ve played with in the past so it’s a very easy transition for me.”
Speaking through a translator, Cardozo a slight, boyish figure, who’d also just spent a season with Columbus, defined his favorite position as, “Very loose and in the middle of the park as an attacking midfielder.”
Asked about making the transition to MLS, the 21-year old said, “It’s a very different pace, a different rhythm but every day I’m getting more and more used to it.”
Responding to an inquiry about his slight stature, the player responded, “A lot of people have been asking about my size and whether I was going be able to handle MLS’s physical nature. But I’m hoping to prove people wrong about that and day to day I’m going to get better at that.”
Galaxy and Team USA captain Landon Donovan also made an appearance, having foregone his usual training loan to a European club to give himself time to rest after a busy 2010.
“This is the first time I can remember where I had enough time to really get antsy to play again. I’m excited to be back and see new faces and to start up again and that hasn’t happened in a while.”
Donovan spoke about the turnover in the Galaxy’s attack during the off-season, specifically the departure of the Galaxy’s leading goal scorer last season, Edson Buddle and the arrival of former Aston Villa striker Juan Pablo Angel from the New York Red Bulls.
“I think we’re deeper up front than we were last year. I think we were overly dependent on Edson last year and thankfully he didn’t get hurt seriously at some point or we would’ve had some real problems. But this year we have a lot of depth and we have a lot of good attacking options.
“There’s no question that losing Edson hurts. We’re obviously very happy for him and to see him score in his first game was great. Moving forward I thought Bruce did a great job of bringing in at least three guys who are gonna compete and do a good job for us. “
“Juan Pablo’s (Angel) resume’ speaks for itself. He’s just dangerous. The beauty of having Edson last year was that once teams realized that what he was doing was real, it wasn’t just luck, it wasn’t just that he was taking a few shots and they were going in, it takes a lot of pressure off the rest of us. Juan Pablo’s the same way. If he’s in front of the goal teams have to worry about him and if they don’t he’s gonna score a lot of goals. Having more players like that on your team is helpful. It helps guys like me, it helps guys like David (Beckham), it helps guys like Juninho, it helps us all be more creative and do our jobs better.”
The Galaxy kick off the 2011 MLS season when the play Seattle Sounders FC at Qwest Field on March 15. Prior to that they will spend eight days training in Arizona and play pre-season warm-up matches against the San Jose Earthquakes, the Colorado Rapids and both 2011 MLS expansion teams; the Portland Timbers and the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.