The LA Galaxy host FC Dallas tonight at the StubHub! Center, and as is SB Nation tradition I fielded three questions from Big D Soccer's Brian Wachholz. He asked about Arena's comments, how I think the season will end, and what the future holds for LA after Donovan.
1. Is Bruce Arena's fine and preceding comments ultimately a good or bad distraction for the players? Does it even register with them? We see coaches abroad like Jose Mourinho who purposefully use media pull as gamesmanship or to aid the locker room. While I don't think that was Bruce's intention, does it take attention off of a team firing on all cylinders that trying to maintain that momentum?
I think Bruce Arena has two modes when dealing with the press: either speaking bluntly from the heart, or speaking so vaguely as to essentially make the quote meaningless. He's definitely a players manager. Arena will throw a performance under the bus, but never denigrate a player's talent. I think if his comments and fine send a message it's on the level of his continued criticism of officials.
He lets his players know through his comments that he is their advocate to the league. He's willing to take on headquarters over poor officiating, byzantine player acquisition rules, and much more which lets his players feel supported. The Kljestan comments to me read as "I'm trying to help these guys win games, and we're being held back by the league". That's a guy a team is willing to rally around.
2. I'm asking both teams: how do you think the final 2 week showdown with Seattle will end? Who takes the Supporter's Shield and why?
The first meeting was a 3-0 romp in Seattle, but that was after the Sounders lost Chad Marshall. The bigger takeaway from that meeting was the complete and utter shutdown of the Obafemi Martins/Clint Dempsey pair which not many MLS teams can claim this season. Martins was held without a shot on goal and Dempsey managed just two.
Still, the most likely result is a split series, which means the Supporters' Shield will come down to points going into that series. Seattle cerainly has more gimmie match-ups along the way than LA does. Given Seattle's current three point lead, I don't see LA catching up before the series starts. I'd have to say the odds favor Seattle right now.
3. We know that Kljestan was a target. With that falling through (for now, at least) what does the future of the LA Galaxy look like without Landon Donovan?
LA will have a DP spot to fill this winter, which is more difficult to do in the offseason window (since most of the leagues MLS wants to draw from run contracts Aug-May). David Beckham came over mid-season, as did Robbie Keane. It wouldn't shock me to see Bruce Arena spend the offseason looking for budget veterans on the free market, while working on a big mid-season splash to come over in the summer.