The LA Galaxy held their usual pre-match, media availability this past Thursday. While you typically get similar questions, similar responses, and a mundane flow to these availabilities, every now and then you get a genuine nugget. A glimpse into either a coach, or player, and how they approach the process of navigating a challenging season like the LA Galaxy have. One with lots of ups, but plenty of downs, and now in the thick of one last push just get into the postseason.
Galaxy midfielder, Sacha Kljestan, gave us just that when asked if he had ever experienced a season like this. Having started off so well, better than many imagined, to now facing a wall where no results are going your way, and despite that, still having a chance at the ultimate goal, a championship. Fair warning, his response is long, but worth it, as he shares the almost identical parallels between this season the Galaxy are having, and one from his time at R.S.C. Anderlecht.
“The first thing that comes to mind, is the 2013-14 season at Anderlecht, and we had been for the first half of the season and then during the second half of the season, after winter break, we had a really poor run of form away from home. We did not win a lot of games away from home, and in Belgium there's a playoff system there where you play 10 games at the end of the season, the top six make the playoffs and you play everybody home/away. After our first game of the playoffs we lost our first game to Standard Liège and our coach was fired. The assistant coach took over with nine games left and on the cover of the newspaper the next day, it said ‘Anderlecht will not be champions this season.’
I took out the first page of the paper, and I hung it in my locker, because I believed we still had a chance, and I hope everyone else in the locker room sees this everyday to know that we have a chance. In those last nine games we won eight, drew one, and ended up winning the title on the final day. It would've been easy for everyone to buckle, I give a lot of credit to the coach for believing in the team, and the players for believing in ourselves to keep pushing through. I feel that right now, I'm not worried about our team [LA Galaxy], I've been through this before, it takes one big game, and one big play to change the outcome and change the feeling within the team, that's where I feel we can be at right now.”
Championship mentality gets talked about a lot in sports, but this is a prime example of why it is so important. Sacha knows what it’s like to start strong, falter, get written off, overcome, and ultimately achieve your goal of winning a title. His calm demeanor is one shared throughout the locker room. With Javier Hernandez also expressing a strong belief in the Galaxy, despite recent results. For younger players, to know their hope and belief isn't just your typical “veteran player, positive attitude” speech, but drawn on real experiences, carries weight.
To know your teammates have come through the other side of tough stretches, to become champions, keeps that fire alive and keeps everyone from getting too down on themselves. As Sacha said, it just takes one big match, one big moment, for the entire mood to change. Let’s hope that moment comes this Saturday.
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