Galaxy Notebook: Birchall looking to fill in, HDC at limited capacity and more

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CARSON, Calif. – Depth all over the field has been one of cornerstones to the Los Angeles Galaxy's success this season, and if they are to advance past the New York Red Bulls in Thursday's Western Conference semifinal second leg, they will need their bench to be decisive yet again.

A red card to Brazilian midfielder Juninho in a post-game scuffle after the first leg will cost the Galaxy one of their key contributors for Thursday's second leg against the Red Bulls. Chris Birchall appears the most likely to fill in for Juninho as the Galaxy hope to hold their 1-0 aggregate lead against New York, but he is not the only possibility.

"We have plenty of options, we'll make that decision by Thursday," said head coach Bruce Arena on Wednesday. "Birchall is an option, and we have three or four guys that we're considering. He's an experienced player that has played a number of games and he and David [Beckham] have played a number of games together."

Other options for the role include offensive-minded midfielders Michael Stephens and Paolo Cardozo, who have each seen time in Juninho's stead this season. 

"Losing Juninho, there's only a couple of choices, and I haven't been told for definite if it's going to be the case, but I'm hoping so," said Birchall. "It'd be a nice game to step into, but anyone that steps in is going to do a good job, because that's the kind of squad that we've got."


The Galaxy will play their biggest game of the season in front of limited capacity due to a long-standing agreement between the Home Depot Center and Cal-State Dominguez Hills, but it was nearly much worse.

On Wednesday, the Galaxy announced that they would increase capacity from 15,000 as initially planned to 20,000 due to an agreement  toreduce congestion for the university's mid-week classes. The Galaxy will also be offering parking from nearby locations and complimentary shuttles to offset the reduction from the Home Depot Center's normal 27,000 capacity. 

This will mark the second time this year that the Galaxy will have played in front of a reduced crowd, as the club defeated Morelia, 2-1, in a pivotal CONCACAF Champions League match last month under the same circumstances. Should the Galaxy advance to the Western Conference final, the capacity would be returned to normal for Sunday's match-up.


Josh Saunders will be hard-pressed to duplicate his performance from Sunday, but for the Galaxy to advance to the Western Conference Final, he just might need to. 

Having spent much of the season filling in for the injured Donovan Ricketts, Saunders was awarded with the start over a healthy Ricketts and made a lasting impact. Saunders made five saves, none bigger than a point-blank denial of Joel Lindpere's chance in the second half, preserving the result for the Galaxy. Although Saunders was decisive last week, he knows that there is still much work to be done.

"It's halftime right now, we still have one game to go and hopefully that we can build as a group and build off it myself as well," said Saunders. "The coaching staff has been preparing me for moments like this, and in the last couple years I've had to come in difficult circumstances and that's only made me a better player."


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45 Responses to Galaxy Notebook: Birchall looking to fill in, HDC at limited capacity and more

  1. marco says:

    Birchall, a giant step down in quality.

  2. Good Jeremy says:

    Eh. I really hope they can get an exception to the 15K rule for playoff and CCL games next season.

  3. Tres says:

    So let’s see…

    … one NY-LA game postponed by a hurricane, which caused MLS to lose a prime-time ESPN slot on an NFL-free Sunday night …

    … one NY-LA game (makeup for the hurricane match) marred by the absence of Donovan and Keane …

    … one NY-LA game with a pitch ruined by snow and bulldozers, a light crowd, stuck in the middle of a Sunday afternoon against 20 gazillion NFL games …

    … and now a NY-LA game in a glorious prime-time spot with emotions high and everything on the line — and a stupid rule that will leave the stadium half-empty.

    Will MLS ever get a break with its marquee match-up? This is what these DPs are here for, yet we never get to take full advantage of it. We always get cursed by some crappy luck, and the league doesn’t get to put on its best show.

    (I will grant that the first NY-LA game of the season, back in the spring, had all the right ingredients going for it, and sure enough it became a phenomenal showcase for the league. But that’s what MLS needs out of this match-up EVERY time, not just once in a blue moon. Instead we keep getting hexed by these bizarre twists of fate that put a crimp in the whole thing. I’m mad at the universe about this.)

  4. Ezra says:

    Or at least have them use a different facility for these important games. Play at the Rose Bowl or the Coliseum or anywhere that’ll let you seat more than 15k fans. I know this probably won’t be a popular thing to say, but I don’t care if there is football striping on the field, I’d rather have more than 15k fans for a playoff game.

  5. Dimidri says:

    Don’t forget the biggest * of all-RBNY constantly underperforms/doesn’t maximize its talent. That does more to undermine this rivalry than anything else.

  6. PD says:

    maybe it’stime they realize there are other matches that are more marquee

  7. Tres says:

    “maybe it’stime they realize there are other matches that are more marquee”

    Except that, like, there aren’t.

    There may be BETTER match-ups on a sheer soccer level (and I’d certainly argue there are), but in 2011 there is none more important or high-profile for the league than Galaxy-Red Bulls. I’m not sure that’s really arguable, to be honest.

  8. Bob Dobalina says:

    When AEG get’s their downtown NFL stadium, I would expect those big weekday games to be played there.

  9. Bob Dobalina says:

    Hardly. Hell, NYRB didn’t even sell out their first leg of the playoff. This NY/LA thing doesn’t translate.

  10. jim says:

    yes it does its keane beckham donovan henry marquez thats what people are attracted too unfortunately mls didnt realize that these two need to be in mls cup for a huge ratings boost not just playing in the semifinals nobody wants to c real salt lake vs dynamo in mls cup or union vs sounders cmon what a bore

  11. Ezra says:

    I certainly expect it will be the case if and when Farmers Field is finished. But that’s still at least 5 years away. And if no NFL team decides to move here, it might never be built.

  12. vik says:

    I thought so too; though, Grant Wahl wrote some numbers on twitter earlier today about how NY, LA, and PNW games get fantastic tv ratings. Way above traditional MLS numbers.

    Not saying that other teams in the league that play good soccer should be neglected, but it might explain some why NY and LA are such priorities for the league.

  13. Kishan Jeter says:

    I think that because the game is on Thursday and during the regular work week they have to abide with the reduced capacity. If it were the weekend then they could probably do whatever they want.

  14. Uche says:

    You will never find a bigger MLS fan than myself, but even I have to say, for a premier LA – NY play off game to be cut down to 15,000 fans.. Bush league… no way to sugar coat it.

  15. Catamount says:

    It depends on whether people tune in to see teams or individual players. It appears from TV ratings that tube-watchers tune in for individual players. But it also appears that fans in the stands show up for teams. That would explain why Chivas USA and NYRB have trouble selling out their stadiums. The Galaxy were a quality team long before the celebrities showed up and the real fans, the ones that show up at the HDC are there for the Galaxy and not the celebrities.

  16. Jake says:

    I would much rather see Cardozo come in to control possession….Birchall is a turnover machine and a red card waiting to happen.

  17. Artita says:

    Saunders is still no Ricketts, but he has earned the right to start. Credit the solid Galaxy defense also.

  18. Jon says:

    Juninho didn’t deserve a red card

  19. Snoop says:

    Birchy blows

  20. LAG says:

    Beckham’s defensive intensity is underrated

  21. Lil' Zeke says:

    As long as Birchall’s red card continues to wait to happen (never has I think), we’re good to go with stronger-on-the-ball play than you could expect from Cardozo.

  22. Lil' Zeke says:

    No man you’ve got it totally backwards

  23. Lil' Zeke says:

    Haters gonna hate

  24. MASE NJRB says:

    NJRB got 22,500 fans on a football sunday. La now can only have 20,000 b/c of regulations, advantage NJRB!! Cant wait for this game, there is no bigger match, sorry to break it 2 u. If you follow MLS how can u not be amped for this game. Its the MLS version of El Clasico lol

  25. Lil' Zeke says:

    Hey this real fan’s fortress is on his lazyboy watching Rogo on ESPN2, and I’m pleased as punch not to have to see your flabby painted body undulating in the corner of my eye during games.

  26. dan says:

    Absolutely ridiculous rule about the stadium capacity, you have GOT to be kidding me.

    Further reason to move out of HDC and give it to Chivas while we get a new stadium IN LA

  27. The Dream says:

    Guys it’s going to be at 20,000. So only a 7,000 fan reduction. It should still have a mostly full look on TV.

  28. joe k says:

    if you throw a punch or an elbow, yes you do deserve a red card.

  29. PD says:

    so happy you ended with LOL, because if you’re serious you can’t be serious…

  30. PD says:

    MLS is changing the paradigm, and yet we’re trying to force this round peg into the same damn square hole.

    This is all so much the tail trying to wag the dog.

    Geography and expense account do not entitle you to quality, only empty hype. Let the quality of the play dictate who the marquee matchup is. Until now there has been nothing remarkable about this series, except for the fact that Beckham manages to run around like he’s a 19 year old… PHL HOU had more pyrotechnics, RSL SEA had prettier football and KC COL has the feel good story.

  31. mistadobolina says:

    +1, LA vs NJ; not the best match up but certainly the most expensive..

  32. soccerroo says:

    +1 on this being a major problem. No other league would be made to do this in America. If the School needs the parking then LA needs to find an offsite parking facility and bus people in.

  33. galaxy 1 says:

    1: The galaxy will take this series.

    2: The galxy should be move to Downtown L.A.

    3: The galaxy is the best in the league.

    4: NYRB does not have a chance.

  34. Cabrito says:

    I doubt they would fill HDC with 27,000 on a Thursday night anyway. There were a lot of “sellouts” at the HDC that looked like 5,000-10,000 never bothered leaving the concession stands for their seats.

  35. trickhog says:

    Exactly what they’re doing. Now that they have the 15,000 seats sold, they are opening up another 5,000 tickets and providing free off-site parking and shuttle service.

    And I bet if they sell all 20,000 tickets, they’ll add some more shuttles and increase again.

    BTW – this restriction has been in place since the HDC opened up. This is just the first year MLS has had mid-week playoff game at the HDC.

  36. 99 says:

    hopefully we (minnesota) will be sending the viking to their new home there by then.

  37. Dinho says:

    Disagree. I thnk they would certainly sell out. LA fans are notoriously fairweather (and this is the playoffs).

    By the way, I’m a Gals fan, so I’m not hating.

  38. jamesey says:

    it’s underrated because in the previous 4 seasons it was absent

  39. PanchoMiguelMoralesdeConejo says:

    I’ve yet to see evidence of either. He seems to come in ‘elbows up’ in a protective stance that anyone moving into a fracas would do. Doing so, does not constitute ‘throwing a punch or an elbow”.

  40. bryan says:

    I agree, Cardozo please!

  41. bryan says:

    dude, the article plainly states they increased it from 15K to 20K. there are only 7K seats left. while i agree, they should be allowed to sell out a massive playoff game, it’s not like it’s going to be half empty.

  42. bryan says:

    Cardozo should get the start. but Becks would have to do a lot more defensive work.

    As for the whole capacity thing, I think it’s annoying the contract doesn’t have an exception given the circumstances. But it sounds like they’re making it work. 20K out of 27K isn’t too bad considering they are only supposed to have 7K (e.g. Morelia game).

  43. Mike Bassett says:

    Chivas USA needs to move to San Diego and re-brand. Or, else they may not be around much longer. They can barely get 5,000 to attend any game.

  44. Mike Bassett says:

    I think Cabrito might be right. Has there been a sell out mid-week game this year?

    And I mean sell-out in the sense that most seats are filled, not in the sense that the seats are paid for, but the people don’t show up.

  45. wooo says:

    Yeah. Only a 1/4 empty instead of half.