By DAN KARELL
Los Angeles Galaxy stars Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez won’t be moving to Europe on loan in January.
That’s according to Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, who, in a wide-ranging interview on Galaxy All-Access, put an end to any speculation of the U.S. Men’s National Team duo leaving during the final offseason before the 2014 World Cup. By doing so, both Gonzalez and Donovan will be available for USMNT camp this January in Los Angeles and Brazil.
“Our players aren’t going anywhere,” Arena told Galaxy All-Access. “Even though we argue that the (offseason) layoff is going to be too long, he can go into the camp with the U.S. team in January, as will Landon Donovan. Our players have had a really tough run this year, in particular Robbie (Keane) and Omar (Gonzalez) with all their requirements with their national teams. They had a full 11 months of playing and they need some time off.”
Donovan had previously stated that he was targeting a return to fitness in January while he recovers from a left ankle sprain that bothered him for the last month and a half of the season.
Earlier this week, Galaxy forward Robbie Keane underwent surgery on both of his Achilles, and Arena provided a bit more clarification on the procedure and a timetable for his return.
“He had his Achilles cleaned out and he got PRP (platelet-rich-plasma) treatment to help heal those areas to (heal) the inflammation,” Arena said. “He should be back in training in four to six weeks so the timing was perfect for him. Robbie was hindered a lot over the last couple months of the season with the irritation and inflammation of the achilles area, so to get it cleaned up now and get it right for 2014 is obviously pretty good for us.”
Speaking of news happening during the Galaxy’s offseason, Arena once more took a shot at the Major League Soccer schedule makers, disagreeing with the amount of time in the offseason and claiming that none of the coaches in MLS would have agreed on the current length of the season if they had a say in it.
This year the Galaxy will go 121 days between their final game, a 2-0 defeat in the MLS playoffs to Real Salt Lake, and the opening game of their 2014 MLS season, ironically also against RSL. In contrast, England (90 days), Italy (98 days), Spain (78 days), and Germany (84 days) all had shorter offseason’s between last season and their current season’s in their top divisions.
It’s not the first time this season that Arena has gone public with his opinions on scheduling. Just one month ago, Arena complained – and partially blamed himself – for having to play a match in the CONCACAF Champions League during the final week of the regular season.
“We can’t fix it, unfortunately,” lamented Arena. “People who were responsible for making these decisions didn’t communicate properly with any of us (coaches). It’s set a break that was probably unanimously not in agreement with by the coaches and we are stuck with it. Players need a break, there’s no question about it but they don’t need 11 weeks, they don’t need 12 weeks, they don’t need nine weeks. They need anywhere from four to six weeks, and this one’s just a little bit too much.
“That means it will take longer to bring players around in the preseason, and that’s challenging, especially for the clubs in the league that are involved in the (CONCACAF) Champions League.”
The offseason is a time for players to review their past season and find ways to improve for the next, and Arena is already challenging a handful of his players to improve for next season. Though he admitted that rookie Gyasi Zardes had a good season, Arena said he wants to see more out of the 22-year-old next year. Zardes finished with four goals and four assists in 27 games played in the league, but Arena cited a statistic that shows Zardes had a number of chances (78 shots) and didn’t put enough of them away.
In addition, Arena called on Robbie Rogers to recover the form that earned him 18 caps with the USMNT, while also saying that he needs more out of Juninho and Marcelo Sarves in central midfield next season.
With the early signing of Baggio Husidic, Arena believes that the young midfielder could complement the Brazilian midfield pair.
I think he helps complement Juninho and (Marcelo) Sarvas,” said Arena. “I don’t think we had that (complement) there this year, those players played the most minutes for us and we need to get them off the field a little bit as well. So I think if Husidic comes and fits in right away we expect him to get some playing time.”
The Galaxy have been at the forefront of the league’s effort to develop homegrown players and they’re likely to take a step forward next year with the creation of their own USL Pro franchise. Earlier in September, LA Galaxy Insider reported that the club was looking into putting out their own USL Pro team and Arena confirmed that everything is currently going to plan.
While there was success this season with the partnerships between MLS and USL Pro clubs – most notably Sporting Kansas City and Orlando City SC – the Galaxy feel that it’s in their best interests to have a USL Pro club that can practice at the same location as the first team to minimize travel for players between the two clubs.
The Galaxy are hoping get to more games not only for the likes of Zardes, Jose Villarreal, and Jack McBean, but also for young players coming up through the academy.
“We’re going ahead full speed, we anticipate having a USL Pro team (next season),” Arena revealed. “That (team) will serve our academy players who we are moving up to the Major League roster, it will serve our players who are not playing on a regular basis for our first team as well, and then we’re going to have other players involved on the roster.
“Between our first team and this roster, which right now is 30, 29 players in MLS, we’re likely going to have another 15 players that are involved in the USL team and complimented by our roster. So we should have 45 players here on a daily basis, two teams, and there should be a number of opportunities for players to get game experience and to continue to move forward.
“We’re hopeful that we can discover a couple of players through the USL team but also develop our academy players who need playing time, so you’re going to see players like Oscar Sorto, Jack McBean, Raul Mendiola, perhaps Jose Villarreal. All those young players, if they’re not playing on a regular basis with (the LA Galaxy first team), will get games with the USL team.”