Vancouver Whitecaps v Los Angeles Galaxy - Knockout Round

Injury concerns mounting for Galaxy ahead of Sunday’s series opener against San Jose

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source: Getty ImagesAdding some anxiety to an anxious night for the L.A. Galaxy are ongoing injury concerns that could reduce the champ’s chances as in the coming Western Conference semifinal clash.

The Galaxy begins its two-game total goals series against San Jose on Sunday at the Home Depot Center.

The question is whether three valuable starters will be available, Sean Franklin, A.J. DeLaGarza and Juninho (pictured).

Neither Franklin nor DeLaGarza were available for Thursday’s 2-1 win over Vancouver. That represents half the Galaxy’s back line; Franklin is the first-choice right back, and DeLaGarza is the top choice to partner with Omar Gonzalez centrally along the back line.

The versatile DeLaGarza’s absence is a double whammy as he is Bruce Arena’s top choice to back-up Franklin on the outside, depending on how Arena chooses to arrange his personnel.

The back line woes were surely part of the reason L.A. fell behind immediately Thursday, as Matt Watson blew by inexperience right back replacement Hector Jimenez. Then, Darren Mattocks shook free of the central marking to push a swell ball past Galaxy ‘keeper Josh Saunders. Suffice to say, the Galaxy back line didn’t exactly shine in that one.

Arena said he thought Franklin would return for Sunday’s series opener, indicating his removal from Thursday’s lineup was mostly precautionary.

Meanwhile, Juninho’s potential absence may not be the most concerning. He does so much of the midfield running that David Beckham can no longer manage – especially now that the former England captain is further slowed by an ongoing ankle issue.

What the Brazilian midfielder said about his Achilles injury, which forced his 82nd-minute removal:

I’m tired, my Achilles tendon hurts a little bit, but I’m going to rest tomorrow and try to be ready for [Sunday]. I was just standing there and the player kicked the ball through my legs and when I turned, I was just tired, and my Achilles just gave.”

Images of Juninho being carried off the field will not make fans feel any better about a quick return.

Arena also said that Christian Wilhelmsson, now a part-time starter for L.A., had a minor quadriceps injury that occurred in practice on Wednesday.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.