Bruce Arena, coach of the Los Angeles Ga

Bruce Arena: ‘I don’t know if anyone has the formula’ for MLS playoff success

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Los Angeles Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena insisted on Thursday that all he knows for sure about the Major League Soccer playoffs is that teams have to make the postseason to win.

“Half the battle is making it,” he said in a conference call with reporters. “This year was very competitive from start to finish in the league, as we know.”

His opponent in the Western Conference semifinals, Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis, was quick to praise the former United States boss.

“Bruce is the best coach in the history of soccer in this country,” Kreis said. “There’s no question that he gets it right, and he gets it right at the right time, otherwise he wouldn’t have [four] MLS Cups to his name already.”

In their four championships (two with Arena), the Galaxy have finished as high as first in the conference and as low as fourth. Last year, Los Angeles squeaked by the Vancouver Whitecaps, 2-1, in the play-in game before making a run to lift their second MLS Cup in a row.

The team they beat, the Houston Dynamo, finished fifth in the East last year. In 2013, the Galaxy finished in the middle of the Western Conference playoff pack, in third.

“I think part of the reason for our performances not being as consistent as I’d like [all season] is, we’ve just had a difficult time this year getting our whole group together for any extended period of time, but as of late, we’ve been able to do that with a little bit more consistency,” he said. “It’s obviously helped us.”

Los Angeles finished the season with just two losses since July 27 after losing three of their five games in both May and June. In that stretch, the team climbed from seventh in the conference to their final third-placed spot.

Arena has been vocal in his disapproval of MLS’s schedule during international breaks, when he stands to lose much of the spine of his starting lineup, with Landon Donovan, Omar González (United States), Jaime Penedo (Panama) and Robbie Keane (Ireland) frequently featuring for their countries.

Perhaps the league working around the November international dates bodes well for the Galaxy in the playoffs, even if it makes for some awkward scheduling.

“I think it’s going to be real difficult for the teams,” Arena said. “Recovery time is very difficult in this schedule, so it’s going to be interesting. I don’t think anybody really knows how it’s going to play out.”

Kreis said the veteran experience of the Galaxy makes it a dangerous team to play in November.

“They get it,” Kreis said. “They put things together in the playoffs. They have players that have been there and done it so many times that they know what they’re capable of.”

EURO 2016: Who’s headed to France?

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - OCTOBER 10: Volkan Sen of Turkey in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group A Qualifier match between Czech Republic and Turkey at Letna Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic. (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
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The group stage of qualification is complete, as 20 teams have clinched a berth at EURO 2016, which kicks off next summer in France.

The top-two finishers in each group automatically qualified, as did the best third-place side out of all the groups (Turkey). France qualified automatically as the host nation.

[ MORE: EURO 2016 roundup ]

That leaves eight third-place teams to battle for the final four spots through a play-off. The draw for the matchups will take place on October 18, and those matches will be held from November 12-17 as a home-and-home play-off.

Group A

  1. Czech Republic
  2. Iceland
  3. Turkey (automatically qualified as best third-place side)

Group B

  1. Belgium
  2. Wales
  3. Bosnia and Herzegovina (qualified for play-off)

Group C

  1. Spain
  2. Slovakia
  3. Ukraine (qualified for play-off)

Group D

  1. Germany
  2. Poland
  3. Republic of Ireland (qualified for play-off)

Group E

  1. England
  2. Switzerland
  3. Slovenia (qualified for play-off)

Group F

  1. Northern Ireland
  2. Romania
  3. Hungary (qualified for play-off)

Group G

  1. Austria
  2. Russia
  3. Sweden (qualified for play-off)

Group H

  1. Italy
  2. Croatia
  3. Norway (qualified for play-off)

Group I

  1. Portugal
  2. Albania
  3. Denmark (qualified for play-off)

EURO 2016: Dutch disaster as Netherlands fail to qualify

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 13:  Robin van Persie of the Netherlands (19) reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group A match between the Netherlands and the Czech Republic at Amsterdam Arena on October 13, 2015 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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The group stage of qualifying for the 2016 European Championship has come to a close, and one of the top teams in the world will not be playing in France next summer.

Netherlands 2-3 Czech Republic

The Netherlands finished second at the 2010 World Cup and third at the 2014 World Cup, but have failed to qualify for EURO 2016. Playing in front of a home crowd in a must-win match against the Czech Republic, the Dutch got off to a dreadful start, falling behind 2-0 as manager Danny Blind was forced to make a substitution within the opening 40 minutes. The Czech Republic was sent to ten men before the break, but an own-goal from Robin Van Persie made it 3-0 as the Dutch couldn’t recover. A disastrous result for the Netherlands, as big changes will surely come from the top down.

[ RELATED: David de Gea fighting for starting goalkeeper position with Spain ]

Italy 2-1 Norway

Italy finishes atop Group H without a loss after defeating Norway 2-1 today. Norway took the lead through Norwich City’s Alexander Tettey, but late goals from Alessandro Florenzi and Southampton’s Graziano Pelle gave the Italians all three points.

Malta 0-1 Croatia

With Norway’s loss, Croatia jumped into second place in Group H and secured qualification to EURO 2016 with a 1-0 win away at Malta. Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic scored the game’s only goal, as Croatia advances despite having one point deducted due to inappropriate actions from their fans.

Elsewhere in EURO qualifying

Group A

Turkey 1-0 Iceland
Latvia 0-1 Kazakhstan

Group B

Belgium 3-1 Israel
Wales 2-0 Andorra
Cyprus 2-3 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Group H

Bulgaria 2-0 Azerbaijan