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.”