Galaxy, Chivas USA tie as Arena looks on
There was a time when Preki and Cobi Jones used to share a soccer field -- Preki as the mercurial midfielder and Jones as the fleet-footed winger, both on the U.S. national team.
Times have changed.
On Thursday night, the two men were on opposite benches, coaching Chivas USA and the Galaxy, respectively, as Los Angeles’ two Major League Soccer teams continued their hopeful stumble toward the playoffs.
Both took another awkward step Thursday, with the Galaxy relying on a stoppage-time goal on a header by Alan Gordon to salvage a 2-2 tie, extending its winless streak to eight games.
Landon Donovan put the Galaxy ahead in the eighth minute with his league-leading 14th goal of the season, but Atiba Harris tied it for Chivas five minutes into the second half before Paulo Nagamura put Preki’s side in front in the 63rd minute.
The tie left Chivas USA with a 6-8-5 record and kept it in fifth place in the Western Conference, one point behind the fourth-place Galaxy (6-8-6).
But what happened on the field was of considerably less consequence, in the long run, than what was happening in a Home Depot Center suite.
There, Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of Galaxy owner AEG, was hobnobbing with former U.S. national team Coach Bruce Arena. Was he interviewing Arena for the vacant Galaxy coaching job or the vacant president and GM position?
“You don’t interview Bruce Arena,” Leiweke said.
“We have a lot of respect for him and obviously he’s been not only part of the national team program but he’s been a part of Major League Soccer from early on. So the ability to talk to him about what we’re going through here and get his advice and input is invaluable.
“We’d be honored and privileged if Bruce was part of the organization, but the conversation tonight was really geared toward his input and his feeling on what we’ve done right and what we’ve done wrong with this franchise.”
Leiweke admitted Arena would be a positive addition.
“If I could convince Bruce to join AEG and join the Galaxy, he’d be the ideal guy to come in here,” he said. “There’s not a better candidate, there’s not a better potential coach. He knows more about the game. Mr. [Phil] Anschutz has great respect for Bruce. We’d be honored to have him.”
But as what? That question remained unanswered. Arena was picked up by the ESPN cameras chatting with Paul Bravo, the Galaxy’s director of soccer, but he was not made available to the media.
That could change by Monday and Arena could be coaching the team when it hosts the Chicago Fire next Thursday.
Jones’ debut as an interim head coach went about as well as expected given that he had taken over from Ruud Gullit only on Monday.
“I’ve been put in the position a little bit sooner than I expected, but when it comes to the job I think I’m up for it,” he said beforehand.
“Obviously, it takes time for things to work out the way you want them to.”
So Jones relied on David Beckham and Donovan to provide the “fire out on the pitch” that he said was needed.
“A lot of responsibility falls upon those guys to be the ones that lead this team, to be the ones that make things happen, to be the difference-makers,” he said. “That’s what I expect, the team expects, and all the fans expect -- to see something special from those guys.”
Arena, no doubt, will be expecting the same.