After spending more than half his life playing professional soccer in Liverpool, Steven Gerrard already has encountered a new challenge one week into his stay with the Galaxy.
“Jet lag,” he said Tuesday. “I was absolutely wiped for three or four days when I arrived.”
On the field, however, everything remains the same.
“It’s a football pitch,” he said. “There’s balls, there’s goals, there’s coaches, there’s players.
“It’s all the same to me.”
Well, not exactly.
Gerrard will learn soon enough about the differences in travel and weather between the English Premier League and Major League Soccer, differences that figure to take an added toll on a 35-year-old who has played more than 800 games for club and country.
But he already seems to have acclimated with his teammates.
“It’s weird. It was kind of seamless,” forward Alan Gordon said. “It’s like he’s been here for a while. He’s not a loud guy, but he has a presence and he fits right in.”
Coach Bruce Arena is anticipating the same kind of fit when Gerrard makes his first game appearance with the Galaxy on Saturday against Mexico’s Club America at the StubHub Center.
“I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult,” Arena said.
After all, the Galaxy and Arena have become experts at smoothing this type of transition, having helped David Beckham and Robbie Keane make the adjustment from the EPL to MLS.
After a rough start, Beckham won league titles in his final two seasons with the Galaxy. Keane, the team captain, is also the league’s reigning most valuable player.
“Look at David’s last couple years here and the success we had as a club,” Galaxy President Chris Klein said."That’s what makes a signing like that successful.”
Both players also advised Gerrard on what to expect after he made the decision to leave the comfort of his hometown, Liverpool, for the adventure of playing in the U.S.
“There will be a few minor stops and starts,” Gerrard said. “The players have got to get used to me, the way I play. I’ve got to adapt to ... how certain individuals play. It’s going to take some time for the manager to get used to me and for me to get used to the manager and all the staff.
“But I adapt quickly. I’m not going to make any excuses.”
The Galaxy and Gerrard agreed on a $9-million, 18-month contract last winter after lightning-quick negotiations that were eased because Gerrard’s agent, Struan Marshall, also represents Keane.
“Within the first couple of weeks we knew it was a possibility just because we were talking about the finer details, not if he’d like to come or if we’d like to have him,” Klein said.
Gerrard’s arrival was delayed by both the length of the EPL season, which ended in May, and the MLS transfer window, which opens Wednesday. But when the team gets him on the field Saturday, Arena plans to team Gerrard with Juninho in the central midfield, sticking with the team’s usual 4-4-2 formation.
“I’m not expecting any surprises really,” said Gerrard, who probably will be limited to 45 minutes in his debut. “The key is just settling in as quick as you can. Getting some time and some minutes on the pitch will help me settle in even more.”
Liverpool’s captain for 12 seasons, Gerrard left the club rather than accepting a reduced role that would have kept him on the bench. He’s third on the club’s all-time list in appearances and fifth in goals. But he never won a league title there.
So the fact the Galaxy has won three in the last four seasons factored heavily in his decision to come to L.A.
“If there’s anyone out there that thinks I’m coming here for a holiday and a last paycheck,” he said, “they’ll be proved wrong very soon.”