When the Galaxy takes on the Philadelphia Union in a critical showdown Wednesday, they'll be without their biggest star. David Beckham was left at home when the Galaxy traveled to Pennsylvania, and head coach Bruce Arena says he's just taking a rest, nothing more.
We'd love to believe him, but who can be sure? Arena has been caught lying to media about injuries on a few occasions this season, so when he told a group of Philadelphia-based reporters Wednesday that Beckham was dealing with "fatigue" and would be back on the field Saturday night at Home Depot Center against Sporting Kansas City, there's no telling if it's true or not.
We'll know come Saturday.
Beckham's absence, Arena acknowledged, is "always difficult," and Galaxy captain Landon Donovan says L.A. (4-2-4), Major League Soccer's Western Conference leader, won't have it easy against the Union (4-2-1) without him.
"It's obviously going to hurt us," Donovan told media Tuesday. "His qualities aren't easily matched by other people. You can't just throw someone in and expect them to play the same way David plays."
Donovan didn't travel east for a three-game swing last month through D.C., Toronto and Chicago because, Arena said, he was fatigued after playing in two late-March games for the U.S. national team and needed to rest. No injury. Turned out Donovan was sidelined with a knee injury that he termed a "minor sprain."
Arena was less than truthful about goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts' injury before the season began and rarely is forthcoming about any player who is ailing. But rather than a "no comment," he seems to prefer to lead media astray.
"We're resting David right now," Arena said Tuesday. "Three games in a week, and we've decided to rest him."
So, he was asked, no injury of any sort? Just resting?
"Rest, fatigue. Bumps and bruises that he typically gets, and knowing that we have a game on Saturday, we have to make some decisions with players as to who's going to play three games, two games, that kind of thing," Arena said. "And we decided to rest him."
Said Donovan: "When you have to travel the way we do -- cross country for a game like this -- you can't expect someone his age  to play three games in a week. ... We've done a good job of filling voids when we needed to ... and we expect to do the same [against Philadelphia]. Some people will be disappointed, some will be happy that he's not here. It's unfortunate for people who pay to see him, but it's part of sports."
MISSING: There's Beckham. And the Galaxy hasn't bother to announce anything, but central defender Sean Alvarado is out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament sustained in last week's MLS Reserve League loss to Chivas USA. Fellow center back Leonardo, of course, also is done for 2011 after undergoing surgery to repair torn knee ligaments. Three others are listed as questionable -- defender Gregg Berhalter and forwards Adam Cristman and Miguel Lopez, all coming off knee injuries -- but Berhalter and Cristman played in the reserve game and Lopez saw action last week against New York.
WORTH NOTING: The Galaxy has won all three meetings, including a 1-0 decision -- on Leonardo's header -- April 2 at Home Depot Center. ... Rookies Michael and Gabriel Farfan became the first twins to play in the same MLS game in Philly's 1-0 loss Saturday at Portland. There's one other set of twins in the league: Gambian wingers Sainey (New England) and Sanna (Colorado) Nyassi. ... All three goals the Union have conceded have been from set pieces, two from free kicks and the other from a corner kick. Half of L.A.'s 12 goals have come from dead balls. ... Beckham has five assists this season, one shy of Houston winger Brad Davis' league-best total.
Former Polish national-teamer Peter Nowak led the Chicago Fire to the MLS Cup title in 1998 as a first-year club, and he went into coaching in 2004, winning another MLS Cup crown as a rookie boss with D.C. United. He was Bob Bradley's top assistant with the U.S. national team and the U.S. U-23/Olympic team head coach in 2007-09, departing to take charge of the expansion Union.
Three key players
French midfielder Sebastien Le Toux has exquisite touch and vision, and he scores and creates for others goals of stunning quality. He's off to a slow start this season but remains pivotal to the Union attack.
Galaxy fans know well Guatemalan forward Carlos "El Pescadito" Ruiz, who netted 61 of his 100 MLS goals (84 regular season, 16 playoffs) for the Galaxy, 32 of those (24 RS, 8 playoffs) en route to MVP honors while leading L.A. to the 2002 MLS Cup title.
Captain Danny Califf has been a rock in central defense for the Union, which has conceded just three goals this season and shut out four opponents.
The rising Union aren't considered among the top tier of MLS clubs, but they're just two points off the Eastern Conference lead, and that's all about defense. No surprise: Nowak, the only man to win MLS Cup titles as captain and coach, always has emphasized tight D, but few expected Philly to be this good this soon. Califf has a lot to do with it, and so does Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, and once the attack finds its path, who knows what they're capable of.
Califf (Orange) played at Orange High School and started 113 league games (and won an MLS Cup) with the Galaxy from 2000 to 2004. ... Defender Jordan Harvey (Mission Viejo) was a Gatorade National Player of the Year at Capistrano Valley High School and starred at UCLA. He played for Orange County Blue Star in the Premier Development League. ... Midfielder Kyle Nakazawa (Palos Verdes Estates) played at Peninsula High School, for Irvine Strikers and at UCLA. ... Midfielder Amobi Okugo played one year at UCLA before turning pro. ... The Farfans (Wildomar) spent some time at Cal State Fullerton. ... Ruiz was with the Galaxy in 2002-04 and 2008. ... Midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi started 20 games for the Galaxy in 2009.
No. 3 goalkeeper Thorne Holder is out with a concussion. Miglioranzi is probable despite a groin strain.
At PPL Park (Chester, Pa.), 4:30 p.m. PT
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: ESPN Deportes (KWKW/1330, Spanish)
Referee: Andrew Chapin