Bruce Arena was asked following the Galaxy's U.S. Open Cup victory last week over the L.A. Blues whether second-year goalkeeper Brian Perk, who was in the nets, had passed his audition.
“It wasn't an audition,” L.A.'s head coach responded. “He doesn't have to have an audition for Monday. He got the job without an audition.”
Perk got the job -- as starter in Monday night's annual Fourth of July bash at Home Depot Center, against the Seattle Sounders -- when Donovan Ricketts, in his first game back following a terrific CONCACAF Gold Cup with Jamaica, broke his arm in a collision, and backup Josh Saunders was red-carded just before halftime. The former UCLA star from south Orange County is the only other goalkeeper on the roster.
And his experience in the pro game is slight, indeed. He played twice for the Philadelphia Union, both friendlies, before the Galaxy nabbed him off waivers in August. He's played in three MLS Reserve League matches this season and made his first-team debut, if you can call it that, in Tuesday's victory at Cal State Fullerton.
“It's really no different [with Perk than with Ricketts or Saunders],” Arena said. “It's a little different when [Mike] Magee's playing in the goal, but with Perk, it shouldn't be any different. We have to play as a team, defend well, but we're not going to change anything we do because Perk's in the goal. If Magee was in the goal, we'd be a little bit more conservative.”
Perk has extensive U.S. youth national team experience. He left Tesoro High School after his freshman year to join the under-17 team's residency in Bradenton, Fla., and he's been part of four U-17 and U-20 World Cups, playing in three of them. His time against the Blues was good preparation.
“It's always good [to play],” he said after beating the Blues. “Getting into a full game, the full 90, that actually means something . Playing in three reserve games, which helped me to do this. I have all the confidence to step in Monday and do the job just like I did tonight.”
Backline leader Gregg Berhalter praises Perk's quickness, his “close-down type of pace coming out and on loose balls” and his facility “with the reflect saves, and that's something you can't teach.”
“We're comfortable with him,” Berhalter said. “We've played a bunch with him in the reserve team and in the Open Cup game and in training all the time, so we're comfortable with him, but it does change a little bit [from Ricketts and Saunders]. He's inexperienced, and we have to know that. You manage the game a little bit different. And I think it's up to us as a defense, as a team, to be on high alert and to be extremely concentrated and help him.
“We know he's capable, but he needs help, like everyone else.”
GOLD CUP GONE: Landon Donovan returned to the Galaxy this week after helping the U.S. to the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, which it lost to Mexico in the Rose Bowl a week ago. Getting past the disappointment took L.A.'s captain no time, he says.
“I've lost a lot of games in my career,” he said. “If you let that stuff affect you beyond it, I think that's irresponsible as a player and as a person. To be honest, I was over it that night. It's gone, it's over with, and the past has no use for me.”
The Galaxy (9-2-8) went unbeaten while Donovan was gone, which sounds better than it was. They were outplayed in home draws against D.C. United and Toronto FC, impressively won at Colorado, then pulled out a tie in San Jose after losing their top two goalkeepers. They also rallied from a late deficit to beat the L.A. Blues in the U.S. Open Cup.
“This team more than any other in this league can lose players, and guys fill in seamlessly,” Donovan said. “Last year when I was gone to the World Cup, they lost only one game [1-0 at Real Salt Lake] -- a game I think they undeservedly lost -- and this year when I was gone they didn't lose a game. So guys fill in, and we've been doing it all year.”
Donovan, who has a team-best eight goals for the Galaxy, was alone atop the MLS scoring chart when he left for the Gold Cup, but New York's Thierry Henry, D.C. United's Charlie Davies and FC Dallas' Brek Shea have caught him, and Columbus' Andres Mendoza is just one behind.
WORTH NOTING: The Galaxy won all four league meetings last year, two of them in the playoffs, and prevailed, 1-0, in MLS's kickoff game March 15 in Seattle. Juninho's long-range blast provided the goal. ... The Sounders won in last year's U.S. Open Cup semifinal against a Galaxy team missing its most important players; the teams meet again July 12 in an Open Cup quarterfinal in Tukwila, Wash. ... Longtime Sounders favorite Roger Levesque last week scored twice to beat New York, then set up the winning goal against New England. ... Thirteen players have scored and 21 have started a league game for the Sounders. ... The Galaxy hasn't unveiled its game roster, but league pool goalkeeper Kevin Guppy (Chino Hills/Chino Hills HS), a former Cal State Northridge star who has been on L.A.'s bench before, is expected to serve as Perk's backup. Guppy, who practiced with the Galaxy on Thursday, normally trains with Chivas USA and played for the Goats in their exhibition last year in San Diego against Guadalajara. ... L.A. will be wearing their new deep, dark blue and gold uniforms; we're told there's already a backlash against the display of the U.S. flag on the shirt's sleeves, that it's depicted in the shirt's colors -- the gold really standing out -- rather than the natural colors of the flag, and on the Fourth of July, no less.
MISSING: Ricketts is out four to six weeks and Saunders suspended for this one. Also out are center backs Leonardo and Sean Alvarado, whose seasons ended because of torn knee ligaments. ... Midfielder David Beckham (fractured spine) and defender Frankie Hejduk (ankle inflammation) are questionable.
Sigi Schmid (Torrance/Bishop Montgomery HS and UCLA) won 323 games and three NCAA titles while developing dozens of top pros during 19 years at UCLA's head coach, and since has on four trophies (including one MLS Cup) in five years as the Galaxy's head coach, an MLS Cup with Columbus and two U.S. Open Cup titles with Seattle.
Three key players
Colombian forward Fredy Montero, 23, is one of MLS's elite attackers, a forward with a knack for finding the right places and finishing what's in front of him
Gritty/stylish Argentine winger Mauro Rosales, 30, stepped into a void left by injury and subpar form and took the reins of the Sounders' attack, leading their run the six weeks or so
Goalkeeper (and future Hall of Famer) Kasey Keller is looking for his first league title in a 20-plus-year career. The former U.S. national team star is retiring following this season
The Sounders (8-4-7) have had to search for identity following the season-ending leg injury Steve Zakuani suffered back in April (along with O'Brian White's health problems and Montero's indifferent form), and the emergence of Rosales has been pivotal. They've won their past three MLS matches, are unbeaten in six and have lost just once -- to FC Dallas -- since the start of May, creeping into third place in the West, even on points with the Hoops.
There's Schmid, of course. And technical director Chris Henderson played at UCLA. And majority owner Joe Roth and minority owner Drew Carey are names known well in Hollywood. Defender Tyson Wahl (Newport Beach/Newport Harbor HS) is a real local. Defender Patrick Ianni and forward David Estrada are UCLA products, and midfielder Brad Evans starred at UC Irvine.
Winger Zakuani (broken leg) and forward White (blood-clot surgery) are out. ... Evans (hamstring strain) and Montero (quad strain) are probable. ... Rookie Ghanaian defender Michael Tetteh, who went to Dunn School in Los Olivos and UC Santa Barbara, is on a two-week loan to USL Pro side Orlando City.
At Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes
Radio: ESPN Deportes (KWKU-AM/1220 and KWKW-AM/1330, Spanish)
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
MLS Reserve League: Tuesday, 11 a.m., at Home Depot Center University Field 1