MARINA DEL REY -- Bruce Arena has seen how badly Major League Soccer's clubs are being pummeled by European royalty, but in preseason form, during the World Football Challenge series of exhibitions, and his reaction is simple. Who cares?
He talked about it at a sparsely attended news conference in advance of the Galaxy's friendly Sunday afternoon against Manchester City FC at Home Depot Center, making it clear -- if it weren't already -- where this game stands among his team's priorities.
“I don't think it's that important,” Arena said Thursday afternoon. “I think this is an exhibition in a tournament where we've brought some of the great club teams in the world to the United States to play MLS club teams and others, and it's to show these great teams and players. The competition itself is not as important as the ability to bring the clubs here and let our fans see these great players and clubs.”
That's one way to spin the Seattle Sounders' 7-0 loss Wednesday night to Manchester United, or the Galaxy's 4-1 loss last weekend to Real Madrid at the Coliseum. The New England Revolution also lost, 4-1, to Manchester United. In 13 friendlies against European clubs -- two of them, D.C. United's and Portland's losses to Ajax Amsterdam, from May -- MLS clubs are 2-8-1 and have been outscored, 27-9.
The only wins were San Jose's victory July 12 over West Bromwich Albion and Philadelphia's win Wednesday night over Everton, second-or-lower-tier English Premier League clubs, in games that are not part of the WFC.
Vancouver lost Monday to Manchester City, and on Wednesday Houston was beaten by Bolton and Portland lost a thriller to West Brom.
“The results haven't been good, there's no question about that,” Arena said. “I think it's a difficult competition to gauge some of the results. I do believe if we played Real Madrid 10 times, they'd probably beat us 11. I'm not embarrassed by our performance. [Real Madrid] is a very good team.
“I think the purpose of these exhibitions are exhibiting these great teams and players and let both teams play and enjoy the match. To me, the result is not that critical.”
A SIMPLER TASK: It's certainly not as important as the games surrounding the exhibitions. The Galaxy lost last weekend to Real Madrid at the Coliseum between a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal defeat to Seattle and Wednesday night's MLS victory over Columbus, and they've got a trip to the Pacific Northwest following the Man City game -- and CONCACAF Champions League action next month. And so Arena's plan Saturday is to use two different teams, one for the first half and another for the second.
“We're going to try to play as many players for 45 minutes as we can and not extend the minutes of our starters,” he said. “We've been in a difficult schedule over the last three, four weeks, and it's important we keep our players healthy.”
It's preseason for the mostly European clubs touring North America in what has become an annual pilgrimage, and Man City -- the reigning F.A. Cup champs, who finished third in the EPL -- is wrapping up its U.S. trek with what manager Roberto Mancini calls a “very, very important game.” He said he'd “probably play with the [first] team for 90 minutes.”
That might make things simpler for the Galaxy. After their game Wednesday, Arena was asked about the Sounders-Man United scoreline.
“Manchester United's pretty good,” he noted. “You say the score, I would say this: It's worse when an elite club can play more players. It's not easier. ... If you tell those guys they only have to play 45 minutes, it's 45 minutes of hell. It's an advantage to these clubs when they get to play more players, because they obviously have better players, [are] deeper, more quality. It's difficult.
“Listen, I'm not betting the house on the fact that if we just played regular rules, with three substitutions, we're in much better shape. But I'd rather play under those conditions than see some of the players I saw step on the field in the second half Saturday in the Coliseum, and I can imagine who's going to step on the field in the second half Sunday.”
LOSING? 'THAT'S OK': Speaking of the Real Madrid game, Arena on Wednesday said: “It was an exhibition, a game we had to play [that] comes at an awkward time for us, we just had to be smart about [our] approach. If we threw everything we could into that game, I would bet my life on the fact we probably would still lose it. And that's OK. The game was good for our fans to get out and see, and we enjoyed the game, understood the issues, getting into it with the number of games we've played and the travel and everything else. It didn't bother us one way or another.”