The new season must have begun, because Bruce Arena is complaining about the schedule. In what has become a Major League Soccer tradition, the LA Galaxy boss has strong words for those who determine when and where the 19 teams will play, and his unhappiness this time is about back-to-back games with the same opponent.
The Galaxy face the first of three such situations on Saturday afternoon, when they visit Real Salt Lake. LA lost a home to the Utahns in a season opener two weeks ago, and this is their first league encounter since.
“We've tried to make it clear to the league that we thought this was not the way to do it, but they have their own minds,” Arena said after a light training session Thursday at StubHub Center. “We're going to be the only team in the league doing this on three occasions this year. I don't think it's good.”
The Galaxy also face a back-to-back next month with Vancouver and at season's end with Seattle. There are only three other such situations among everyone else: Houston in July against Toronto (which has a game between the meetings) and two-fers in September with Philadelphia and Toronto and in October with Portland and San Jose.
Landon Donovan sympathizes with those determining the league schedule.
“It's unusual to play teams back to back unless it's a playoff series,” he said. “I don't envy the job of the schedule-makers, because, unfortunately in this country, we still don't have 19 teams that all have their own stadiums. And in some cases, teams that have their own stadiums have other dates that are being filled with concerts and stuff like that, so it's not an [enviable] task.
“In an ideal world, you don't play the same team back to back, but we're still in that place, and one day that won't be an issue anymore.”
The Galaxy's back-to-back against Real Salt Lake, which tied last week in San Jose, wasn't initially on the schedule. LA moved its game last weekend with D.C. United to late August to clear space between its CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matches with Club Tijuana.
LA gets another weekend off after the RSL game, then plays its first SuperClasico of the season against Chivas USA, then has two in a row against Vancouver, April 12 in Southern California and April 18 in British Columbia. The back-to-back with Seattle is Oct. 19 at StubHub and Oct. 26 at CenturyLink Field.
“I think it's not a good way to end the year,” Arena said. “They tend to think that we [against Seattle] create the television ratings that haven't been there, that we're going to create them at the end of the year. But I think it's not the right way to do the competition. I think as much as possible, we should space the games out both in conference and out of conference the right way, not play them back-to-back games.”