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October 28, 2010 at 11:58 AM

L.A. coach Bruce Arena talks Sounders, playoffs, Ljungberg

Recently a handful of Seattle reporters caught up with Galaxy coach Bruce Arena on a teleconference. Here’s what he had to say:

* * *

(On playoff structure and having to face Seattle) “I don’t care one way or the other. We’ve known all along how the postseason is set up. You can’t worry about it. In the way I look at it, in the playoffs you’re going to play good teams regardless. Happens to be Seattle. I guess if you’re talking 1-to-8 it would be San Jose, but at the end of the day, they’re all tough teams. None of the games are going to be easy. It’s not anything that I’m spending a whole lot of time worrying about.

(On facing Schmid in the playoffs for the first time) “I think Sigi is a great coach. Everyone that knows Sigi away from Seattle finds him to be a really good person. He’s extremely bright and we have the greatest respect for him. For me at the professional level, to face him in an important game like this is fun and it’s certainly challenging. Again, I didn’t realize the fact that you’ve mentioned, that we’ve never seen each other in any kind of postseason play, so this should be fun. Hopefully it is.”

(Is there anything to take from earlier meetings against Sounders FC or is it a clean slate?) “I think it’s a clean slate. Obviously it’s been a while since we’ve played, but the playoffs are different as well. It’s a different type of mentality, a different approach. To me it doesn’t matter if we’ve been successful in our previous three encounters or not successful because as you say, it is a clean slate.”

(Is there a difference playing a team five times in a year? Same as four?) “That’s what I think: four is no different than five. The Open Cup is a little bit different. And it was odd. We played them on Sunday here and then went to Seattle for a game I think on Wednesday and played a game on a turf field at their practice facility, so it was certainly different. I think in that game they played very well and they deserved to win.”

(How are the Sounders different since July 4?) “I know we played well that night. I couldn’t tell you the lineup that Seattle put on the field. My guess is that Ljungberg was still around? In my view, and probably in their view, that’s been a difference in their team. I think they turned the keys over to Fredy Montero, as opposed to Freddie Ljungberg, and in my opinion that’s made a significant difference in that team for whatever reason. I couldn’t tell you exactly. Only they know. But to me there was a kind of change in the leadership on the field and who your guy was going to be. And I think Fredy Montero has accepted the challenge and the responsibility of being a leader on that team, and he’s gotten it done. He’s had, you could argue, an MVP season.”

(On comparing soccer markets in L.A./New York and Seattle) “I do think it’s a much greater challenge for MLS in the markets of New York and L.A. than it is in Seattle. I lived in Seattle-Tacoma for close to two years. Even in the ’70s, I thought Seattle was a soccer market, and they embraced the sport, obviously. I don’t need to give you the history of soccer in Seattle, but it just seems to me that the sport and the league is embraced much differently in the Seattle market and the evidence is obviously the 30-some-odd-thousand a game. In New York and L.A. there’s obviously a lot of competition for the sports dollar. I don’t need to tell you, but we have the Lakers. Seattle lost their NBA team. I just think they’re different settings. I don’t think there’s a finer city for the sport in this country than Seattle.”

(Can you speak to Berhalter’s health?) “Greg’s healthy.”

(So you expect him to be starting?) “Yeah, he’s getting there. No question about it. Obviously he had a viral infection that set him back, but he’s been well past that over the last 3-4 weeks.”


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