How Steven Gerrard feels Sunday and Monday will determine how much the former English national team captain will play in the Los Angeles Galaxy’s next game, coach-general manager Bruce Arena said.
Gerrard made his debut with the Los Angeles Galaxy in Saturday night’s 2-1 victory over Mexico’s Club America in an International Champions Cup game at StubHub Center. He played the first half, taking a team-high three shots, one on goal.
“Physically it was tough,” the 35-year-old Gerrard said. “I haven’t played a competitive match for six or seven weeks, so it was very important I got out there and got 45 minutes.”
Gerrard had a shot blocked in the 21st minute, then had another shot that went off target 11 seconds later. Club America goalkeeper Hugo Gonzalez stopped Gerrard’s shot in the 22nd minute.
Gerrard made 43 touches and had 29 passes with a 79.3 percent passing accuracy.
“It was a great feeling,” Gerrard said. “It was a difficult game and I thought (Club America) were very good. I thought after 15 or 20 minutes that the team settled really well, we played some good football and we got our deserved equalizer.
“For me personally, it was good to get 45 minutes under my belt and I’ll keep getting better and better and the more I get used to my teammates, I’ll improve.”
Gerrard was among nine Galaxy players replaced at the start of the second half in a game where 11 substitutes were allowed instead of the usual three.
“Steven played well,” Arena said. “His passing was very good. His partnership was Juninho was good. He won some tackles. Helped create some chances. Could have had a goal. I think their ‘keeper made a great save on him.
“His first time out was very encouraging. He looked like he belonged. His leadership was real good.”
Gerrard is “probably about a month away” from being able to play a full 90-minute game.
“It’s going to take some games. It doesn’t come from training. He’s going to have to play some matches. We’ll try to slowly build him into that. But from what I could see tonight, it was a good 45 minutes.”
The Galaxy will next play Tuesday, facing Real Salt Lake in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal in Sandy, Utah.
Alan Gordon headed in a cross from Raul Mendiola in the 80th minute for the tie-breaking goal before a decidedly pro-Club America crowd announced at 27,934, the Galaxy’s largest crowd this season at StubHub Center.
Carlos Darwin Quintero opened the scoring for Club America in the seventh minute, putting a shot from about 10 yards out between the legs of Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe.
Galaxy captain Robbie Keane tied the score in the 45th and final minute of the first half.
The Galaxy led 16-12 in shots and 5-3 in shots on target. Rowe made one save over the opening 62 minutes and rookie Andrew Wolverton one in the final 28. Wolverton has not made an appearance in a Major League Soccer game.
Gonzales made three saves.
The game is the first of two for the Galaxy in the International Champions Cup, a 10-team tournament with three MLS teams, Club America and six European teams. The Galaxy’s other tournament game will be July 21 at the Rose Bowl against FC Barcelona, in a game that has already sold out.
“I’d like to say this like I always do in these exhibitions, they’re exhibitions,” Arena said.
“Don’t read a whole lot into it more than you need to. Club America is getting their team ready for the season. We’re getting our team ready for two games next week and that’s the reason why we used two teams.
“For the fans here, it was a big game, but let’s not go anywhere more than you have to. We beat Juventus two years ago. I still think they’re a better team than us.
“We got spanked from Manchester United last year and they’re probably not as good as they were on that night, but these are exhibitions and they serve a purpose for all the teams involved.”
Gerrard signed with the Galaxy in January to join the team during MLS’ summer transfer window following the May conclusion of the season of the English Premier League team he had spent his entire professional career with, Liverpool.
Under regulations from FIFA, soccer’s worldwide governing body, there are two periods during the year teams may add players to their rosters from teams in other nations.
The aggressiveness that Philip Anschutz, the billionaire whose extensive holdings includes the Galaxy, Dan Beckerman, the president and CEO of AEG, the Galaxy’s parent company, Arena and team president Chris Klein showed when they were attempting to sign Gerrard “made me feel very important and wanted,” Gerrard said at a news conference Tuesday.
“That’s key when you’re a footballer,” Gerrard said. “I had options to stay in the Premier League, options around Europe, but I didn’t want to compete against Liverpool. I love Liverpool Football Club and always will.
“I needed a new challenge. I needed a fresh challenge. I didn’t want to become a squad player or a sub for the club that I love after being a regular on the team for so long.”
Gerrard said Galaxy officials conveyed their interest in signing him to his agents last fall.
“I had a short time to think about it,” Gerrard said. “I spoke to Bruce and Chris. After one or two conversations, I knew this was the place for me.”
Gerrard said he said he “leaned on” his English national team teammate David Beckham for advice before signing with the Galaxy. Beckham played for the Galaxy from 2007-12.
Gerrard played 17 seasons with Liverpool, helping lead it to 10 major trophies over the past 15 years, including the UEFA Champions League in 2005. He was England’s captain during the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups.
“When the opportunity arose to talk with Steven, we instantly thought he would a perfect fit for our team,” Arena said. “Steven’s leadership and ability on the field is outstanding.”
The Galaxy won the 2014 MLS championship, but lost Landon Donovan, considered the greatest American male soccer player, to retirement. The team is fourth place in the 10-team Western Conference with a 8-6-7 record.
“We’ve got a fantastic team here and a fantastic setup and if I can just add a little bit to that and contribute to the best of my ability, the future can be really bright,” Gerrard said.