Galaxy Notebook: With CCL quarterfinal berth clinched, focus now on MLS stretch run

JuninhoBrace (Getty)

BY KAYLA KNAPP

Carson, CALIF. — The Los Angeles Galaxy were paying attention to an important game last night, but it wasn’t one they were playing in. The Puerto Rico Islanders defeated Metapan 3-0 in their CONCACAF Champions League group stage match. This result meant the Galaxy clinched an early spot in the CCL quarterfinals.

“I’m not surprised Puerto Rico won yesterday. We’re the only team in the group that got a point on the road.” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said after training on Friday. “This is the first time around in a three team competition, so it was a little bit different, a little bit odd but we kind of knew the plan was to get six points in the first two games and then get a point in game three you’re in pretty good shape. It turns out that we’re in real good shape because we’ve advanced.”

The Galaxy’s next CCL group stage match against Metapan in El Salvador on Oct. 25th carries a different importance now. With a spot in the quarterfinals already locked up, the Galaxy would do themselves a favor by picking up three points against Metapan and securing a higher seed for the next round.

“We’re satisfied that we’re qualified, but we’re very aware of what the game in El Salvador means now,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said after training Friday. “It comes at a tricky time, the last week of the season, but we have every expectation that we should go in there and win to make sure that we get as high a seed as possible.”

“You don’t want Santos Laguna in the first round, you want to play somebody else,” Mike Magee said on Friday. “We’d like to get three more points in the next game, but obviously we don’t want to risk an MLS Cup trophy for it.”

With the Galaxy already into the next round of the CCL, it is clear where the reigning MLS Cup champions’ focus is now as the regular season comes to an end, and the playoffs are rapidly approaching.

Roster depth of utmost importance during this stretch

The Galaxy close out the MLS regular season with a tough four game stretch – they face Colorado Rapids, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders to close out the season. One of the most important aspects of this Galaxy team in 2012 has been the depth of their squad, and fully taking advantage of that with MLS and CCL matches to play in a grueling schedule.

“It takes so much pressure off us having clinched last night, and having so much depth within our team knowing that we can play guys that aren’t necessarily regulars and count on getting a result,” Magee said of the CCL match against Metapan at the end of the month.

“We’re very fortunate that we can play a team like that with a “second” group of players and get results we want, so if that’s the choice Bruce makes those guys are very competent and they can get the job done,” Donovan added.

Especially considering some of the injuries the Galaxy have faced this season, the ability to send a squad of mostly reserves players to CCL matches and still get points is incredibly important.

Looking ahead to facing the Rapids in Colorado

The Rapids are notoriously difficult to play at home, especially because of the ever-present issue of altitude for visiting teams to adjust to. Especially so for players like Beckham who is still on the mend from injury. He expects to play Sunday, but for how long is unclear.

“It’s always difficult being out for a few weeks and coming back, but I’ve had a good week of training and should be OK for this weekend,” David Beckham said after Friday’s training session. “You have to build it up again, but I’ll judge how I feel during the game and see what Bruce thinks, and obviously what the physios think, so hopefully I can play 90. But, it’s altitude, the first game back after three and a half weeks, so I hope I can do it.”

Christian Wilhelmsson was absent from training on Friday, having last trained with the team on Wednesday. Arena said he should be set to go for Sunday, but if not, there are plenty of guys on the roster who can step up and fill that spot.

The Galaxy kick off the final stretch of the season against a Rapids team that has struggled overall, but is always tough at home.

“You have to get those quick run ins and get yourself going straight away, get your lungs adjusted as quick as possible,” Beckham said of the Colorado altitude. “It is what it is, just one of those things that we have to cope with.”

And just because Colorado, on paper at least, is the weakest of the Galaxy’s final four opponents this season, doesn’t mean they are taking Sunday’s game lightly.

“This is an important game, we’re treating it as such ,” Donovan said. “It’s a game where we need to get three points if we want to keep pace in the West.”

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11 Responses to Galaxy Notebook: With CCL quarterfinal berth clinched, focus now on MLS stretch run

  1. JRP says:

    With that payroll they better win two pieces of hardware this year or they can’t call it a successful season. I think they are positioned best for a push to the finals of Concacaf but they have a history of choking (so does every MLS team in the tournament). When they are good, they are very, very good. But when they are bad (start of the season) they are TFC awful.

  2. hogatroge says:

    Houston (essentially) locked up their quarterfinals berth today. With a +6 GD heading into a home match against Olimpia, they’d need to lose by a 4 goal margin in order to miss out on the knockout stages.

    Props to FAS for the win, and thanks!

  3. T says:

    A MLS team needs to win this competition, but I know Mexican squads will be a very difficult test to overcome at any given time during the tournament. It would be wise not to look past any of the non-Mexican teams as well. So far, Los Angeles, Seattle, and likely Houston have booked their spots in the quarterfinals, I’m hopeful that RSL can get through Herediano to qualify too. The more teams involved (and committed to winning) gives us our best chance of winning.

  4. NE REVS says:

    Is LA sure they don’t want to figure out how they’ll improbably lose to TFC in the quarters again right away? Might as well get to work on that now right?

  5. unbeknownst says:

    Your math is wrong. The first tiebreaker is goal differential, and Houston is playing the 2nd place team in the group, in the final match of group 3.

    As of right now, Houston’s GD is +6 and Olimpia’s GD is +2. So, if Olimpia scores 2 more goals then Houston in their final match, they’ll be tied in GD. If Olimpia wins in Houston 4-2 on Oct.23rd Olimpia will advance to the quarterfinals.

  6. unbeknownst says:

    Toronto is not advancing to the quarterfinals this year.

  7. Lil' Zeke says:

    No one said it would be easy

  8. Bob says:

    Mixing in a couple of starters to the B Squad can win them this match.

    Just please no Pat Noonan

  9. Marmo says:

    Red Bulls fall into this category as well

  10. PD says:

    This is San Jose’s year.

    That said, they have the best chance of bringing home the CCL.

    I’ll be pulling for them on both accounts.

  11. beachbum says:

    Thank goodness there are owners willing to pay palyers to come to MLS. On your call about when they are good vs. when they are bad, any ideas why this is so this year?