CCL Preview: Confident Galaxy head into semifinal clash with two-time champion Monterrey

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Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By BRIAN TRUSDELL

For the LA Galaxy to beat two-time defending CONCACAF Champions League champion Monterrey, they will need confidence. And if Landon Donovan is any measure, that much at least has been taken care of.

“Ideally, you win at home, but it’s not an absolute must,” Donovan told MLSsoccer.com heading into Wednesday’s semifinal first leg in Carson, Calif. “Don’t get me wrong. We want to start off the right way here, but if things don’t go exactly as according to plan, then we’re confident we can go to Monterrey and get a result there, too.”

The Galaxy are Major League Soccer’s premier team: the reigning two-time champion with a high-profile lineup – minus one star midfielder.  If they want to prove they’re more than that, subduing “Los Rayados” would be a major step in that direction.

Despite Donovan’s belief, history indicates a victory Wednesday is virtually mandatory.

Monterrey has lost only one of 15 games at home in the Champions League since it entered the competition in 2010, and won 12. The only glimmers of hope for Los Angeles is that the Rayados’ one loss came against Seattle in August 2011, and that they only managed a 1-1 draw with lightly regarded Xelaju of Guatemala at home last time out in the second leg of the quarterfinals last month.

“Monterrey has always known how to get through these difficult games, and we hope it’ll be the same (Wednesday),” defender Ricardo Osorio said. “(We want) to get a good result and try to get the away goal.”

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said he expected to have the services of Robbie Keane, who practiced Monday after injuring his calf while on duty with Ireland 10 days earlier. He possibly also could use Donovan,  who returned from his self-imposed 3 1/2-month soccer exile with 29 minutes as a second-half substitute in Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Toronto.

Both teams come in on undefeated runs: the Galaxy are unbeaten in six this year while Monterrey hasn’t lost in its last five.

The Galaxy needed an stoppage-time strike from Jose Villarreal on Saturday to earn a 2-2 draw at Toronto, while Monterrey scored three times in the last 10 minutes – one by Suazo – to overwhelm Pumas 3-0 in Monterrey.

With both teams sporting talent and firepower front to back, some see the series being determined by will.

“The Americans are players that man-to-man are very strong,” Monterrey’s Ecuadorian midfielder Walter Ayovi said. “They fight for every ball. I think we must try to play at our own pace. The important thing is to take advantage the few opportunities and know that the game is 180 minutes. ”

Arena can’t identify what will be the determining factor, but is letting his side know that it likely will need to be at the top of its game.

“You could play poorly and win,” he said. “We don’t know what it’s going to take. My assumption is we’re going to have to play well.”

LA GALAXY vs. MONTERREY

WHEN: Tonight, 10pm

ON THE AIR: Fox Soccer Channel

WHERE: The Home Depot Center

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Galaxy – Robbie Keane, Juninho, Marcelo Sarvas, Omar Gonzalez. Monterrey- Humberto Suazo, Walter Ayovi, Jesus Zavala, Hiram Mier.

MATCH-UPS TO WATCH: Humberto Suazo vs. Omar Gonzalez. Suazo’s finishing ability made him last season’s Champions League co-leading scorer with seven goals, and he has 14 in the competition in three years. Since recovering from his devastating knee injury over a year ago, Gonzalez has developed into one of MLS’ best defenders and will need to use the experienced gleaned from his recent World Cup experience to tame Suazo. Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas vs. Walter Ayovi and Jesus Zavala. Control of the midfield will be a key, with whoever can maintain possession enabling them to supply potent forwards at either end.

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23 Responses to CCL Preview: Confident Galaxy head into semifinal clash with two-time champion Monterrey

  1. The Imperative Voice says:

    The Real Final. If LA wins this I like their chances against Santos. [Ditto Monterrey, if they win.]

  2. Gary Page says:

    Donovan was obviously still rusty in the game against Toronto and I don’t think Clark has looked all that good yet in midfield. I think Leonardo can be a defensive liability for the Galaxy. Other than that, especially with Magee playing so well, they look pretty solid. We know Monterrey is excellent and Suazo can be a real beast. If Donovan were in top form maybe the Galaxy could get a 2-1 win. I expect something like a 1-1 draw, though. It should be interesting.

  3. Brian says:

    The Galaxy are solid in the middle of the park and possess and move the ball well but they have to improve their combination play in front of the goal if they are going to win CCL. Look at the last few games: Chivas (McBean header on busted play), Rapids (Magee PK), TF (Sarvas flubbed shot to Magee, and defender header to Villarreal). It’s been a while since the Galaxy scored a good clean goal from run of play. Hopefully that will improve quickly with Keane back and Donovan returning to fitness…and by quickly, I mean in this semi-final series.

  4. Tony in Quakeland says:

    The answer to Donovan’s rust is to play him at forward with Keane. Let others do the linking work.

    It will be a battle, but LA can win this.

  5. Mark says:

    I hope Donovan gets in and has a brilliant comeback. Villareal, hopefully can keep up his amazing form of late.

    Not unlike the two national sides competing directly and despite what people say, this game will be a referendum on the status of the USA’s development of the sport versus Mexico’s long standing LigaMX dominance in the region.

    Let’s go Galaxy!

    • Albertson says:

      Not really. While the Galaxy is the pride of MLS Monterrey is a mediocre team by Liga Mx standards. They just happen to take this tournament seriously along with Santos.

  6. Mig says:

    I gotta think the Galaxy don’t start LD. If they can stay in this after one game, I’d rather have LD ready to go 90 in the second leg. This might be the most defensive home-leg performance ever by LA.

    The two Mexican teams may be the class of the competition but LA has the talent for an upset and wow, wouldn’t it be great to not hear about MLS never having a winning team in this competition.

  7. Dantheblue says:

    I’m going to the game… Can’t wait. Love to think that we blow them out. Especially if they bring their second tier like Mexican clubs will often do. I think we need to make a statement that MLS clubs are no laughing matter anymore.

    • Dan says:

      I should never have gone to that Evil Dead screener last night. That ate up my mid week hall pass.

  8. ld says:

    Monterrey 3 – 1 LAGalaxy…I dont know why LA would be confident after the start to their season they have had…and last year they got knocked out of this same tourney by lowly TFC and that was with Becks in the lineup.

    • Lil' Zeke says:

      Ha ha, too late to take that back! It belongs to the ages now

    • alf says:

      ?????

    • Francois says:

      What are you on, man? Whatever it is, it must be top-shelf, because to make a statement you have to be living in a different Galaxy. (pun intended)

      • ld says:

        I stand by my prediction. So you think the LA Galaxy are such a world powerhouse that my prediction that they could lose at home to a top Mexican team makes me high? Without Beckham and a Donovan who has played 30 minutes of soccer in the last 5 months. The team that has won this tourney the last 2 years in a row? Wow hold me back I am really livinin on the edge! I think you are the one smokin the top shelf chronic

        • FSegaud says:

          Past five months would include most of November so he played more than 30 minutes…just sayin’. :)

        • SuperChivo says:

          Pass for the left

        • This galaxy team has some real depth. It isnt just keane and donovan anymore. Sean Franklin,AJ and Omar can be dominating in the back. Our midfield is one of the best in the league. Sarvas and juni are both technical and have grit. You make it seem like there isnt any talent on the team. Most of these guys have been in this type of situation and both of youngsters have been scoring in the competition already. We can win this.

        • Francois says:

          I’m talking about your statement that they have not started the season well. They are undefeated, the results speak for themselves. Maybe I should be more specific, but 3-1 to Monterrey at home is also a pretty outlandish prediction. To counter you’re personal attack on me, I never said anything about chronic, but I do wish that I was smoking that instead of stuck in the office.

          • ld says:

            they did not look good against TFC on the weekend, the powerhouse team that knocked them out of this tourney last year. We shall see if my “outlandish” craziness comes true

            • Francois says:

              You said it all, LAST YEAR. Before Omar came back, before they started playing well, before they got Robbie Keane. Things change a lot in a year. Right now, the Galaxy are in control and are up 1-0 even thought it would be 2-0 if Franklin hadn’t missed a sitter.

  9. conrad says:

    Am I reading something wrong? (Quite possible; long day at work.) Is this game live now? Is it available on concacaf.tv? Stream?