Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The LA Galaxy may be up a goal on aggregate, but they know that likely will not be enough if they wish to keep their CONCACAF Champions League dreams alive.
The Galaxy currently hold a 1-0 lead over Club Tijuana after a tight first quarterfinals leg at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles last week, but are set to travel approximately 135 miles south to try and see off the Xolos in the decisive match at what is expected to be a rowdy Estadio Caliente in Tijuana on Tuesday night.
The hostile atmosphere is just one of the elements LA will have to deal with. The MLS club will have to also attempt to figure out how to beat a Tijuana side that will be desperate for a goal after last week’s disappointing defeat and rested most projected starters during this past weekend’s Liga MX action.
What Bruce Arena and the Galaxy have going for them is that a goal, especially an early one, would really put the pressure on Tijuana, as it would force the hosts to have to score three times and not allow another in order to move onto the semifinals.
That is why you can expect LA to take a measured but not completely defensive approach. The Galaxy are a veteran squad that has been through the rigors of this competition before, and they have acknowledged that sitting back and trying to absorb waves of attacking pressure for 90 minutes would likely end with their demise in the tournament.
For the Galaxy (who are rested after having a Week 2 bye in MLS play), picking and choosing when to attack like they did in their home game last week will be key. Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane will lead the attack, but just as important as their performances will be the help provided by role players like Gyasi Zardes and Samuel, the author of last week’s goal.
Samuel proved an especially tough opponent for Tijuana’s back line, a back line that is sure to include Greg Garza again. Finding the Brazilian forward in dangerous spots up the field will surely be part of the plan after seeing him clinically finish a loose ball in the penalty area last week.
Tijuana, meanwhile, will likely come out guns blazing and possibly with some lineup changes. The Xolos attacked with a purpose in front of a good number of their traveling fans in LA last week, but they will need to be sharper in the final third if they wish to finally break down a defense that includes center back Omar Gonzalez and standout goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
That could mean that Herculez Gomez, a well-documented threat and proven goal-scorer against MLS sides in this competition, gets more minutes than he received in the first leg. Tijuana head coach Cesar Farias opted to only play Gomez 10 minutes last week, a move that saw the veteran striker inject some life into the attack and also led to him stating his unhappiness with his reserve role.
Regardless, the Galaxy’s defensive performance will be one of the keys to the game. The back line will need to continue to hold sturdy and Penedo will likely still need to come up with a few more timely stops against a Tijuana side that will be pushed on by its rabid fanbase.
LA will need some offense of its own, however. Not just to keep Tijuana honest, but to also try and end the series and move onto the semifinals.
What do you think are the keys to the Galaxy-Tijuana match? See the Galaxy advancing to the semifinals? Are the Xolos and their American contingent primed for a comeback?
Share your thoughts below.