SAN JOSE, Costa Rica— Chandler Hoffman has been eagerly awaiting a chance to showcase his skills in a first team game and in his first start for the LA Galaxy, he did just that.
Hoffman scored his first professional goal in the 18th minute of LA’s 3-0 CONCACAF Champions League victory over C.S. Cartaginés on Wednesday. The win allowed the Galaxy to qualify for the tournament’s quarterfinals for the third consecutive year.
A prolific goal scorer at the college level with UCLA, Hoffman first professional goal mirrored many of those goals scored at Drake Stadium as he found himself unmarked far post and easily tapped in a Michael Stephens cross for the team’s second goal of the night.
“It was huge,” said Hoffman, who had only scored in reserve games and friendlies during his time with the Philadelphia Union prior to be traded to the Galaxy in March. “I’ve scored a ton in the reserve league and in the friendlies, so to make it translate to meaningful games is huge. I just want to keep this momentum going forward.”
His first goal and first start under his belt, Hoffman hopes that he’s worked into the conversation for more minutes as the Galaxy seek to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“Bruce told us tonight that we had a huge opportunity,” said Hoffman. “And I think that all of us who stepped on the field showed that we want to be playing as much as possible.”
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- The LA Galaxy needed just a point on the road against Cartaginés to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, but an explosive offensive display in the first half ensured all three.
Jack McBean, Chandler Hoffman and Laurent Courtois all scored in the opening 30 minutes as LA dominated the Costa Rican side en route to a 3-0 victory. McBean’s finish allowed him to tie Robbie Keane for the most goals by an LA player in the CCL while Hoffman’s goal was the first of his professional career.
LA wrap up the CONCACAF Champions League group stage on Oct. 24 when they take on Isidro Metapán in El Salvador. The match will determine where LA are seeded in the CCL quarterfinal stage.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena told reporters in Costa Rica that Landon Donovan’s exclusion from Wednesday’s 3-0 CONCACAF Champions League victory was precautionary due to his ankle injury.
Following the match, Arena was asked about Donovan’s status and what he was not in the game day roster despite traveling and he admitted that he was left off as Arena looks ahead to Sunday’s match against the Portland Timbers.
"Landon is just returning from injury," said Arena. "We didn't want to risk it for this game, but we're hopeful that he'll be ready for Sunday."
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica— LA Galaxy Homegrown defender Oscar Sorto will make his competitive first team debut for the club in Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League match against C.S. Cartaginés.
Sorto was included in the starting XI for LA’s vital CCL fixture by head coach Bruce Arena that will see him man the right side of defense behind midfielder Michael Stephens. With the defender limited to just reserve game and International Champions Cup appearances, Sorto is geared up to make his LA debut.
“Bruce has given me the opportunity to start and right now I’m just going to picture how the game is going to go and hopefully I can do well,” said Sorto. “We’re expecting them to press us a lot and we’re going to just try to keep the game close and not concede goals. If we get a chance, we want to score.
“It’s going to be a big role for me because we know what we have to do to move on to quarterfinals, so I’ll just be as concentrated as I can be. Hopefully, we get a result.”
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica— Issues with the lighting system at C.S. Cartaginés’ home stadium forced the match into the sparking and cavernous Estadio Nacional, but although this may hurt the locals, the LA Galaxy are excited to play at the sparkling venue.
Following training on Tuesday’s training session; I spoke to several players about the stadium conditions.
Their thoughts are below…
RAFAEL GARCIA: “It’s a big stadium with a beautiful field that is not too much different from ours. If it is wet the ball will move fast and it’s a great field that we can’t complain about.”
JACK MCBEAN: “It’s a cool stadium with a really nice field. It’s brand new and we’re excited for the game tomorrow. We’ll see if it benefits us. Last year, we went into El Salvador and played in a really rough stadium and got the result, so we’ll see.”
BRUCE ARENA: “The field is in good shape. We’re obviously looking forward to the game. The fans won’t be too close to the field, which is good.”
LANDON DONOVAN: “It should be exciting for our guys to play here. Generally you play in small stadiums with bad fields or turf, old stadiums that are weathered and worn. This will be an opportunity to play in a nice stadium, but we expect that they’ll still have a raucous crowd and it will look like an away game in CONCACAF. That has to be the mentality, and we need to do our best to get three points.”
MARCELO SARVAS: “It’s beautiful. It’s really nice and the grass is in good condition. It’s always hard to grow because it rains a lot, but it’s in great condition. It’ll be a beautiful place for a game tomorrow. I think the stadium will help them because it’s better for soccer and it’s good for a beautiful game and to try to do things right.”
Traveling in Central America isn't all stadium photos and soccer as I went to have dinner with LA Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas at his favorite chicharronera from his days playing in Costa Rica.
Check out the video below...
Prior to the team departing for Costa Rica, LAGalaxy.com caught up with Pablo Mastroeni, Brian Rowe and Michael Stephens for a video preview of Wednesday's match against C.S. Cartagines.
Check it out below...
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica—LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena is well versed in the drama of CONCACAF Champions League road matches and he expects nothing less than a battle during Wednesday’s match against C.S. Cartaginés.
Arena is likely to opt for a similar squad as the one that defeated Isidro Metapan a week earlier with a mix of first team players and reserves. Several of the players that won't participate include Omar Gonzalez, Jaime Penedo, Juninho, and captain Robbie Keane, all of which stayed behind in Southern Calfiornia. The Galaxy squad will undoubtedly be in for a brawl on Wednesday the Costa Ricans needing a victory to keep their slim hopes of winning Group 8 alive.
"They'll be very aggressive to start the game,” said Arena following the team’s training session at the Estadio Nacional on Tuesday. “The early moments of the game will be very important."
But with Cartaginés expected to heap on early pressure and the Galaxy needing just a point to advance to the quarterfinals, will Arena opt for a defensive mindset?
"We're going to go play,” he asserted. “We don't know what the game is going to look like. If they get a goal in the first 15 minutes then it won't be a defensive effort. We'll see what the game is going to look like."
Landon Donovan admits ankle condition improving, but he remains a question mark for C.S. Cartagines match
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Landon Donovan made the trip to Costa Rica, but whether or not he’ll play in the LA Galaxy’s CONCACAF Champions League match against C.S. Cartaginés still remains to be seen.
Donovan was present during the Galaxy’s training session at the Estadio Nacional in Costa Rica on Tuesday as LA wrapped up their preparation for their vital CCL fixture. The 31-year-old Donovan admits that the right ankle sprain that he suffered during LA’s 1-1 draw with D.C. United two weeks ago is still lingering and because of that, he understands that he’ll need to be cautious on Wednesday.
“I feel a lot better. Every day is getting better. It lingered more than I wanted, but it is part of it. We’ll keep doing everything to try and get it ready for the game,” said Donovan. “We’re going to do what’s right. If I can play then I want to play. I’m not going to do anymore damage then I want to play. If the determination is that I can still do more damage then we’ll be smart.”
Even if he does not participate, he’ll be able to offer plenty of insight into playing at Estadio Nacional as he took part in a World Cup qualifier with the U.S. National Team earlier this month against Costa Rica. Donovan and Galaxy teammate Omar Gonzalez—who did not make the trip—were unable to earn a victory as the U.S. fell 3-1, but he’s hopeful that LA will not suffer a similar fate.
Although the stadium’s design, which includes a massive track around the field that separates the crowd from the field, Donovan admits that the team must be wary of the environment.
“The atmosphere is different because when the fans are right on top of you, it creates more pressure so this will be a little bit different," said Donovan. "But we learned with the U.S. team that it doesn't guarantee you anything. We have to be prepared for a team that is at home and with their fans in the stadium that is going to come after us."
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- The LA Galaxy are currently in Costa Rica in preparation for Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League match against C.S. Cartagines and to prepare you for the match, I'll be providing constant video updates.
Check out the first installment below...