Beat

11 March 5:43 pm

CARSON, Calif. –LA Galaxy Homegrown forward Jose Villarreal helped the U.S. U-20’s qualify for the 2013 U-20 World Cup, but as he turns his focus to earning a spot in the first team, he addressed his experiences in Mexico.

Villarreal spoke about his experience with the U.S. U-20’s at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship and his goals to earn a spot on the first team in my piece for LAGalaxy.com.

However, as interesting were Villarreal’s thoughts on the Latino influence in head coach Tab Ramos’ squad. Nine players on the 20-man roster were Latino and seven of those players were in the starting XI during U-20’s 3-1 extra time loss to Mexico in the final.

When asked about the style of U-20’s play, the Galaxy Homegrown forward admitted that it brought back pleasant memories of playing in the Sunday league soccer in his hometown of Inglewood.

“Obviously, we have a lot of Hispanics in the team and the U.S. has a tradition of [having] a lot of white players so being able to have many Hispanic players playing on the field, it was something else,” said Villarreal. “Especially after growing up and playing in Sunday leagues with a bunch of Hispanics, it was like having that feeling again. We’re all very good players on the ball and technically, we’re very skilled so it was a lot of fun.”

The U.S. weren’t the only nation to take advantage of American-born Latinos like Villarreal as Mexican goalkeeper Richard Sanchez (from Mission Hills, Calif.) and Uvaldo Luna (Houston, TX) both featured for El Tri. As countries from across CONCACAF continue their recruiting process in the U.S., Villarreal expects this trend to continue, but he’s quick to admit that he is more than happy with the U.S.

“It’s just the way it is. Whoever takes the opportunity or get called up. If Mexico decided to call up some kid from around here then they’ll take the opportunity unless they’re a die hard U.S. fan,” said Villarreal. “If you get the chance, and you have the double nationality then you have to take it. But I’m happy where I am with the U.S. and I’m happy to represent my country.”

11 March 5:11 pm

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy returned to training on Monday ahead of Wednesday’s decisive CONCACAF Champions League second leg match against C.S. Herediano at The Home Depot Center.

LA and the Forenses will have all to play for in the second leg after the two teams battled to a scoreless draw last Thursday. Attacks were few and far between, but a Mike Magee goal was negated on an extremely-questionable offside call in the 67th while Herediano’s Ismael Gomez failed to convert a penalty kick in the 87th minute.

“We’re in position to advance if we win the game,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “I would say that most of the time, you need to come home in these competitions and need to win the game.”

Heading back to The HDC will be a major benefit for the Galaxy, particularly, after the harsh conditions at Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero. Throughout the first leg, the Galaxy saw their attacks stopped, not by Herediano defenders, but an unforgiving turf surface.

With two days left until their second leg, defender Todd Dunivant admits that LA is still recovering from their experience last week.

“You expect turf fields to, at least, play true, but it was really bumpy and really uneven. That’s just not what you expect out of a turf field. That is the one thing that you should be able to get [from a turf field] is a true surface and that wasn’t the case,” said Dunivant. “It was very hard and even now, a lot of guys are complaining about their knees and joints…so it’s a good thing that we didn’t have a game this weekend. It was smart by the league to give us that break and they canceled their game against Saprissa, so we’re going to be on even terms.”

Thousands of miles away from the rough conditions at El Rosabal, Arena expects to see “more of what [Herediano] is made of” in the second leg, but does he expect them to drop back in hopes for a draw and a goal off a counter attack?

“Yeah, I would think that’s a logical assumption to make. Herediano is a good team, they’re experienced and just like with our team, we feel like we’re in position to advance, I think so do they,” said Arena. “Obviously, any kind of draw where there is a goal scored is in their favor and they would advance. 0-0 sends it into extra time, 1-1, 2-2 and etc. favors Herediano, so we need to be solid on both sides of the ball.”

11 March 3:33 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy announced the signing of 2013 MLS SuperDraft selection defender Kofi Opare on Monday

The second round choice (24th overall) from the University of Michigan has been training with the club throughout the preseason and appeared in four of the Galaxy's seven preseason games.  Opare will be eligible to make his club debut this Wednesday when LA face C.S. Herediano in their CONCACAF Quarterfinal second leg at The Home Depot Center. I examined Opare's interesting past in a feature during the preseason

LA signed their other SuperDraft selections Charlie Rugg and  Greg Cochrane on March 1.

11 March 12:25 pm

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy are gearing up for their CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal second leg against C.S. Herediano on Wednesday, but head coach Bruce Arena provided a small update on when Landon Donovan will return to the fold.

The Galaxy announced on Feb. 17 that Donovan will rejoin the club at the end of the March, but on Monday following LA’s training session, Arena offered some clarification.  

“We said late March. If he was coming back in mid-March, we’d have said mid-March,” said Arena. “I would say the last week of March would be our definition of late-March. “

When asked if that means if Donovan could return any day between March 24 and March 31, which is the final week of March, Arena agreed, but did not offer an exact date.

“It’ll be the last week in March,” said Arena. “He’s coming back one of those days.”

LA take on Toronto FC on March 30 at BMO Field, but regardless of his return date, Donovan is not expected to appear in that match.

11 March 12:05 pm

C.S. Herediano arrived in Southern California on Sunday ahead of Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal second leg at The Home Depot Center against the LA Galaxy.

Both sides battled to a scoreless draw in the CCL Quarterfinal First Leg at Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero last week. 

The complete squad is below...

GOALKEEPERS: Daniel Cambronero, Leonel Moreira

DEFENDERS: Pablo Salazar, Cristian Montero, Marvin Obando, Waylon Francis

MIDFIELDERS: Esteban Ramirez, Oscar Granados, Elias Aguilar, Ismael Gomez, Carlos Hernandez, Jose Garro, Kendrick Pinnock

FORWARDS: Yendrick Ruiz, Minor Diaz, Victor Nunez, Jorge Barbosa, Olman Vargas

*Bold and italics denote a first leg starter. Italics denotes substitute appearance

A few notes:

*First leg starter left sided midfielder Jose Sanchez did not make the trip to Southern California. Sanchez went 45 minutes and was replaced by Ismael Gomez at the start of the second half.

*Olman Vargas spent the 2012 season with the Columbus Crew. Vargas appeared in 11 matches, making seven while scoring one goal.

*Herediano earned a scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake during their last trip to the U.S.

11 March 8:38 am

During the LA Galaxy's trip to Costa Rica, I caught up with LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane to discuss becoming captain, his leadership style and whether he takes pride in wearing the armband.

Check out the interview below. 

10 March 7:48 pm

The LA Galaxy returned from Costa Rica earlier this week with a scoreless draw against C.S. Herediano ahead of Wednesday's decisive CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal second leg.

 Below are a selection of videos, photos and stories from LA's trip to Central America. 

Arriving at the Airport...

First Morning...

Herbalife Clinic

Training session...

Touring the Monster's Cave..

Pre-game Festivities...

The Penalty...

Post-game Thoughts...

Highlights...

Marcelo Sarvas' return to Costa Rica...

Pura Vida for Sarvas: Costa Rican return an emotional for Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas

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Earlier on Sunday, Herediano departed San Jose, Costa Rica for Southern California. 

08 March 5:28 pm

HEREDIA, COSTA RICA – The atmosphere at Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero was everything that the LA Galaxy expected and unfortunately, for LA, at times it was much more.

The Galaxy endured jeers, chants, whistles, and according to Mike Magee the occasional spitball from the fans during their scoreless draw against Herediano in their CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal First Leg.

 “I got spit on about 30 times tonight, so I’m not too happy with that. But besides that, their fans were very pro-them, but anytime you’re getting spit on, you’re not going to leave happy,” said Magee. “I don’t want to sound like I’m whining, but spitting's disgusting. I’d rather somebody punch me than spit on me.”

But was the reaction better than flying bags of urine, which have long been a staple of CONCACAF matches? Not so says Magee.

“At least you can see a bag coming; you can dodge it. Spit is disgusting and [with the] misty air, so it’s combination of each,” said Magee. “I’m not leaving here like this is a place I want to come back to.”

Magee had every reason to be frustrated after the result as he saw two opportunities to put the Galaxy ahead denied by the woodwork and the officiating crew. In the 52nd minute, the Galaxy attacker had a chance rattle the crossbar and then 15 minutes later, his next opportunity found the back of the net, but was ruled offside. Television replays showed that Magee was onside when the ball was played to him.

The hostile conditions of El Rosabal now thousands of miles away, LA captain Robbie Keane believes that not only were LA the better team on Thursday, but they are now in striking position to advance once they return to the friendly confines of The Home Depot Center.

“I thought we were the better team, to be honest with you. Considering we're playing in their stadium and on their pitch, that we're obvious not used to. I thought we were kind of in control of most of the game,” said Keane. “It’s in our own hands now, playing in our own stadium, in front of our fans, on a pitch we obvious feel more comfortable than this, so we look forward to it.”

08 March 2:58 pm

HEREDIA, COSTA RICA – A questionable penalty kick call nearly caused Sean Franklin and the LA Galaxy to come undone in the closing minutes of Thursday’s scoreless draw against C.S. Herediano in the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal first leg. But thanks to a crossbar, LA head into the second leg on level terms.

Chances for both teams were few and far between, but in the 86th minute, referee Courtney Campbell nearly changed the game and the series as he awarded a penalty to Herediano after he ruled that Franklin brought down Ismael Garcia in the box. Replays show that Garcia tumbled quite easily after a receiving a tug from Franklin.

A minute later, Garcia failed in his attempt to put Los Forenses ahead as his penalty kick rattled the crossbar and was soon cleared away. Although the call was questionable, Franklin admits that he must do better in that type of situation.

“I know I’ve kind of got to be a little bit smarter. It’s late in the game, the ref is maybe looking to make a call and I maybe pulled him a little bit but he kind of dove a lot,’ said Franklin. “It is what it is, but I’ve just got to be a little bit smarter in that situation.”

But once the penalty rattled the horizontal, Franklin was able to take a deep breath and focus on the task at hand—maintaining the shutout.

“I was happy, I was relieved. I was just glad that they didn’t score and we weren’t going back home with a 1-0 loss,” said Franklin. “It bothered me once the penalty was called but once he missed, I let that go and I was just focused on making sure I was sharp the last five minutes of the game.”

After enduring an intense atmosphere for the entire Costa Rica trip, Franklin admits that he is relishing the return leg at The Home Depot Center.

“It was pretty crazy,” said Franklin. “Their fans are passionate about the game. They showed up at the airport, they were here at our training session. It’s all part of the game. But I’m looking forward to getting back home and getting in front of our fans next Wednesday.”

08 March 11:58 am

HEREDIA, COSTA RICA – Carlo Cudicini has seen it all in Europe— Champions League ties, FA Cup matches, and everything in between, but on Thursday night, he got a taste of something entirely different—the CONCACAF Champions League.

Cudicini made his CCL debut in Thursday’s scoreless draw against C.S. Herediano in the first leg of the  Champions League Quarterfinal. The match was just Cudicini’s second full appearance with the club and saw the Italian pitted against a raucous crowd at the Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero that did all they could to break the veteran. Although road crowds generally the focal point when it comes to CCL, Cudicini maintained his composure. 

“Crowd wasn’t too bad. It was okay. In my opinion, with the turf and the wind, it’s already difficult to play on turf, but with the wind, it was even worse,” said Cudicini. “That was probably the worst and the fact that we came away with a good result is a positive. Now we have the second leg at home, and we need to win. It’s as simple as that.”

The crowd may not have played a major factor for Cudicini, but the FieldTurf and swirling winds caused a few nervy moments for the Italian. Whether it was a shot that knuckled after contact with the turf or lofty cross that changed direction in the wind, Cudicini admits that the conditions were far from ideal.

“It wasn’t the best conditions to play in and the turf doesn’t help to put on a nice show out there,” said Cudicini. “At the end, the team did very well and we didn’t concede much so this was good.”

But the turf and the wind could not stop Cudicini from making an impact in the game’s most decisive moment. In the 86th minute, Sean Franklin was whistled for a highly-questionable foul after minimal contact with Herediano’s Ismael Gomez in the box that set up a penalty kick for the home side.

As Gomez stepped up to take the kick that seemed destined to give Herediano the victory, Cudicini delivered a little stutter step that seemed to distract the attacker.

“I saw that he was a bit nervous so I tried to mess up his concentration,” said Cudicini. “In the end, he just hit the bar.”

With the first leg firmly behind the two clubs, Cudicini believes that the change in venue will only help LA in their quest to reach the semifinals.

“We will be able to play more football [at The HDC], which was difficult [in Costa Rica] because of the wind at the turf,” said Cudicini. “Hopefully, we can play more our game and it will be the difference.”