07 March 1:45 pm

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA -- Few stadiums throughout CONCACAF have the reputation of Estadio Saprissa. Known throughout the region as La Cueva del Monstruo or The Monster's Cave, the 24,000 seat stadium, which serves as the home for Deportivo Saprissa and the Costa Rican National Team, is one of the most intimidating venues in CONCACAF. 

As the LA Galaxy prepare for Thursday evening's CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal first leg against C.S. Herediano, a pair of Southern California-based reporters were given a look inside "The Monster's Cave." Fans of U.S., Honduras, and Mexico will become quite familiar with the stadium as Los Ticos are expected to host their most important "Hexagonal" World Cup Qualifying matches in "La Cueva" rather than the ultra-modern Estadio Nacional. 

One interesting point that relates to the Galaxy's CCL campaign, our tour guide -- local reporter -- Leo Sandi stressed that continential competition is of huge importance in Costa Rica, particularly after Saprissa was able to win the 2005 CONCACAF Champions' Cup. Following that victory, the tournament became of greater importance for Saprissa as well as their arch rivals L.D. Alajuelense and Herediano, who are seeking to equal the achievement of their arch rivals. Could we see that kind of desire in MLS if a team is able to win the CCL?

Below are a few photos of the stadium. 

Welcome to the Monster's Cave

The very first stone laid at Saprissa. 

The Main Stand from the Supporters' Section

Walking up the Supporters' Section

Saprissa's first ever team

Saprissa's 2005 CONCACAF Champions Cup winning-side

Behind the North Stand

Inside the Monster's Cave

Check out the video below for a full panoramic view of the stadium and the surrounding area from the highest point in the venue. If you look closely, you can see the Estadio Nacional as well as stadiums for Alajuelense and Herediano.  Also, the field is currently being cleaned after a Mana concert the night before that drew 45,000 people. 

07 March 7:46 am

HEREDIA, COSTA RICA, -- It's the morning of the LA Galaxy's CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals first leg against C.S. Herediano. 

Ahead of the game, check out my Three Points to the game below...

Three Points: Galaxy seeking a result in Costa Rica


Agree or disagree?

Share your thoughts below. 

06 March 9:31 pm

A total of 19 players traveled with the LA Galaxy to Costa Rica for Thursday's CONCACAF Champions League first leg against C.S. Herediano.

During the portion of Wednesday's at Estadio Elano Rosabal Cordero open to the media, the following group was spotted. 

GK: Carlo Cudicini,  Brian Perk

DEF: Todd Dunivant, Omar Gonzalez, Sean Franklin, A.J. DeLaGarza, Leonardo, Oscar Sorto

MID: Marcelo Sarvas, Hector Jimenez, Juninho, Rafael Garcia, Michael Stephens, Greg Cochrane

FWD: Robbie Keane, Mike Magee, Charlie Rugg, Chandler Hoffman, Jack McBean

A full recap of training with thoughts from Keane, Magee,  Dunivant, and Juninho can be found here

A few notes on the roster and the team's training are below...

*18 players will dress for the match.

*All but five players (Carlo Cudicini, Oscar Sorto, Greg Cochrane, Charlie Rugg, and Chandler Hoffman) have CONCACAF Champions League experience.

*Six players on the roster have scored away goals in the CCL (Robbie Keane, Mike Magee, Sean Franklin, Michael Stephens, Jack McBean, and Sean Franklin).

*Jack McBean leads the Galaxy in goals scored for the 2012-2013 tournament with three goals, but Juninho is the all-time leading scorer in the competition with five. 

*Seven players (Todd Dunivant, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Juninho, Marcelo Sarvas, Robbie Keane, and Mike Magee) were on the field for LA's last trip to Costa Rica (a 1-0 loss to Alajuelense). Six players were with the Galaxy, while Sarvas was still with Liga. 

El Rosabal is a turf field. According to several team members, it is uneven with a few dead spots that seem to kill the momentum of a pass. It compares unfavorably to turf fields in Seattle and Portland. 

*Following practice, Sarvas offered the following thoughts on his negative reception at the airport on Tuesday: "I'm glad that my mom is in Brazil and she can not hear what they say."

06 March 5:22 pm

HEREDIA, COSTA RICA – Prior to the LA Galaxy’s training session in Heredia, LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena caught up with traveling reporters  to discuss the match.

Arena’s complete conversation with reporters is below..

(On his thoughts on Herediano…)

ARENA: When you see teams from other countries, it’s hard to actually compare them. It’s not like comparing apples to apples, like where we have a better understanding in MLS in making a comparison. It’s a unique to what we are accustom to, in MLS, but certainly, that latin flavor. They have a bunch of good players on the ball, quick, but we’ll see what they look like next to us and vice versa."

(On Marcelo Sarvas’ comment that the game will come down to how the Galaxy manage facing a Costa Rican style of play…)

ARENA: “I think that you can have the same argument in Mexico.  Small countries have a style. It’s a little different. Is Costa Rica as big as California? Probably not. When you say that, look at Holland and England, ountries that are small and have one climate and one time zone, it’s a lot easier to have a style of play. That’s certainly what Costa Rica has. I’d say that it’s similar to Mexican soccer. They have a way of playing and it’s their style which is very unique to our country where we have all other kinds of issues that prevent that from happening.”

(On Herediano’s current level of play after their coaching change…)

ARENA: “Results indicate that they’re an improved team because of that.”

(On whether he relishes managing in tough environments…)

ARENA: “I don’t know if relish is the right word, but this is something that we think is part of the job and this is something that we think is important for our club. We’re developing as a club and we think that we should be able to compete successfully in international competitions. That’s what this is and it’s a challenge for our entire organization. How we get here, how we play, all that stuff is important. It’s an organizational challenge not only players and coaches. Then we return next week [to The Home Depot Center] and try to create an atmosphere for our team to be successful .”

(On whether getting knocked out at the quarterfinal stage in the 2011-2012 edition of the tournament motivates the club…)

ARENA: “I don’t think last year matters at this point because actually after that we entered into a new competition, which allowed us to be here. So that’s all forgotten. We did a good job as a team to get through the new competition and be here today and certainly we realize that it is challenging and important.”

(On any specific challenges with Herediano…)

ARENA: “It’s going to be a very competitive match. It’s going to be a fairly challenging environment with the fans, the surface and the officiating. We have to be ready mentally ready for that. If we can put all those distractions to the side and be able to focus and play for 90 minutes, we have a chance to win the game. Experience allows you to do that and we have enough players that have participated in these competitions where we think that we can be successful.”

(On whether he will use the first choice team or the second team…)

ARENA: “Again, circumstances are different. Right now we don’t have a game this weekend. We can play whomever we want and we don’t have to be concerned about that. For this game, we’re certainly going to put a team on the field that can win these games. No question about it, with what we think is our first team.”

06 March 2:46 pm

HEREDIA, COSTA RICA -- Robbie Keane has dealt with his fair share of hostile environments throughout his career and on Thursday, he’ll lead the LA Galaxy into another as they head to the volatile Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero to take on Herediano in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals first leg.

A rowdy crowd is expected when the two teams take the field, but LA already got a taste of the reception they’ll receive at kick off upon landing in San Jose on Tuesday evening. Keane has scored in hostile environments in CCL play in the past as he tallied in LA’s controversial defeat to Monarcas Morelia in Mexico during the group stages of the 2011-2012 tournament. 

Ahead of the quarterfinal first leg, the Galaxy captain admits that his club must rise to the occasion.

“It’s good, it’s something that you should relish and it’s always good to get a little bit of stick from the fans because it keeps you concentrated,” Keane told reporters at the team hotel on Thursday. “It’s a good opportunity for us. It’s going to be a tough game and we know that with everything that surrounds it. [The series] is 180 minutes and we have to be clever in our approach and think about the bigger picture rather than tomorrow’s game.”

But will the hostile crowd get under Keane’s skin? Quite the opposite it seems.

“Obviously, the stadium is fairly small and you’ll be able to hear everything that the fans are saying. Luckily, I don’t understand Spanish so it is quite easy for me,” Keane said. “It’s good to play in these games. I really enjoy it and when the fans get a bit angry, you can wind them up a little bit. For me, I enjoy it.”

06 March 1:26 pm

The Galaxy may be focusing on the CONCACAF Champions League, but on Wednesday, MLS released the complete schedule for the MLS Reserve League. 

LA will play ten matches in Reserve League play starting with a match against USL Pro side L.A. Blues on April 7 at Titan Stadium in Fullerton as part of the league's partnership with the third tier league, the Galaxy will face the Blues again on May 7 at The Home Depot Center. Other matches of note include a pair of matches against Chivas USA on July 22 and Oct. 7 and a match against the San Jose Earthquakes on Sept. 8. 

The complete schedule for Reserve League is here

06 March 11:48 am

HEREDIA, COSTA RICA – Marcelo Sarvas’ return to Costa Rica has been headline news locally this week and amid all the attention, the Brazilian midfielder and several of his teammates had an opportunity to give back to the community.

Sarvas and his Galaxy teammates Omar Gonzalez, Sean Franklin and Juninho participated in a clinic with sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, Herbalife and the Club Sport La Libertad Foundation. During the event, children from local youth soccer team Club Sport La Libertad were able to sign autographs, pose for pictures with the 2012 MLS Cup trophy as well as run through soccer drills with the players.

It was Sarvas who served as the catalyst for the event as he spoke to Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena about the potential for an event during LA’s CONCACAF Champions League trip to face C.S. Herediano. Arena quickly agreed and the event was coordinated.

“It’s something beautiful, when you live in a country like [Costa Rica] you know how important that some words for the students are,” said Sarvas.  “I think that it’s very beautiful for Galaxy and Herbalife to do this and help these people. I’m sure that they had a beautiful day and they will keep this in their memory for a while.”

Photos and video of the event are below…

05 March 11:55 pm

HEREDIA, COSTA RICA -- The LA Galaxy touched down in Costa Rica on Tuesday evening ahead of their CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal first leg against C.S. Herediano.

The Galaxy were met at the airport by a group of Herediano supporters who chanted at the team as they entered their club bus. The group even had their own chant for LA midfielder Marcelo Sarvas, who scored a goal against Herediano in the 2011 Invierno final. LA hit the training ground tomorrow afternoon. 

Below are photos and video from the airport...

05 March 3:30 pm

To get a better feel for C.S. Herediano and the conditions that the LA Galaxy will face in Costa Rica, I spoke to Juan Carlos Aguero, a columnist for Fox Deportes in Costa Rica

Check out my chat with the Costa Rican reporter below…

LA GALAXY INSIDER “Herediano recently underwent a coaching change. How has the team changed? What info can you provide on the new coach?”

AGUERO: “Since the coaching change, Heredia has become more offensive, they changed the game strategy to 4-4-2 and cut off the double 5. The trainer, Marvin Solano likes to have the possession of the ball in every minute of the game.”

LAGI: “Which Herediano players should Galaxy fans be aware of?

AGUERO: “Yendrick Ruiz is the main scorer of the team, and on the Costa Rica league, he has scored six times [this season], he is a very talented player and really fast, he likes to play on the outside. Meanwhile, Ismael Gomez and Elias Aguilar create the game in the midfield, Gomez is a lefty and his specialty is set pieces, he is actually the most important weapon with Heredia [on set pieces]. Aguilar in the other side is very good with shots from outside the area and he has a great vision of game— both are very good with physical game.”

LAGI: “What is the perception of the Galaxy in Costa Rica?”

AGUERO: “The Galaxy is the team who has many followers in Costa Rica, the quality of the players is something to admire, also the Galaxy is the MLS Cup Champion at the moment and they have a lot of respect for them.”

LAGI: “How important is the Champions League to this team and teams in the Costa Rican league?”

AGUERO: “The tournament is very important to the team in terms of international prestige, Costa Rican teams look forward to play this tournament and want win it—even though it’s really hard due to the level of opponents.”

LAGI: “How important was it for Herediano to defeat Real Salt Lake in the group stage?”

AGUERO: “It was very important because they are aware they can compete with the MLS teams knowing they have more facilities and the game level is higher.”

LAGI: “Will there be a lot of focus paid on LA midfielder Marcelo Sarvas, who scored a game winner against Herediano in a cup final?”

AGUERO: “Yes, Sarvas scored in the [Invierno] final, and many [Herediano fans] claim that goal was offside, so he is not very accepted among Heredia fans.”

LAGI: “Can you talk about the Eladio Rosabal Cordero Stadium? What are the conditions like and what is the fan support like? Should a sell-out be expected?”

AGUERO: “Eladio Rosabal Cordero Stadium is actually very small, but there are some areas on the stadium that doesn’t have fences, so the Heredia fans can be feel really close and they are very intense and passionate for their team.”

05 March 12:58 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- No LA Galaxy player is more familiar with CONCACAF Champions League opponent C.S. Herediano than Marcelo Sarvas. 

The Galaxy's Brazilian midfielder was one of the centerpieces of  L.D. Alajuelense sides that won the 2010-2011 Verano and 2011-2012 Invierno titles in the Costa Rican Primera division. Along the way, Liga tussled repeatedly with Herediano, but the most decisive clash came as both teams battled for the Invierno title. In the decisive second leg, Sarvas scored  (watch the video below at the :10 mark) as Liga advanced past Herediano in a penalty kick shootout  -- Sarvas scored there as well -- to win their second title in three seasons.

Ahead of a vital first leg, Sarvas expects Herediano to to attack from the opening whistle. 

"I'm pretty sure that they will press us from the first minute," said Sarvas. "They will come very aggressive against us because it's the way that they make things happen there in Costa Rica. It's nothing with organization with possession. You go aggressive, you play hard and play tough. It's the way that they make things happen."

LA will not only face an aggressive opponent, but they'll also deal with the close quarters at the Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero, which seats 15,000 people and boasts a FieldTurf surface that Sarvas says is "between Portland and Seattle" in terms of quality.

But what reaction does Sarvas expect when he walks onto the field on Thursday?

"It'll be very hostile," said Sarvas. "[The goal came in a] final game so it is something memorable so I don't expect anything nice for me."