Beat

11 March 9:38 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 8:48 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

--

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

08 March 6:28 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 3:58 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 12:58 pm

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.”

08 March 5:30 am

The LA Galaxy returned to rainy Southern California and plenty of content on Thursday night's game will coming this morning, but to tide you over, the full game highlights are below...

07 March 2:46 pm

HEREDIA, COSTA RICA -- We're only hours away from the LA Galaxy's CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal first leg match up against C.S. Herediano. 

Below are a few last minute pieces of reading material, a few match-ups to watch and predicted lineups... 

*Robbie Keane relishes the chance to play in hostile enviornments and he'll get to face another on Thursday.

*There has been no bigger story this week in Costa Rica than Marcelo Sarvas' return,  so Joe Tutino caught up with Sarvas in this edition of All-Access.

*Galaxy boss Bruce Arena spoke to the media on Wednesday and offered his thoughts on the game.

*LA wrapped their preparations on Wednesday evening and I filed this notebook, but additional notes can be found here

*For more on Herediano, I spoke to Fox Deportes reporter Juan Carlos Aguero to get an inside look at the Costa Rican team

*LAGalaxy.com reporter Larry Morgan offers his game preview.

Lastly, my Three Points to the game.

MATCH-UPS TO WATCH

OMAR GONZALEZ VS. YENDRICK RUIZ

Ruiz is the leading goal scorer in Costa Rica with six goals at the moment, but he's not known for his physicality, so he'll face a serious test in Gonzalez when the first whistle blows. However, Ruiz's speed off the ball will provide a challenge for LA's back four as Herediano will look to stretch the field early and often. Ruiz is not the only forward to watch, however, as his likely strike partner Mainov Diaz has scored three goals in his last three games.

MARCELO SARVAS vs. ELIAS AGUILAR

No player has received more attention from the locals than Marcelo Sarvas, but he'll face a major test on Thursday as he matches up against Herediano playmaker Elias Aguilar. The Argentine prefers to play just behind the strikers where he can best use his passing ability to create chances for Ruiz and Diaz, but if LA is to come out of Costa Rica with a result, Sarvas and his midfield partner Juninho must pressure Aguilar and cut down on his passing lanes. 

HEREDIANO SET PIECES vs. GALAXY SET PIECES

For all the bluster about the speed of play in Thursday's match, the game may very well come down to set pieces. Aguilar and left midfielder Ismael Gomez each have a knack for scoring during dead ball opportunties and are expected to test goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini often. However, LA's own free kick taker Juninho should be more than a worthy adversary for Herediano 'keeper Daniel Cambrorero. 

PREDICTED LINEUPS

HEREDIANO: Cambronero; Obando, Salazar, Montero, Francis; Ramirez, Granados, Aguilar, Gomez; Ruiz, Diaz

GALAXY: Cudicini; DeLaGarza, Gonzalez, Leonardo, Dunivant; Franklin, Sarvas, Juninho, Stephens; Keane, Magee

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."