The first two tickets for the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals have been punched.
Two-time defending champion Monterrey became the first team to qualify by defeating Guatemalan side Xelaju 4-2 on aggregate. Fredy Santiago scored early for the SuperChivos, but Monterrey put the match out of reach with a goal from Walter Ayovi to preserve a 1-1 draw in the second leg. Although Monterrey went through to the semis, Xelaju's draw was the first result by a Guatemalan team in Mexico since C.D. Suchitepéquez earned a 1-1 draw against Tigres UNAL in the 1983 CONCACAF Champions Cup.
Los Rayados will face the winner of tomorrow's LA Galaxy and Herediano clash.
Meanwhile, Seattle Sounders FC made history as the first MLS side to knock off a Mexican club in two-legged series in CCL play with a 4-2 aggregate win over Tigres UNAL. The last victory for an American side came when the Kansas City Wizards defeated Santos Laguna in the 2002 Champions Cup.
Goals by DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traoré and Eddie Johnson nullified an Elias Hernandez strike to send the Sounders through the CCL semis for the first time in club history with a 3-1 victory at CenturyLink Field. The winner of the Houston Dynamo and Santos series will face Seattle. Houston is currently up 1-0 on aggregate.
Hoping for a Galaxy vs. Monterrey match up. Think Houston can set up an all-MLS semi-final with a win over Santos?
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CARSON, Calif. – On Wednesday, C.S. Herediano will face the LA Galaxy just days after traveling thousands of miles from Heredia, Costa Rica to Southern California. With the script flipped to The Home Depot Center, the Costa Ricans must conquer not just the Galaxy, but an entirely new setting.
One member of the opposition, Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas, understands exactly what Herediano will be facing in Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal second leg. In 2011, Sarvas’ L.D. Alajuelense side traveled up to Southern California during the 2011/2012 edition of the tournament and ultimately fell 2-0 to the Galaxy in the group stage match.
Having made the trip to the United States from Central America before, Sarvas knows from experience what will be going through the minds of the Herediano players once the opening whistle is blown.
“You just have to control your emotions and the way that you see the opponent,” said Sarvas. “I remember when I came here with Alajuela, first, you play against the Galaxy jersey and [their] big players then you come to play a game. [Herediano] already had the first game, they saw our team and in the beginning, they’re always impressed to play against bigger clubs but then it’s [just a] game.”
But what kind of game does Sarvas expect Herediano expect to give the Galaxy?
“They did a good job in the first leg and for sure, they believe that they can beat us here. They’ll come and make everything hard so I expect a tough game,” said Sarvas. “We just have to play how we’re doing…we have to press them and make things fast, so it’ll be a totally different game for sure.”
LAGalaxy.com has provided the following video preview of Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League Second Leg match between the LA Galaxy and C.S. Herediano.
Head coach Bruce Arena, captain Robbie Keane and midfielder Marcelo Sarvas provide their thoughts on the match below...
CARSON, Calif. – Jose Villarreal is back with the LA Galaxy from international duty and the Homegrown forward may slide right into LA’s starting XI starting with Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal second leg against C.S. Herediano.
Villarreal returned to Southern California last week from Mexico after scoring three goals while helping the U.S. reach the final of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship and qualify for this summer’s U-20 World Cup in Turkey. Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena opted not to bring Villarreal to Costa Rica last week, but he told reporters on Tuesday that “all options are available” ahead of Wednesday’s decisive tie.
Should Villarreal start, he’ll likely be placed alongside Robbie Keane up top while the Galaxy captain’s current forward partner Mike Magee slides into midfield. If Arena does opt to start the 19-year-old forward on Wednesday, Keane is confident that he can do the job.
“He’s a great young player. I told him last year at the end of the season before I left that ‘next year could be a big season for you, so make sure you keep yourself fit and keep yourself sharp when you come back for preseason’ and that is what he’s done,” said Keane. “He’s been with the national team and played very well with them. He’s a good player and he’s good to play with because he’s very clever and the two of us like to keep the ball on the ground and play to feet.
“Mike Magee can fit in there also, so [Villarreal has] got to come in and do as good a job,” added Keane. “Naturally, he’s kind of a front man, and like I said, he’s been playing regular games with the national team so he’s fit and sharp. He looks good in training and hopefully, we can play well together.”
Want to see Villareal partner with Keane? Or would you rather see Magee alongside the Irishman?
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CARSON, Calif. – Ahead of Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal second leg match against C.S. Herediano, LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena spoke to reporters about the decisive second leg.
Arena’s thoughts are below…
(On whether Wednesday’s second leg match was the most important game of the year for him…)
ARENA: “Not of the year, it’s one game at a time. All of the games are important. This is very important and obviously, we have a game on Sunday. We think that it is very important to advance to the semifinals of this competition.”
(On how badly he wants to take the Galaxy to the Club World Cup…)
ARENA: “We’d certainly like to do that, so obviously, this game tomorrow is very important.”
(On what he saw in Costa Rica and what concerned him about Herediano…)
ARENA: “They’re a good team. All the teams in this competition are good teams. There’s nothing really concerning. We know that we need to play well in order to advance.”
(On some coaches underestimating the CCL competition and his own thoughts on that tactic…)
ARENA: “Every coach has to make their own decision with the tournament at different stages. I know that you’re referencing Tigres, I don’t know their schedule or what is important to them so perhaps that’s their reason. But for the Galaxy, we think that this game tomorrow is very important.”
(On whether he would give up games in MLS to win the CCL…)
ARENA: “We’re focused on tomorrow’s game. We don’t win tomorrow’s game then we don’t go anywhere. We take it one game at a time and make decisions as we move on.”
(On maintaining focus amid likely dramatics from Herediano…)
ARENA: “It’s the same in every game, no different. They understand that. That is what experience is.”
(On whether any focus will be shifted to Sunday’s match with Chivas USA over the CCL match…)
ARENA: “We’re not worried about Sunday’s game. We’re worried with this game first and then Sunday afterwards.”
(On the team’s health heading into Wednesday…)
ARENA: “We’re okay. You’re never 100 percent, but we’re in pretty good shape.”
(On what he expects Herediano to do…)
ARENA: “Likely start with a defensive posture. We have to have good focus and concentration early in the game and we can’t give up a goal.”
(On whether he feels that the Galaxy need to score early…)
ARENA: “It would help. It would help.”
CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy have reiterated throughout the week that they’re focused solely on their own game plan ahead of Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League second leg tie against C.S. Herediano, but that does not mean that the team is not mindful of some of the Costa Rican’s weapons.
Two players in particular are Argentine midfielder Ismael Gomez and Costa Rican attacker Elias Aguilar, who both enjoyed a measure of success in the first leg down in Costa Rica.
Gomez will be known for firing his penalty kick into the cross bar in the 87th minute, but he was particularly down the right flank after coming into the match at the start of the second half. His finest chance came in the 71st as he fired a pinpoint free kick just wide of Carlo Cudicini’s net.
Meanwhile, playing from an attacking midfield position, Aguilar was able to create a pair of dangerous chances that both sailed wide of the Galaxy net, Aguilar exited with an apparent injury in the 78th minute, but traveled with the club to Southern California.
With both players expected to play key roles on Wednesday, the Galaxy understand that they must be wary.
"He was dangerous," said Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant of Aguilar. "He was smooth on the ball and knew that surface well and it played to his strengths. So those are guys that we're going to have to keep an eye on. They're danger men and they got some speed, then... [Gomez] changed it a bit for them. In the end, we still got the zero, which was the biggest thing for us. Two games and two shutouts is a good sign for us and our defense."
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.