CARSON, Calif. – Michael Stephens is ready to rebound after what he admits was not his best performance in the LA Galaxy’s 2-1 loss to Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal first leg on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old midfielder feels that he could have done better during his 29 minute shift, particularly with his marking of Cesar Delgado after the Monterrey midfielder fired the cross that led to Humberto Suazo’s goal which put Monterrey level with LA after 81 minutes.
“I was tracking [Delgado] out of midfield and the guy got me. That’s going to happen. He got me with a couple of cuts, but I definitely have to do better and shut down the cross,” Stephens said.
He may get a chance at immediate redemption as LA has yet to confirm whether Juninho will be able to play in Wednesday’s second leg. If called upon next week, either as a starter or off the bench, Stephens insists that he can perform.
“I’m ready to go. It was my first time playing in the middle in a while [on Wednesday]. I could have done a better job holding my position, but I’m ready to go,” said Stephens. “I’m not discouraged by it by any means and if my number is called then I’ll be ready to play.”
The job will be a difficult one for the Galaxy as a 1-0 LA win, any loss and any draw will see them out of the tournament. However, the plucky midfielder believes it is not an insurmountable task.
“We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole, it was unfortunate to give up those two goals, but it’s not finished yet,” said Stephens. “As long as we get two goals, that’s not something that’s out of reach by any means. If we get two goals down there [in Monterrey] then we’re in a decent position so it’s definitely not over.”
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LA Galaxy goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini spoke to MLSsoccer.com's ExtraTime Radio on LA's 2-1 defeat to Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal first leg, his transition to MLS from Europe and a number of other topics.
Cudicini also spoke to reporters following Wednesday night's CCL loss.
That video is below...
CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy were back in the office on Thursday after a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Monterrey in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal.
Most of the players that took part in Wednesday's defeat participated in a regeneration session while others were back on the training field to prepare for the decisive second leg in Mexico.
The odds will be stacked against the Galaxy when they travel down to Estadio Tecnológico in Monterrey as a 1-0 LA win, any loss and any draw will send Los Rayados to the final for the third consecutive year. Although the trip to Mexico will be a challenge, LA head coach Bruce Arena took note of the upbeat nature of his veteran team on Thursday.
"We're upbeat," said Arena. "We know that we obviously made some mistakes and we have to give our opponent a lot of credit, but it was a game in it's entirety, it didn't end the way that we like, but I think there were large segments of the game that we played quite well and that's a positive. We're going to lick our wounds a little bit and get ready for the return leg."
Arena did not have an update on the status of Brazilian midfielder Juninho, who was forced to exit on Wednesday in the 61st minute with an apparent injury. But even if he is unable to suit up next Wednesday, the Galaxy are confident that they can cope if he is unable to go in Monterrey.
"We have guys more than capable of stepping up," said forward Mike Magee. "It wasn't just one guy leaving [that led to Wednesday's loss], as a whole, we took our foot off the gas, which isn't something that we tend to do."
CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy lost Juninho to an apparent injury in the 61st minute of Wednesday night's 2-1 CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal first leg to C.F. Monterrey. But was his absence the reason for the club's late collapse head into the decisive second leg?
Omar Gonzalez certainly felt that his impact made a difference
“I think everything kind of went out of control when Juninho came out of the game,” Gonzalez said the defeat. “They started pushing a lot of guys forward and we didn’t deal with the situation. We were sitting back a little too much and not putting pressure on them like we were in the first 75 minutes.”
While Juninho's midfield teammate Marcelo Sarvas' disagreed.
"It's not about Juni, it's about the chances that we had and we didn't score," said Sarvas. "We could have easily up in the last 75 minutes, but 3-0 and killed the game. It's not about Juninho."
Greg Lalas from MLSsoccer.com offers his take on Juninho's absence. In my Three Points to the game, I offer my thoughts on the match.
Agree or disagree? Can LA win in Monterrey without Juninho, if he is unable to go?
Share your thoughts below.
CARSON, Calif. -- Below are my Three Points from the LA Galaxy's 2-1 defeat to Monterrey.
Agree or disagree?
Share your thoughts below.
CARSON, Calif. –Omar Gonzalez’s thoughts following the LA Galaxy’s 2-1 defeat to Monterrey.
(On when the game changed…)
GONZALEZ: “I think that everything went out of control when Juninho went out of the game. they were pushing a lot of guys forward and we didn’t deal with the situation enough and we were sitting back too much and not putting pressure on them like were in the last 75 minutes.
(On how the club comes back…)
GONZALEZ: “Exactly, we plan to go to Monterrey and hopefully put in the good 75 minutes that we put in tonight and make it 90 plus minutes when we go there and hopefully getting two plus goals.”
(On the high tempo that the game was played at…)
GONZALEZ: “I think that was just being confident, being confident in ourselves and knowing that we have a good team out there and playing the way we want to. We just need to make it into 90 plus minutes and I think we’ll have a better result. If we finish those other two chances, maybe it’s a different game.”
(On the referee’s calling fouls against him in the box…)
GONZALEZ: “I don’t know what was going on there, the referee was quick to call me on stuff that I didn’t know what I was doing. I think I was being a little too aggressive, but there wasn’t much there to call.”
(On DeLaGarza’s goal…)
GONZALEZ: “It was a great goal for A.J. and it was great to see him score, it doesn’t happen very often so every time it does, I’m just really excited for him.”
CARSON, Calif. -- Courtesy of Monterrey's website...highlights of the first and second half of the LA Galaxy's defeat to Monterrey.
CARSON, Calif. – Below are Bruce Arena’s post game comments from the LA Galaxy’s 2-1 defeat to Monterrey.
(On how the game ended…)
ARENA: “Obviously, not good. We actually played a very good game tonight. I think a little bit more experience and a little bit more quality; we win this game by a couple of goals. We end up losing. Credit to Monterrey for their quality and for playing a complete 90 minutes. The goalkeeper makes a big save in an important point of the game, but we were well positioned to get a second goal, maybe a third goal and did a poor job in conceding the first goal. And you know, give Monterrey credit, they’re a very good team and I think it was a good game.”
(On whether he has a Juninho injury update…)
ARENA: “No I don’t.”
(On the play of Juninho and Sarvas…)
ARENA: “Good. Both teams are strong in that position. The game was a really good game. I think for the majority of that game, our back line did a great job and then they were very poor in the last 10 minutes. And perhaps the most important minutes of the game, arguably and Monterrey was able to exploit us.”
(On whether the club was fatigued…)
ARENA: “No. Everybody is tired. They travel too. Why wouldn’t they be tired, right? Everybody is tired at the end of the game. It’s experience and concentration and I think some of our players ran themselves out of their positions in the last 15 minutes and it hurt us.”
(On Monterrey’s last 15 minutes…)
ARENA: “They’re a team with a lot of quality and they have very good players all over the field. Obviously, the first goal, I’d like to believe we can do better, but give them a lot of credit. Carlo [Cudicini] put us in a good position to win the game, made some big saves and we let him down a little bit.”
(On lessons heading into the second leg…)
“There are clear lessons for our team: the kind of concentration you need, the experience, the tactical understanding. You know, so what if we don’t get the second goal, we win the game 1-0. That’s it. So obviously, we didn’t do the job that we needed to do. If we don’t concede, we walk away with a win tonight and position ourselves better to go into Monterrey. Now going into Monterrey is obviously going to be very difficult and that’s going to be our challenge.
(On DeLaGarza’s offensive presence…)
ARENA: “Just playing the game. At the end of the day, A.J. needs to be defend well, not attacking. I think maybe showed some inexperience in that position where maybe he ran himself into the ground and perhaps it hurt us at the end of the game. Our back line was tired, and they weren’t -- they didn’t play the last 15-20 minutes of the game in a smart manner. They needed to be much more solid.”
(On what his frustration was at the end of the game…)
ARENA: “The result. Why wouldn’t I be frustrated? I don’t think I should be jumping for joy. It’s a game where if were a little bit smarter, a little bit better, we win by a couple goals. Instead we lose. And again tremendous credit to Monterrey, they showed their experience and their quality.”
CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy will take on Mexican giant C.F. Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal first leg on Wednesday and as you prepare for the match check out a few links, matchups to watch and my predicted lineup below...
*Two dispatches from the Monterrey side: Backup 'keeper Juan de Dios Ibarra is confident that the can put in a strong performance against LA while head coach Victor Manuel Vucetich has plenty of compliments for Galaxy forward Robbie Keane.
LAGalaxy.com Larry Morgan offered this preview of the CCL match.
Lastly, read my Three Points to the match.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Aldo De Nigris vs. Omar Gonzalez
The lethal finisher takes on the rock solid defender in this battle that will determine the outcome of the game. Gonzalez will have his hands full with De Nigris and his strike partner Humberto Suazo, but his positioning will be key to keeping Monterrey off the board.
Monterrey set pieces vs. Galaxy set pieces
Expect the game to come down to finishing dead ball opportunities as both team are extremely proficient at set pieces. LA's Juninho and Monterrey's Humberto Suazo each have a knack for creating and finishing chances off corners and free kicks.
Robbie Keane vs. Jose Maria Basanta
The battle of the captains. LA expect to have Robbie Keane back in the starting XI against Monterrey and he'll be expected to test veteran center back José María Basanta. The Argentine has been one of Los Rayados' finest contributors as of late and was recently called into Argentina's roster for World Cup Qualifying.
Cudicini; DeLaGarza, Gonzalez, Leonardo, Dunivant; Franklin, Sarvas, Juninho, Magee; Keane, Villarreal
CARSON, Calif. -- Check any of the fine media outlets covering Wednesday night's CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal first leg between the LA Galaxy and C.F. Monterrey and you'll hear about the importance of Robbie Keane, Humberto Suazo, Omar Gonzalez or Aldo De Nigris, but the match may in fact turn on something else, LA's ability to control the midfield against the Mexican giants.
That responsibility will fall to the Galaxy's Brazilian central midfield tandem of Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas, who must battle with Monterrey's Jesus Zavala and Walter Ayovi. The two-time defending CCL winners may be loaded to the brim with talented players, but Sarvas believes that the game will depend on LA's ability to simply retain possession.
"As much as we can have the ball and control the game, that means that they don't have the ball and they're no dangerous against us. I think our team has the players to keep the ball and find the space to create the opportunities," said Sarvas. "We have to be very clever when we going forward to not leave space for the players, also don't turn over the ball because they go fast on the counter attack."