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04 April 8:19 am

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. 

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Agree or disagree? Can LA win in Monterrey without Juninho, if he is unable to go?

Share your thoughts below. 

03 April 10:26 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- Below are my Three Points from the LA Galaxy's 2-1 defeat to Monterrey.

Three Points: Monterrey rallies to defeat Galaxy 2-1.

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Agree or disagree? 

Share your thoughts below. 

03 April 10:25 pm

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.”

03 April 9:50 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- Courtesy of Monterrey's website...highlights of the first and second half of the LA Galaxy's defeat to Monterrey.

FIRST HALF

SECOND HALF

03 April 9:49 pm

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.”

03 April 2:54 pm

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...

*The LA Galaxy will have Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan at their disposal on Wednesday, each hungry to contribute. 

*Omar Gonzalez has plenty of connections to Monterrey and admits that the two-leg series will be emotional. 

*Jose Villarreal also grew up watching the Monterrey and is excited about the prospect of facing Los Rayados.

*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. 

PREDICTED LINEUP

Cudicini; DeLaGarza, Gonzalez, Leonardo, Dunivant; Franklin, Sarvas, Juninho, Magee; Keane, Villarreal

03 April 12:55 pm

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."

03 April 10:17 am

No player was more effective in the month of March than LA Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee and it is no surprise that he was selected as Player of the Month by the North American Soccer Reporters on Wednesday.

Magee currently leads MLS in goals scored with five, equaling his regular season totals in 2011 and 2012. Despite Magee's goal total, the voting was close as Magee earned 17 first place votes just two ahead of Montreal midfielder Patrice Bernier who had 15. 

03 April 8:22 am

CARSON, Calif. -- The CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal matchup between the LA Galaxy and Monterrey is an important and special contest for each member of the LA club, but it might just be more important to defender Omar Gonzalez.

Both sides of Gonzalez’s family hail Mexican state of Nuevo Leon—his father is from Montemorelos and mother is from Monterrey—and the defender made several trips to visit family in Monterrey  as a child to visit relatives during summer and the holidays. But his trips weren’t limited to family visits as after his freshman year at Maryland; Gonzalez even had a trial with Monterrey’s inner-city rivals Tigres UNAL before opting to return to college.

“That's going to be amazing,” Gonzalez said of playing in Monterrey. “That one will be more special than the one here, I think, because I'll be playing in front of a bunch of family. My mom's going to fly down for the game, and it's going to be fun.”

Gonzalez even has a link to LA’s CCL semifinal opponents as his maternal uncle Lalo Rodriguez Plata served as the captain of Monterrey in the 1980’s. Gonzalez has yet to speak with his uncle about Wednesday's contest, but he did exchanged texts with him following his appearance for the U.S. National Team in a scoreless draw against Mexico at Estadio Azteca.  

There are plenty of emotions swirling around the defender ahead of the match against his childhood club, but once the whistle blows, Gonzalez understands that LA have a match to win.

“We are playing against a team who has won this [tournament] twice, and my family is from there. My uncle used to play there,” Gonzalez said. “I just want this to be a good game. It's a good opportunity to show ourselves in front of a good Mexican club and just put ourselves on the map.”

To the Galaxy on the map however, Gonzalez will have his hands full as he looks to shut down a vaunted Monterrey attack led by star forwards Aldo De Nigris and Humberto Suazo.  

“De Nigris, he's been good for a long time. He is a big presence, and he manages to get into the box always and always finishes off scoring chances,” said Gonzalez. “I've been watching [Suazo] on film. He scores amazing goals. His technical ability is great. He's very crafty and very clever, making great runs.”

02 April 7:57 pm

CARSON, Calif. – Monterrey bring an assortment of stars to face the LA Galaxy in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals, but they’ll be without starting goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco.

The starting ‘keeper has dealt with a right hamstring injury for several weeks leaving the job to 34-year-old backup Juan de Dios Ibarra. The backup made his season debut last Saturday during Los Rayados’ 3-0 victory over Pumas UNAM.

Ahead of Wednesday’s game, Ibarra is confident that he can contribute on Wednesday.

“I’m confident where I am right now,” said Ibarra. “I’m trying to do things the right way and do them how I best know how to do. I’m trying to get confidence to the defenders so we can go out and get a result.”

Ibarra’s teammate midfielder Jesus Zavala has plenty of confidence in the backup goalkeeper.

“Orozco is a great goalkeeper, but we have confidence in [Ibarra]. He can do good work and we those that come off the bench are good quality,” said Zavala.” Fortunately, it is two very important games and we’ll have to think about the players that we do have and on doing things right.”