CARSON, Calif. -- MLS teams have struggled mightly in Mexico witha 2-26-5 record all-time, but when the LA Galaxy takes the field on Tuesday evening at Estadio Caliente in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg match, they'll have a player on their team who has tasted CCL victory south of the border.
LA Galaxy left back James Riley was in the Seattle Sounders FC starting XI on August 23, 2011 when Seattle gave MLS their second ever victory in Mexico with a 1-0 victory over C.F. Monterrey in CONCACAF CCL group stage. Riley's play was instrumental on the game-winning sequence as he helped force a turnover that resulted in a Sounders counter attack that ended when current Galaxy assistant coach Pat Noonan fed Alvaro Fernandez who fired a blistering shot past Monterrey goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco. Seattle's feat came just a week after FC Dallas defeated a reserve-laden Pumas UNAM to become the first team to win in Mexico, but has not been repeated since.
"We put an experienced bunch out and came in with a gameplan that said that we wanted to catch them on the break or a set piece. We got guys behind the ball and, to be honest, there was some fortune on our side. Our goalkeeper [Terry Boss] played huge, some guys made some critical plays and we were able to hold on for the victory."
Although the stakes for Tuesday's quarterfinal are considerably higher than they were when Seattle knocked off Los Rayados, Riley believes that there are lessons to take from the Sounders' victory.
"We think that Tijuana will come with the same high tempo and try to force the issue early on, which we can expect," said Riley. "We'll simply need to be ready."
Highlights of Seattle's game-winning goal are below. Riley can be seen at the outset forcing a Monterrey attacker to pass the ball away from the end line, which leads to the decisive turnover .
Marcelo Sarvas preaches that the LA Galaxy must be ready to attack during important second leg in Tijuana
CARSON, Calif. – Marcelo Sarvas knows that there’s a battle looming ahead for the LA Galaxy.
Sarvas’ fortitude in central midfield was vital during the Galaxy’s 1-0 victory in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Club Tijuana on Wednesday. Throughout the match, Sarvas and midfield partner Juninho tussled frequently with Tijuana sparkplug Cristian Pellerano who provided the engine for the Xolos.
The Galaxy midfield controlled the issue in the first half but the Xolos dominated the second half even forcing Sarvas to make a key off-the-line stop in the 68th minute of a Javier Gandolfi header. The save was an important one for Sarvas, who Omar Gonzalez stated after the game, was criticized internally for conceding goals while he was supposed to be defending the near post.
“Marcelo got a lot of flak last year about letting goals in while he was supposed on the post. I’m sure since he saved that one; he’ll let Bruce know ‘hey, look what I did,’” joked Gonzalez.
Heading into the second leg at Estadio Caliente, Sarvas is among three Galaxy players (Gyasi Zardes and Omar Gonzalez being the others) holding a yellow card as the Galaxy prepare to head down to the raucous Tijuana stadium. Although the Brazilian midfielder will need to be smart about his challenges due to the caution, he's ready for the challenge.
“We’ve never been there, but we know that it is artificial grass and their fans will be loud. We know that they will press for 90 minutes and it’ll be more like the second half [of the first leg],” said Sarvas. “We have to be able to create something on the counter attack and score a goal. If we score a goal, the scenario will change.”
CARSON, Calif. -- Club Tijuana may have dropped their first leg to the LA Galaxy 1-0 on Wednesday, but to the Mexican side, they're simply down a goal at half time.
The Mexican side found themselves down a goal after just 11 minutes on Samuel's strike from close range, but their attack came alive in the second half as they repeatedly tested the Galaxy defense and forced LA goalkeeper Jaime Penedo to make several remarkable stops to keep the home side ahead at full time.
“It’s a game that has 180 minutes, it was not a great result for us but it is also not a bad one considering we played away. It was a hard game," said Tijuana head coach Cesar Farias who labeled the Xolos fan presence at StubHub Center 'spectacular.' "We had two goals on the line, and we pushed trying to grab the tie. We were very stable on the defensive line and we were good with air balls. We had a distraction that cost us the win, but it’s a win that we can come back from in Tijuana and we are going to work with the same professionalism and with a lot of hope that we will be able to win in Tijuana."
Much of Tijuana's early struggles in the attacking ended from the uneven play of the starting forward tandem of Fidel Martinez and Jaime Ayovi, who rarely tested the Galaxy defense. However, once Farias through on forward Dario Benedetto who was unable to start due to an Achilles injury, Tijuana began to dominate the run of play. The Tijuana attack was only bolstered when former Galaxy attacker Herculez Gomez entered the match for Ayovi in the 80th minute and nearly tallied twice in the final 10 minutes before the final whistle blew.
As the two teams prepare to head down to the Estadio Caliente, where Tijuana has lost just one league match in more than a year, Gomez believes that the Xolos ability to pressure the LA defense will prove decisive.
“They are an intelligent team, they are organized. The first half they showed how organized they could be. I think what helped us was how urgent we were in the offensive side. I think we created a lot of problems in the second half, but it should be like that during the whole 90 minutes, and not only 45.”
— Adam Serrano (@LAGalaxyInsider) March 13, 2014
Samuel pleased with his "poacher's goal" that seals victory over Club Tijuana in CCL Quarterfinal first leg
CARSON, Calif. - New Brazilian forward Samuel was brought to the LA Galaxy to finish the chances that the team often squandered in 2013 and on Wednesday against Club Tijuana, he did just that.
Samuel tallied the game-winner in the 11th minute off a sequence that began when Marcelo Sarvas launched a cross that bounced off Robbie Keane to the path of the Brazilian for the easy finish that sealed LA's 1-0 victory in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg. The goal wasn't the only high point for the Brazilian who provided a physical presence up top during his 70 minute shift.
"We played against a very difficult team so it was very important for me to score," said Samuel after the match. "I saw it come off Keane's knee and I was right there ready to score. ... Of course, I was expecting that ball to bounce to me. With a player like Robbie Keane, you have to expect everything so I was ready for the play."
Added Landon Donovan, "It was a good poacher's goal. He does that in training, he is always around the goal. It was good for him, an important goal, and he did very well tonight."
But one question remains: did Keane intend for that deflection to bounce in the path of the waiting Brazilian?
"Of course, you know me," asserted a chuckling Keane postgame.
CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy take on Club Tijuana in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg on Wednesday at StubHub Center.
Check out my look ahead to the match below.
*In the Galaxy's last pair of two-leg series, LA have struggled, but they're hoping to learn from the lessons of Monterrey and Real Salt Lake when they play Tijuana.
*Robbie Keane admits that Tijuana's inability showcases a "weakness" that the Galaxy will be looking to exploit on Wednesday.
*LAGalaxy.com's Larry Morgan provides his preview of the match.
*Lastly, check out my video round-up of all of the LAvTJ video content produced by LAGalaxy.com.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Juninho vs. Cristian Pellerano
A battle of attacking defensive midfielders, the two players will be looking to set the tempo for their respective teams early on.
Gyasi Zardes vs. Edgar Castillo
Speed vs. Speed. The hyperactive left back will look to push forward into the attack for Tijuana, but look for Zardes to attempt to take advantage of the space left by his agression to help the Galaxy.
Herculez Gomez vs. Omar Gonzalez
Whether Gomez will starts remains to be seen, but if he does, the Galaxy center back will have his hands full with the dangerous attacker. Expect the battle on the field to be as heated as their war of words.
PREDICTED LINEUP: Penedo; DeLaGarza, Gonzalez, Leonardo, Riley; Zardes, Juninho, Sarvas, Donovan; Keane, Samuel
In the final installment of our LA Galaxy vs. Club Tijuana video series, I take a look at the three most interesting pieces of content that were produced on LAGalaxy.com in the lead up to Wednesday's match.
Check it out below.
CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy came into the 2014 campaign eager to learn from the failures of a year ago, and they’ll get their first opportunity to right the wrongs of 2013 when they kick off their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against Club Tijuana on Wednesday.
The two biggest letdowns of 2013 saw the LA Galaxy falter in two-leg series falling to C.F. Monterrey in the CCL Semifinals and Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Semifinals. Despite being played months apart, both series featured similar problems for the Galaxy as the team was unable to convert a number of scoring opportunities in the home leg before crashing out away from StubHub Center.
To correct these issues, the Galaxy invested heavily in experienced players during the offseason in hopes of turning the club’s fortunes around. A strategy that the team is hoping will pay off come Wednesday evening against Club Tijuana.
“We have to learn our lessons from previous games,” said defender Todd Dunivant, who is expecting to be available for Wednesday’s match after dealing with a nagging injury. “When you talk about previous games, you look at the Monterrey home leg, where we were dominating that game for 80 minutes and feeling confident that we could get another goal or another two goals but we lost our shape and when you do that against good teams it’s going to hurt you. We have to be smart.
“This year, this team has brought in more experienced players with guys like Rob Friend, Stefan Ishizaki that have been in big games and won championships in other countries,” Dunivant added. “There’s definitely a different mood around our clubhouse.”
And the first lesson that the Galaxy must learn? Finish their chances at home.
“In both of those games, we played very well, but we didn't finish our chances and it gets magnified in these series,” said Landon Donovan. “In a series like this, every goal is important. In both of those games, we played well at home, but we couldn’t finish our chances. We just have to be better in front of goal. It’s as simple as that.”
The LA Galaxy are looking ahead to their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against Club Tijuana and in the lead up to Tuesday's match, CONCACAF.com spoke to several members of the club on the upcoming tournament.
The video includes a few interesting and dramatic shots of StubHub Center as well as informative interviews so check it out below.
CARSON, Calif. – Mexican teams have long ruled CONCACAF Champions League, but does that make Club Tijuana favorites against the LA Galaxy in this CCL Quarterfinals? Well, it’s not that simple says Club Tijuana forward Herculez Gomez.
In an interview with LAGalaxy.com, Gomez, a former member of the Galaxy, was asked whether Mexican team's 45-19-14 all-time record against MLS teams made Xolos favorites, the U.S. international disagreed, instead stating that LA have the advantage over their Mexican opponents.
“Look if we’re being honest, their salary cap, I don’t even call it a Salary cap. Their player personnel on paper probably outspend ours. We know that it’s going to be a test, but we’re excited,” Gomez told LAGalaxy.com. “We don’t have that huge marquee international player coming in. But we’ve got guys who have worked and stuck to their guns, and made a career out of what they do. In a brief time, they’ve done a lot.”
The response from his Galaxy opponents was pointed as they dismissed the claims of the U.S. international.
“It doesn’t really matter, but I would say as a general statement that the team with the higher payroll is probably the team that’s favored. All these Mexican teams pay their players a lot more money than we do as a whole,” said Donovan. “That’s something that we have to deal with, it’s a disadvantage for us in a lot of ways, but we still compete well and still expect to give them a good series.”
“I usually don’t listen to anything that Herculez Gomez says. He is just full of hot air,” said a smiling Omar Gonzalez. “They can feel whatever they want. I think that they’re a really good team. We won’t underestimate them. They have a lot of quality and a lot of players that don’t want to lose to us. It’s going to be an even match and our second game of the year, so I’m sure that it’ll be a great game. There’s a lot of respect there and I look forward to it.”
Check out the video below.
Club Tijuana came within 10 minutes of their first road victory in over a year, but a late goal by Liber Quiñones sealed a 1-1 draw for the Xolos against Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz, and extended Tijuana's road winless streak to 19 games.
Midfielder Christian Pellerano gave Tijuana the lead six minutes into the match as a failed Veracruz clearance of a Xolos' corner fell perfectly for the Argentine who slotted it past the goalkeeper for the finish. Tijuana went down a man in the 78th minute as Pellerano was sent off for his second yellow leaving the Xolos to play with 10 for the remainder of the game. Up a man, Veracruz made Xolos pay three minutes later when the Tiburones Rojos (Red Sharks) took advantage of some shambolic Tijuana defending as Angel Reyna floated a pass over the visitors back-line to a waiting Quiñones who easily fired a shot past Cirilo Saucedo for the equalizer.
Former Galaxy striker Herculez Gomez and Texas-native Greg Garza started and fellow American Joe Corona came on midway through the first half due to a shoulder injury to Fernando Arce. Paul Arriola and recent U.S. National team call-up Edgar Castillo were not on the game day roster.
Highlights of the draw are below.