Three Points: LA Galaxy youngsters earn gritty victory over Isidro Metapan in CONCACAF Champions League play
CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano offers his Three Points to LA’s 1-0 CONCACAF Champions League victory over Isidro Metapán. The Galaxy are now on top of Group 8 heading into next week’s match against C.S. Cartaginés in Costa Rica.
EARLY PRESS PUTS LA GALAXY AHEAD…
LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena trotted out a lineup full of youth and exuberance in Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Isidro Metapan and once his young team ran out on the field, he gave them one order: attack early.
On Wednesday, Arena made wholesale changes to the team that drew with D.C. United on Saturday as he rolled out a squad with nine players below the age of 24. Relying on that youth, Arena sent his team onto the field in an attacking 4-3-3 formation that sought to put the Salvadorians on their heels from the start. However, even though LA’s squad was bursting with 20-somethings, the team’s lone goal came off the foot of 35-year-old midfielder Laurent Courtois. Just six minutes into the game, the Frenchman, who was put into space by a pass from Jose Villarreal, fired a shot past Metapan goalkeeper Henry Hernandez at the far post, giving the Galaxy an early 1-0 lead.
The goal was the perfect capper for Courtois, who shined in his 80 minute performance as he provided steady service on the left flank while also displaying a willingness to go at goal. Although Arena’s formation change paid off, it barely lasted however as the Galaxy were soon forced to transition back into the familiar 4-4-2 formation as Metapan pressed forward in search of the equalizer.
…AND THEN YOUNG GUNS HOLD ON
After the Galaxy pushed ahead, they were forced to hold on as Isidro Metapan continuously found themselves in dangerous positions only to be turned away each time.
Multiple times the Salvadorians were able to capitalize on errant passes or deflections to get into dangerous positions in LA’s final third. But despite so often getting into these positive spots, they were unable to capitalize as just four of their 12 shots were on frame. Even when Metapan did manage to fire a shot toward goal, LA’s defense was able to clear out the danger with the finest example coming in stoppage time when Kofi Opare was able to make a late clearance to stop a potential Nicolas Munoz breakaway.
However, the best performance of the evening belonged to Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe, who showed just why he has earned the job of backup to starting goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. Throughout the match, Rowe, who was making his Champions League debut, was consistently in the right place at the right time, making four saves on the night to keep the clean sheet.
GALAXY IN PRIME POSITION TO ADVANCE TO QUARTERFINALS
To advance out of the group stage in CONCACAF Champions League, winning at home is paramount and in two matches, the LA Galaxy have accomplished just that—putting them in prime position heading into their two matches in Central America.
Currently, the Galaxy lead Group 8 with six points, leaving them two points ahead of second place C.S. Cartaginés. Meanwhile, with their defeat at StubHub Center, Metapan is now eliminated from the competition. The fate of Group 8 will likely hedge on LA’s clash with C.S. Cartaginés in Costa Rica next week. Wednesday’s match will be the final group contest for the Costa Ricans and with a win or a draw in San Jose; the Galaxy can clinch a berth in the quarterfinals.
With the team on the brink of qualification, expect the Galaxy to once again opt for a reserve-laden side as the Galaxy will need to quickly change gears to focus on their road fixture against the Portland Timbers next Sunday. There will need to be at least one change however, as the Galaxy must make do without Kofi Opare, who will be suspended for the game after picking up his second yellow card of the competition on Wednesday.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com