CCL Match Recap: LA fall to Metapan 4-0, will face Tijuana in the quarterfinals
The LA Galaxy were hoping to see a few goals Thursday night, just not like this.
Nicolas Muñoz scored a hat trick in four minutes, then added a fourth before halftime, and Isidro Metapán, playing for nothing but pride, drilled the Galaxy, 4-0, in the CONCACAF Champions League group stage finale in San Salvador, El Salvador.
LA's reward: a quarterfinal showdown with Club Tijuana.
LA (3-1-0), who could have risen to the No. 1 seed for next year's knockout stage with a one-sided victory, dropped to sixth among the eight group winners, falling out of a quarterfinal matchup with Panama's Arabe Unido – and dropping behind Costa Rica's Alajuelense in the seedings – when Muñoz scored his fourth goal in the 41st minute.
The Galaxy needed a six-goal victory to overtake top-seeded Toluca, a three-goal win to climb past No. 2 Cruz Azul in the seedings and a victory of any other sort to finish third, which would have set up a quarterfinal assignment next March with Alajuelense.
Instead, Muñoz, a 31-year-old Panamanian forward who has played primarily in El Salvador since 2004, tallied in the 29th, 30th, 33rd and 41st minutes against a Galaxy defense that had shut out its first three CCL foes, including a 1-0 win over Metapán on Sept. 18 at the StubHub Center.
Metapán (1-2-1) finished last in Group 8, even on points with Costa Rica's Cartaginés, who won the head-to-head matchup. The Galaxy had clinched the group title with a win Sept. 25 at Cartaginés.
LA utilized primarily a reserve lineup, which included Juninho in central midfield, Hector Jiménez on the right flank, Leonardo in central defense and A.J. DeLaGarza, making his first appearance since dislocating his left elbow nearly six weeks earlier, at left back.
Muñoz took charge about a half-hour into the game. First, he beat goalkeeper Brian Rowe to the near post on a free kick from the left flank, then tallied again 89 seconds later when Metapán carved up the Galaxy defense with a series of passes, completing the final two – with Hector Ramos feeding Muñoz for the finish – despite double-coverage. Muñoz beat Leonardo and DeLaGarza before slotting past Rowe.
Muñoz scored another about three minutes later. Marvin Monterrosa on the left side near midfield, sent a diagonal ball that got past Tommy Meyer and left Muñoz one-on-one with Rowe, whom he beat to the right before firing into the open net.
The fourth goal came from a Jose Peraza cross from the left flank as Muñoz bodied up with DeLaGarza to create a bit of space. Muñoz let the ball bounce, then lobbed it over Rowe, well off his line, and into the net.
Muñoz had the only other goal scored by a Metapán player in this year's tournament -- Los Caleros also tallied on an own goal in a loss to Cartaginés in the opener -- and he tallied six in last year's CCL group stage, including a hat trick in a victory over the Puerto Rico Islanders and three goals in two losses to the Galaxy.
LA coach Bruce Arena made two changes at halftime, bringing winger Robbie Rogers on for right back Oscar Sorto and replacing Jack McBean with Chandler Hoffman, and then brought on forward Charlie Rugg for Courtois in the 70th minute.
Milton Molina nearly scored a fifth with a 60th-minute free kick that hit the crossbar, and LA twice nearly pulled back a goal – and into a matchup with Árabe Unido – but Metapan goalkeeper Fidel Mondragón dived to deny a Villarreal header in the 68th minute and Rogers put a blast off the crossbar in stoppage time.
The Galaxy wrap up their MLS regular-season schedule Sunday at Seattle, where a victory and possibly a tie would be enough to claim a top-three finish in the Western Conference and avoid a wild-card playoff.