CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy’s road to international glory was always considered difficult, but what exactly it would look like was unknown.
On Thursday, that road began to finally take shape.
CONCACAF announced that the Galaxy would host their first two Champions League matches against either Honduras' Motagua or Guatemala's Municipal on Aug. 16 and Costa Rican power Alajuelense on Aug. 25.
“It’s great to have the first two at home,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “The home games come at a good time where it’s reasonable for us to play three games a week in that stretch where the games are. It’s going to be important to win those games.”
Hosting the first two matches gives the club a chance to settle into the tournament while trying to maintain their top spot in the Western Conference standings. The Galaxy will host FC Dallas on Aug. 6 and will not have another league match until the Motagua/Municipal match. Then, the Galaxy will host the San Jose Earthquakes on Aug. 20 before playing Alajuelense, which will be followed by an Aug. 28 encounter at the New York Red Bulls.
That the club will have a full nine days to rest and prepare for the Champions League opener is a bonus.
“It gives us plenty of time to be physically prepared and mentally prepared for the first game,” Arena said.
However comfortable the opportunity to play the first two games at home is, it will only be truly advantageous if the club performs well.
“It’s not an advantage if you don’t get the full points out of those games," Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. "It’s going to test our depth and test our team.”
The Galaxy and Alajuelense received automatic berths into the tournament while the other two group opponents are yet to be determined. However, in the first legs of the preliminary qualifiers Motagua beat Municipal 4-0 while Mexico's Morelia defeated Haiti's Tempête 5-0.
Neither of the Galaxy’s matches against Morelia/Tempête were announced.
Hosting the first two games, though, means the club will play three of the final four matches on the road in Costa Rica and likely in Honduras and Mexico. Thus, the first two matches may make those matches must-win games.
“In all these competitions you’ve got to win your home games,” Arena said. “That’s an important part of the equation. If you don’t, it puts even more pressure on you to have to win on the road. We’d like to start the competition in good shape by winning two games.”