This week could not have gone any worse for the LA Galaxy and their CONCACAF Champions League campaign. A loss in Costa Rica and a win by Morelia in Honduras combined to knock the Galaxy from first place to third in the Group A table.
But not all hope is lost. Far from it, in fact.
In what will be the Galaxy’s most important match of 2011 to date, the Galaxy can shoot right back towards the top with a win over Morelia on Wednesday. The Galaxy would take a major step towards qualifying to the knockout rounds and could make their final group-stage match at Motagua on Oct. 20 a win-and-you’re-in scenario.
For that to happen, the Galaxy must defeat Morelia at home on Wednesday. A draw may not mathematically eliminate the Galaxy but one or no points would be catastrophic to the cause.
A win, though, and the Galaxy are alive and well in Champions League.
Now, a glance at the standings may forecast doom. Alajuelense and Morelia are tied atop Group A on nine points. The Costa Ricans are technically ahead of Morelia on tiebreaker but both sides are ahead of the Galaxy. Should Alajuelense beat Motagua at home next week, the Galaxy would not be able to catch them.
Still, regardless of what Alajuelense does in Costa Rica next week, the Galaxy are not out of it at all. A win over Morelia and the Galaxy would have as many points as the Mexicans, then would head to Honduras with a chance of reaching the quarterfinal round.
Worried about the Galaxy’s play away from home in this tournament? A referee decision and a well-taken free kick did the Galaxy in on the road, not poor play, not frightened players, not a lack of desire.
Now, like other Mexican clubs, Morelia will head into The Home Depot Center a confident bunch. The previous two Mexican sides to play at MLS teams have won as Santos and Pumas beat Colorado and FC Dallas, respectively. It seems as if all Mexican sides have awoken and are suddenly focused on the tournament more than they were at the start.
There are plenty of reasons to remain optimistic:
- The Galaxy played Morelia toe-to-toe in Mexico on Sept. 13. Were it not for an unfortunate sequence of events – highlighted by perhaps the tournament’s biggest officiating gaffe – the Galaxy would have left Mexico with at least one point, likely three.
- David Beckham will not play on Wednesday due to yellow-card accumulation, but he did not play in Mexico either and the Galaxy were able to score two goals, although only one counted. The Galaxy did well to put pressure on Morelia’s goal throughout the match and even after allowing a late equalizer were able to get ahead, although the goal was disallowed.
- A draw would suit Morelia best, which means the Mexicans could come to Home Depot Center looking for just that. When Morelia were looking to attack as they were in Mexico, the Galaxy were forced to be on the defensive somewhat, and still the Galaxy went forward and attacked with confidence. With the onus on the Galaxy to attack, the hosts’ attack could be more effective.
The objective is simple, but accomplishing it won’t be. Morelia are playing for their own lives and will pose a challenge.
But the Galaxy are also fighting to survive. And playing at The Home Depot Center seems to tip the scales in their favor.