TORONTO – The LA Galaxy could not have imagined a more bleak situation.
With nearly 50,000 rabid supporters cheering on the home team, they were down 2-0 with not even 20 minutes gone in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal match against Toronto FC on Wednesday.
And yet, they came out relatively unscathed.
Showing some of the grit and determination that propelled them to new heights in 2011, the reigning MLS Cup champions battled back and left Rogers Centre with a 2-2 draw and, more importantly, the upper hand heading into the decisive leg next week at The Home Depot Center.
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“This is a game where you can come up with a bunch of excuses not to get any kind of result but they hung in there and showed a lot of character,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena told reporters after the match. “The point is huge because going back to LA next Wednesday, we're in a decent position. It's not perfect but it's not bad.”
The not-perfect part was nearly disastrous. Ryan Johnson and Luis Silva knocked in goals in the first 18 minutes to give Toronto FC a stunning lead. With many having referred to this match as the most important one in TFC’s history, the supporters were begging for more goals and for a convincing victory.
“We were sloppy, we didn’t do well with that,” Arena said. “Give them credit, they had good balls, were opportunistic and did well with them.”
And yet despite all that, the Galaxy stayed in the match. Mike Magee pulled a goal back before the intermission, giving LA hope for the second half.
Landon Donovan, who missed most of the last two weeks with bronchitis, started and went the distance and was seemingly none worse for the wear against Toronto FC. He set up Sean Franklin, whose cross found Magee on the first goal and banged in the equalizer himself with two minutes remaining.
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“Landon played well,” Arena said. “He was dangerous most of the day. He created a bunch of chances for us, obviously got that second goal and it was his ball on the first goal as well.”
About the only thing that went wrong Wednesday was the artificial surface. The field looked like a patchwork of poor pieces of turf and Arena was not about to hide his disapproval.
“FIFA approves these fields, they're probably approved for different reasons," Arena said. "Typically, this time of year, it's possible it’s a lot colder, field conditions would be difficult outside, probably snow which is not uncommon this time of year.
"We understand the reasons why it is the way it is. You can't fault anybody associated with this. But you know going into these games and in this kind of situation, an artifical field indoors is going to be a difficult game. Our sport was not made to be played indoors on artificial fields."
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.