CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Michael Stephens couldn’t help but manage a slight grin when he heard the results of the CONCACAF Champions League draw, which was held in June in New York City.
The Galaxy, eliminated in the quarterfinals of the previous tournament in March by Toronto FC, were placed into a three-team group that included El Salvador’s Isidro Metapan and none other than the NASL’s Puerto Rico Islanders.
The Galaxy, followers of the team may recall, met the Islanders in a two-game Preliminary Round battle just over two years ago and were humbled by a 5-3 aggregate score, including a stunning 4-1 loss at The Home Depot Center on July 27, 2010. LA actually trailed 4-0 late in that game, only to get on the scoreboard courtesy of an own goal. One week later, the two sides met again, this time in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, with the Galaxy falling behind once again, only to come back for a 2-1 win, though the margin of victory was not enough to get them through to the tournament’s group stage.
“That’s something we need to stress,” Stephens said, referring to that home loss and Wednesday’s rematch (7 p.m., Fox Soccer, 1220 AM, LIVECHAT) at The Home Depot Center. “When they came in here two years ago they beat our first team.
“If I remember correctly they scored two [first half] goals” – getting goals from David Foley and Nicolas Addlery, each of who still play for the club, in the 26th and 45th minutes – “and before we looked up the game was out of our control. You never want to lose on your home field to a team in a lower division.
“You dig that big a hole going into Puerto Rico, you’re basically finished.”
Never one to reminisce, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said that he remembered a few aspects of that loss from more than two years ago.
“I remember (then-Puerto Rico goalkeeper) Bill Gaudette had a tremendous game in goal,” he said. “I recall either their first goal or second goal was scored from about 35 yards.
“It was one of these games where I don’t think we played as bad as the score indicates. But we lost, for sure.”
Arena even managed to get in a dig at one of his former stars, current Hammarby head coach Gregg Berhalter.
“One of the goals, I remember Berhalter decided he wasn’t going to mark anyone in the six-yard box on a cross. I remember that one play,” Arena joked. “That’s when Gregg was still going back with his concept of you mark a space, not a man. I remember that one.”
Galaxy rookie defender Bryan Gaul said he was surprised when told of the result from two years ago, but he knows that this year’s Galaxy squad will be prepared for the task at hand.
“In the Champions League anything can happen. I believe if you’re prepared and your mind’s right anything can happen.
“Hopefully we can come out with a good mindset.”