SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – The LA Galaxy may have reached the Quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, but there is plenty of work still to be done as the club approaches the group stage finale against Isidro Metapán on Thursday. (7pm PT, FOX Soccer, Univision Deportes Dos, LIVE CHAT)
For the third match in a row, head coach Bruce Arena will call upon his younger reserves to earn a victory as the Galaxy look to solidify their seed for the CCL Quarterfinal round. Such faith from the coaching staff in a match of vital importance has not gone unnoticed by LA’s youngsters.
“It’s nice to see Bruce give us a chance to show that we can play anywhere,” said forward Jose Villarreal after the club’s training session at the Estadio Jorge “El Magico” Gonzalez in suburban San Salvador. “Not only at home in the United States, but away as well. It’s a good chance for us to prove ourselves to him; it’ll be a good game.”
THREE POINTS: LA Galaxy youngsters up for Salvadoran test
For the Quarterfinal round, the eight group winners will be re-seeded based on their overall point total, with the top seed facing the eighth, the second taking on the seventh, and so forth. Currently, the Galaxy are on seven points and can reach anywhere from the fourth seed to eighth based on the result in Metapán as well as results from around the competition. This importance is not lost on Galaxy midfielder Michael Stephens.
“We are worried about seeding, that was the message as we were coming down here,” he said. “It’s not just to get good experience, but we have to win this game to get in position for next year. It’s really important.”
But aside from worries about next season, the Galaxy’s younger players face a stiff test as they prepare to navigate a hostile environment at Metapán’s Estadio Jorge Calero Suárez. At the short field, the Salvadorans have been nearly unbeatable with their last competitive defeat coming against the Colorado Rapids in CCL group play on Sept. 29, 2011, a span of 26 matches.
Such fierce conditions could provide difficulties for full national teams, but as LA’s youngsters head into the brink, veterans like forward Pat Noonan will be expected to provide a calming presence. Ahead of the match, the 32-year-old has been quick to offer words of advice for the Galaxy’s young guns.
“Most importantly, you might not get the calls that you expect. The officiating is a little bit different than it is in MLS and you need to be careful with how react in different situations so don’t put yourself in a situation to get thrown out,” said Noonan. “Sometimes, you also have hostile fans, but it’s important that we play our style and not get too into the officiating or what the conditions may be. I think if we do that then we’ll be good.”
But worries of seeding and conditions aside, the Galaxy fully expect a battle when they step on the field in Metapán.
“We just want to go in and play well, at the end of the day, wins and losses are important, but we need to have the right attitude heading into the match,” said Noonan. “I think that we do, but we also need to come out and dictate the pace of the game, so we can get the lead early and play to our advantages. If we can do that then I think we’ll get the result.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com