METAPÁN, El Salvador – The LA Galaxy youngsters were given a stiff test on Thursday, but by the time the final whistle blew, LA had passed with flying colors, earning a 3-2 win on the road against Isidro Metapan.
The odds were seemingly stacked against them as they were tasked with improving the club’s seeding for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals with a win at the inhospitable Estadio Jorge “Calero” Suarez, a place that Metapán had not lost at, since September of 2011. Add in a two-hour bus drive from the club’s hotel in San Salvador and it seemed LA was destined to wilt, but that would not be the case.
Jack McBean would tally two goals, while Michael Stephens scored the winner as the squad that earned a West Division Reserve League title sealed an impressive 3-2 win.
“It’s a little bit different than a game out front of The Home Depot Center,” said midfielder Michael Stephens. “The crowd was into it, the field was difficult, and the other team played well, we did a good job of countering [the conditions] and we had a good game.”
Throughout the night, LA’s youngsters seemed up to the task against a feisty Metapán side that played nearly it’s an entire first team as they looked for a big scalp in front of their home fans. Whether it was Bryan Gaul, who set up two of his team’s three goals or Rafael Garcia’s ability to challenge Metapán’s swift attackers like Eliseo Quintanilla and Paolo Suarez, LA’s youngsters stepped up.
However, the most profound impact came from the goal scorers. After some early jitters, McBean seemed to generate numerous scoring chances during the latter stages of the first half before ending the match with two goals. Stephens, on the other hand, served as an engine for LA on the left flank, contentiously outworking Metapán’s midfielders, while generating several dangerous opportunities —including one that was called back in the 45 minute—before scoring the game-winning-goal in the 80th.
“It was certainly a difficult game for our young players; they stepped up to the challenge,” said head coach Bruce Arena. “In this competition, you go on your road, it’s challenging with the officiating, the opponent, and our guys with stood all of that tonight. They did a great job of getting three important points.”
Their passage set to the Quarterfinals; the Galaxy will now turn their eyes to Herediano, who LA will face in the CCL quarters, which began in early March. The series will be the second time in two tournaments that LA has faced a Costa Rican opponent in the Champions League as the Galaxy split two games with a Marcelo Sarvas-led Alajuelense side in the 2011/2012 group stages, winning 2-0 at home and losing 1-0 on the road.
Although LA has plenty to play for in MLS before the Champions League play resumes again, Arena admits that his club is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s going to be challenging playing Herediano; we’ve seen them in the past,” said Arena. “They’re a very good team. We’ll have to have our team ready in March for the competition.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com