CARSON, Calif. – Some players on the LA Galaxy may feel like they’re venturing into uncharted waters when the reigning MLS Cup champions travel to Heredia, Costa Rica to take on CS Herediano in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series on Thursday (5 p.m., Fox Soccer, Univision Deportes, lagalaxy.com, KWKW 1330).
But not midfielder Marcelo Sarvas. He knows exactly what’s in store at tiny Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero. The Galaxy, he said, can expect an aggressive opponent who will apply pressure from the start and won’t let up.
“I’m pretty sure they’ll press us from the first minute. They will come very aggressively,” Sarvas said. “That’s the way they make things happen in Costa Rica. You go and play hard, play tough all the time.”
Prior to joining the Galaxy, Sarvas played in Costa Rica’s Primera Division with L.D. Alajuelense. He helped lead that side first to the 2010-2011 Verano title (equal to that league’s second half championship), as well as a berth in the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League. A few months later, Sarvas was a champions again, leading Alajuelense to the 2011-2012 Invierno, or first-half crown.
In the second leg of that Invierno final against Herediano, Sarvas scored, allowing the series to be decided on penalties, with Sarvas converting his spot kick to help his team win another championship. Sarvas said he still gets calls from newspapers about that game to this day, which is why he expects a less-than-friendly reception on Thursday.
“I don’t expect anything nice for me,” he said with a grin.
The Galaxy are in this round of the competition as the No. 4 seed after winning Group 5 with a 3-0-1 record for 10 points. CS Herediano, who lost to the Galaxy in a 2009 friendly at The Home Depot Center in the only other meeting between the clubs, won Group 2, also with a 3-0-1 record, and is seeded fifth.
It is a two-game, aggregate goal series with the second leg scheduled for Wednesday, March 13 at The Home Depot Center.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, fresh from watching his team dismantle the Chicago Fire 4-0 on Sunday in the MLS regular season opener, expects a tough match, to say the least.
“It’s always difficult to play away [in this competition],” he said. “I think we have enough experiences in these kinds of competitions to understand what we’re getting into. However many times, it’s always expect the unexpected. The officiating is always somewhat different, conditions will be different. We’re in a different country, different culture … all challenging things.
“We’ll try and travel as best we can and get our team ready to play.”
Arena said he won’t be holding anyone back Thursday. The Galaxy have no MLS game this weekend – they don’t return to regular season action until Sunday, March 17 against Chivas USA – so there should be no danger of player fatigue.
“We’re going to go with our best team,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be a challenging competition.”