CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy stuck to their winning formula and rolled into the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League with a 4-1 victory over Costa Rica’s CS Herediano on Wednesday in front of the 8,284 at The Home Depot Center.
The game, highlighted by a header from Omar Gonzalez off a corner kick in the 18th minute and an impressive, left-footed blast by Jose Villareal that made it a 2-0 game in the 69th minute, featured another strong effort by an LA defense that has given up just one goal in three matches this season. Even more impressive is that the lone goal that LA have conceded, an 85th minute strike from a left-footed volley by Herediano’s Elias Aguilar, came with the Galaxy already leading 3-0 in the game and the series on Wednesday night.
“To have (given up) one goal throughout the first three games is great, although we really wanted the shutout tonight,” Gonzalez said. “I think that was a soft goal we gave up, poor marking in the middle.
“We should have gotten closer to the cross.”
Aside from that goal, the defense has been almost impenetrable. Todd Dunivant has been his usual steady self at left back while Omar Gonzalez has started all three games in central defense. A.J. DeLaGarza has started two of the three games at right back, allowing Sean Franklin to move into the midfield, with Leonardo making two starts alongside Gonzalez in the heart of LA’s defense. In the lone game that the fourth-year Brazilian did not start, last week’s 0-0 draw in Costa Rica, DeLaGarza partnered Gonzalez in the middle while Franklin started at right back, only for Leonardo to come on midway through the second half, moving DeLaGarza out right and Franklin into the midfield.
And behind them is 39-year-old goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, late of the English Premier League and lending plenty of much-needed experience.
“Right now we’re doing well,” DeLaGarza said. “We’re doing the little things right … except for that one goal.”
Added Gonzalez, “The defense has been playing very well. Everyone has a real good feeling for each other.”
Having a big hand in all of this has been Cudicini, who came over during the offseason in a free transfer from Tottenham Hotspur. It has been quite an adjustment period for the veteran goalkeeper, coming to a new country and getting used to new teammates, not to mention facing new teams in new competitions, but he has liked what he has seen from the Galaxy.
And his teammates have gotten more than they could ask for from the Italian veteran.
“I think he’s just added the experience and also vocally,” Gonzalez said. “He’s always chirping. He’s always telling us what to do and reminding us to get in the right position to put out fires before they even start.
“With that it makes the game a lot easier.”
Cudicini said the defense is a work in progress, although he admitted he has had few complaints.
“I’ve said before, it’s not a short process,” he said. “It takes time, games, training sessions. We’re just at the beginning, and hopefully it will be even better in the future. We cannot think that because we are a good team things will just come to us. We need to work hard.
“As you can see today, winning easily 3-0, we just switched off for a second and we concede a goal. We always want to keep 100 percent concentration.”