CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy had their opportunities to put Monterrey on their heels throughout their first leg at The Home Depot Center, but allowed Los Rayados to stay in the match and ultimately defeat LA 2-1 on Wednesday night.
READ: Postgame Match Report
A.J. DeLaGarza’s deft finish off a buildup that included passes from Jose Villarreal, Robbie Keane and Mike Magee put the Galaxy ahead 1-0. As LA went up, they continued the pressure, but were unable to close the game with a second or even third goal.
Things began to unravel in the 61st when Brazilian midfielder Juninho needed to come off after picking up an injury. Less than 20 minutes later, Monterrey would strike first when Humberto Suazo cleaned up a rebound in front of Carlo Cudicini’s net to level the score before Aldo De Nigris nodded the game-winner past the Italian in stoppage time leaving LA to wonder what if.
“We actually played a very good game tonight. I think a little bit more experience and a little bit more quality; we win this game by a couple of goals, but we ended up losing,” said head coach Bruce Arena. “Credit to Monterrey for their quality and for playing a complete 90 minutes.”
LA may have collapsed, but the Galaxy showed plenty of signs that they could stand toe-to-toe with the Mexican side as they controlled the game’s breakneck pace for wide stretches of the match and forced goalkeeper Juan de Dios Ibarra to make four key saves.
However, the story will come down to unfinished chances as Robbie Keane, Sean Frankin and Landon Donovan each had chances to put LA ahead, but were unable to break through.
“I think that [the high tempo] was just being confident, being confident in ourselves and knowing that we have a good team out there and playing the way we want to,” said defender Omar Gonzalez. “We just need to make it into 90 plus minutes and I think we’ll have a better result. If we finish those other two chances, maybe it’s a different game.”
“We played 75 minutes and had them on their heels and could have scored a couple more goals and then gave up two cheap goals in the end and could have done better,” added DeLaGarza.
The late collapse not withstanding, Arena believes that there were plenty of lessons for the Galaxy to take from their poor finish against the two-time defending CCL winners.
“There are clear lessons for our team: the kind of concentration you need, the experience, the tactical understanding. You know, so what if we don’t get the second goal, we win the game 1-0. That’s it. So obviously, we didn’t do the job that we needed to do,” said Arena. “If we don’t concede, we walk away with a win tonight and position ourselves better to go into Monterrey. Now going into Monterrey is obviously going to be very difficult and that’s going to be our challenge.”
Heading into the second leg, the Galaxy fully understand their predicament. It’s time to simply dust themselves off, craft a new plan and look ahead to a crucial match in Monterrey where nothing short of a two goal victory will do.
“Simple as that, we have to win. Today we showed for 70 minutes, we were on top of them and created good chances. So why not? We’ve got to go into [Mexico] with the right mentality to try and win,” said Cudicini. “We don’t have to be afraid of nothing. Today we clearly showed that we can do a good job over there.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com