MONTERREY, Mexico— The LA Galaxy approached their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against C.F. Monterrey with confidence, but ultimately, their two goal deficit was just too steep to overcome as LA’s dreams of advancing to the CCL Finals ended at Estadio Tecnológico.
Aldo De Nigris scored the lone goal for Monterrey in a 1-0 victory on Wednesday as Los Rayados advanced to the CCL Finals for the third consecutive year, winning the series 3-1 on aggregate. For 80 minutes prior to the goal, the game was a measured affair as Monterrey dictated the tempo and prevented the Galaxy from generating many valuable chances.
In the end, however, it was LA’s breakdown in the final 10 minutes of the first leg at The Home Depot Center proved deadly.
“We may have lost this series in the last 10 minutes of the game in Los Angeles,” said head coach Bruce Arena during the postgame press conference. “We made it very difficult for ourselves and [Wednesday’s second leg] was always going to be hard because of the way that we played in the last 10 minutes last week. Having said that, Monterrey is an excellent team and deserving winners.”
Throughout the match, it was Los Rayados’ disciplined midfield shape and constant pressure on the ball that stifled the Galaxy attack. Repeatedly, just when it seemed LA had the run of play, a well-timed tackle or interception allowed Monterrey to control the impetuous of the match.
The knockout blow came in the 81st, just a minute after Arena had removed center back Leonardo for Jack McBean and switched to three at the back in a final attempt to throw numbers forward. This move created far greater space for Monterrey to operate and Cesar Delgado made the Galaxy pay with a run down the right flank before feeding a wide open De Nigris.
“They were just good,” said midfielder Mike Magee. “They were disciplined; it was pretty hard for us to get the ball out of our own end with the pressure that they continued to put on us. They didn’t sit back, credit to them and they made it extremely difficult for us to do anything.
For all their praise for Monterrey’s organization and class throughout the two leg series, the Galaxy were forced to leave Mexico fully aware that the tie was firmly in their hands, but their final touch eluded them.
“In a lot of ways, we actually feel like we were the better team for the majority of the series. In the critical moments, they made the plays and we didn’t and we’re at fault for that. To have only scored one goal with the chances that we had in these two games is disappointing,” said Landon Donovan. “That part, we have to be better at, but all in all, we played against a team with three or four times the salary that we have, with good players all over the field and I thought we played very well but, we just came up short.”
LA must now turn the page quickly as they immediately traveled from Monterrey to Texas for this Saturday’s match against the Western Conference’s top side FC Dallas. STANDINGS
“Now we have to pick ourselves up because we have another game on Saturday,” said captain Robbie Keane. “But that is the good thing about football. There is always another game.”
There will be another tournament appearance as well as the Galaxy will take part in the 2013-2014 edition of the Champions League later this summer.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com