CARSON, Calif. – Marcelo Sarvas still vividly remembers coming to Southern California two years ago as a member of LD Alajuelense to play the LA Galaxy in the CONCACAF Champions League and wanting to make an impression.
The Galaxy thought enough of him to sign the veteran midfielder in December of 2011. And it is for that reason why he expects Costa Rican side Cartagines to take the field with a little more spark than usual in Tuesday’s Champions League Group Stage match at StubHub Center (7 p.m., Fox Soccer Plus).
“I expect a team that’s going to come with a lot of energy. It was the same for me two years ago when I came here,” Sarvas said. “You want to show yourself to the Galaxy and look for new options.
“I expect a good game.”
The Galaxy, in Group 8 along with Cartagines and El Salvador’s Isidro Metapan (who also faced LA in the group stage of the 2012-13 Champions League), are ready to try their hand again in the competition. Earlier this year they advanced to the semifinals, where they were eliminated by Mexican giant Monterrey.
The Galaxy will be facing a team making its first-ever appearance in the Champions League. Cartagines opened group play with an impressive 4-2 victory away to Metapan on Aug. 8, thanks to three goals from Costa Rican international Pablo Herrera. Defender Andres Flores also scored on the night for Cartagines, who feature former Galaxy midfielder Paolo Cardozo, who was selected by the club in the first round of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft and won an MLS Cup championship with LA that season.
Galaxy coaches and players have watched video of their opponents, but admitted they know less about them than they do MLS opposition. However, having played Alajuelense in the Group Stage of the 2011-12 Champions League and knocking off Herediano in the quarterfinals of the 2012-13 competition, they are somewhat familiar with the way that most Costa Rican sides play.
“Costa Rican teams are very liberal in their way of play,” veteran midfielder Pablo Mastroeni said. “They’re not very structured but they’re very dynamic individually. They can cause a lot of problems one-on-one across the field, so it’s important for us to stay collectively organized, find gaps in the game and play forward as much as we can and set the tone.
“We’ve seen some video and they’re dangerous. Individually they like to isolate players one-on-one. We have to minimize those opportunities.”
Added head coach Bruce Arena, “We don’t know a whole lot about them, but I’m sure they’ll be a good team. They’re in the beginning of their club season and there’s not a whole lot of information. They had an impressive run last year to get here. We respect our opponent, but we obviously need to be more concerned about ourselves.”
Defender Sean Franklin said the Galaxy are anxious to take that next step in the competition.
“We want to get back to where we were last year and advance,” he said. “We were disappointed in how we went out last year in the semis. We’re excited to get this competition going and advance and be in the tournament next year.”