CARSON, Calif. – Arguably one of the biggest matches of the MLS regular season looms Saturday when the LA Galaxy host Seattle Sounders FC in a much-anticipated Western Conference showdown at StubHub Center.
But before turning their focus to the Sounders, the Galaxy will need to first deal with a return to play in the CONCACAF Champions League. LA will host El Salvador’s Isidro Metapan at StubHub Center (7 p.m., Fox Sports 2, Univision Deportes, 1330 AM, 1220 AM). In a game that could push the Galaxy to the top of Group 8.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena acknowledged the timing of Wednesday’s match certainly isn’t the best, but “it’s all part of it,” as he put it, after training Tuesday.
“It makes it a little awkward,” he admitted. “But Metapan’s playing games, we’re playing games. It makes it no different for us than it is for our opponent.”
Today’s game marks a rematch of sorts for the sides who also met in the group stage of the 2012-13 Champions League, with the Galaxy claiming a 5-2 win at home behind a pair of late goals from Juninho as well as individual tallies from David Beckham, directly from a corner kick, and Robbie Keane, who was later sent off. When the two sides met in late October in El Salvador, Jack McBean scored twice and Michael Stephens tallied the game-winner in the 79th minute as LA won 3-2.
Galaxy players watched film of the seven-time Salvadoran champion’s recent 0-0 tie with fellow Group 8 participant Cartagines – whom the Galaxy defeated 2-0 in their group opener on Aug. 20 -- and Stephens said he expects another tough time.
“They were good,” Stephens said about last year’s series. “The game we played at their place especially. It was a game we definitely could have lost. Here we were comfortable, but we also scored some late goals.
“We saw them play Cartagines, and you saw what trouble Cartagines gave us on our home field.”
Metapan will be playing short-handed, however. Defender Andres Flores will be unavailable because of injury, but the big news is the absence of defender Alfredo Pacheco and midfielder Eliseo Quintanilla, who were among those recently suspended by the Salvadoran soccer federation because of a match-fixing scandal.
A total of 22 players were implicated following raids in six cities.
Metapan, currently last in the group at 0-1-1 for 1 point (Cartagines is first at 1-1-1 for 4 points with the Galaxy second at 1-0-0 and 3 points), need at least a point in order to avoid elimination. Despite playing without the aforementioned trio, the Salvadoran side still feature a host of talented players, specifically top scorer Nicolas Munoz, who scored three times against the Galaxy last year en route to finishing as the joint top scorer in the CCL with six. As a result, Galaxy defender Sean Franklin said he expects nothing but the best from Metapan on Wednesday
“They’re a good team, we gotta be ready,” he said. “They’re not just going to give us the game.”