CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy trotted out a rare formation and filled every spot with reserve players Wednesday night, and it worked well enough to put them on the verge of a berth in next year's CONCACAF Champions League knockout stage.
Laurent Courtois scored in the sixth minute and the Galaxy were good enough defensively to keep El Salvador's Isidro Metapán off the scoreboard, taking command of Group 8 with a 1-0 victory in front of 6,211 at the StubHub Center.
The Galaxy (2-0-0) need only a draw next week against Cartaginés (1-1-1) in Costa Rica to advance to the quarterfinals for the third straight year. Metapán (0-2-1), who will be home against LA on Oct. 24, were eliminated.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, looking ahead to Saturday's Western Conference showdown with the Seattle Sounders, included just six starters in his 18-man game roster, and had all of them on the bench.
He used Rafael Garcia at right back, a position he's played in Reserve League matches, had Pablo Mastroeni anchor a three-man midfield with creators Courtois and Michael Stephens in front of him, and went with a young three-man frontline of Jose Villarreal, Jack McBean and Chandler Hoffman, who made his first first-team start for LA.
Courtois, whom the Galaxy acquired in July after he was released by Chivas USA, gave LA a quick lead with a first-time blast from the left side of Metapán's box that curled just inside the far post. Villarreal set up the shot after a throw-in from left back Greg Cochrane.
LA had opportunities to add to their advantage, but Metapán goalkeeper Henry Hernández leaped to parry a sharp Courtois shot from outside the box in the 19th minute and a Hoffman header from Mastroeni's cross in the 32nd minute, and center back Kofi Opare nodded the corner kick after Hoffman's miss over the crossbar.
Villarreal nearly tallied in the 53rd minute, firing off a low cross from Garcia that McBean and Hoffman let pass, but Hernández dived right to make the save. The Metapán 'keeper made a point-blank save on Zardes in the 87th minute.
Metapán attacked primarily through balls over the top, and usually through Nicolás Muñoz on the right, and LA's inconsistent defending, especially on headed balls, and giveaways in bad spots enabled the Salvadorans to find first-half opportunities.
Goalkeeper Brian Rowe made one big stop, diving to snag a Peraza shot, but the Salvadorans were unable to get off shots three times with possession and numbers in the Galaxy box – the most dangerous of these just before halftime, when defender Tommy Meyer blocked a Muñoz ball into the goalmouth and Rowe covered up off Muñoz's next touch at the right post.
Muñoz hit the underside of the crossbar in the 58th minute, but the offside flag was up, and he had opportunities in the goalmouth seven minutes later (he blocked his trail-foot shot with his lead foot) and in the 83rd minute (Opare halted his breakaway just inside the LA box).