SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – The LA Galaxy had already punched their ticket to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, but thanks to a shocking 4-0 defeat against Isidro Metapan on Thursday, they’ll face Liga MX side Club Tijuana to start the tournament’s knockout rounds
Prior to Thursday’s loss, the Galaxy could have faced the San Jose Earthquakes, Sporting Kansas City, Alajuelense or Arabe Unido with victory or draw in El Salvador, but the margin of defeat against Metapán caused them to fall to the sixth seed and earn a date with the 2012 Liga MX Apertura champions. The Xoloitzcuintles advanced to the quarterfinals as the winners of Group 7 with 10 points.
The series in early March will be the first competitive contests between the two clubs, who have faced off twice before in friendlies with two sides playing to a 2-2 draw in San Diego in 2010 and LA earning a 6-2 win at home over a Tijuana reserve side in February 2013.
“It makes for a great matchup next year with Tijuana. It’ll be a lot of fun. That’s a great match up for us. I’m excited for that,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena after LA’s defeat at the Estadio Cuscatlán. “It’s a great matchup. That’s exciting for our team next March. That’ll be great for our fans and the Tijuana fans.”
Whereas travel in the Champions League typically consists of long charter flights to distant locales, a date with Tijuana is something much different. Less than three hours away, Tijuana allows the Galaxy flexibility of travel when planning their trip, but it will also provide LA fans the chance to make the trip down the I-5 freeway to the place affectionately known by locals as “TJ.”
Tijuana won’t be an easy opponent for LA however as the Xolos boast an impressive squad that includes three U.S. internationals in Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona and former Galaxy star Herculez Gomez as well as former Galaxy Academy player Paul Arriola. The Americans aren’t Tijuana’s only weapons as they boast Mexican international Fernando Arce and flashy Ecuadorian attacker Fidel Martinez amongst others.
“It’ll be a big game. Tijuana has been a good team for several years and we’re going to need to be prepared for the next round,” midfielder Juninho said after Thursday’s loss. “The result in Metapán was complicated, but Tijuana will be another tough test for us.”
The task of beating a Mexican team is certainly a tall order for the Galaxy as only one MLS team (Seattle Sounders FC in the 2012-13 quarterfinals) has ever defeated a Liga MX side in a two-leg series . However even after the defeat on Thursday in El Salvador, Galaxy are hungry for the challenge that awaits them next spring when the tournament resumes.
“It doesn't really matter who you play,” A.J. DeLaGarza said. “You've got to beat three teams to win the entire thing, so I don't think it matters where you start. ... We've just got to play well next year and win it.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com