CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy just may have learned their lesson.
A year after being bounced from the MLS Cup Playoffs and the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals in large part due to poor game management, the Galaxy were clinical in their 1-0 victory over Club Tijuana in the first leg of the CCL quarterfinals on Wednesday.
After going up 1-0 thanks to a goal from Brazilian forward Samuel, the Galaxy remained organized and withstood a Tijuana barrage in the second half to preserve the result.
"We wanted a one-zero, two-zero [or] three-zero [result] with two to three-zero [being] ideal, but we wanted to win the game first and foremost, and not concede goals,” said forward Landon Donovan. “Those two objectives were met. All and all it was probably a justified result, I don't think we created enough chances to score a second, but I think we are happy with how it went."
Whereas in their defeat to Real Salt Lake, the Galaxy were afforded numerous chances, opportunities came at a premium against the Mexican side who were able to contain the Galaxy attack despite the home side’s advantage in possession.
But it was the team’s shape on defense that proved most vital, as the Galaxy’s back line was able to stifle a late push by Tijuana and keep a clean sheet.
Although Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena admitted that the club is in a “good, but not great” position heading into the second leg, he was impressed with his team’s organization against the Mexican side.
“We said at half time that if anything, the zero remains there,” said Arena. “Our guys were smart enough not to concede anything. Last year against Monterrey, we were too aggressive trying to get a second goal and we opened ourselves up, and lost the game. Winning at home is important and keeping a clean sheet is very important.”
The job is far from complete however, as the Galaxy must now contain a desperate Tijuana side at what promises to be a rocking Estadio Caliente for the second leg. Success at home has been a hallmark of the Xolos over the last year with the club winning 18 of their last 19 league matches at home, but despite Tijuana’s impressive form, LA is confident heading into the all-important return leg.
"It will be difficult. Obviously, another goal would have benefited our team, but it's still nice going there with an advantage,” Arena said. “Not giving up an away goal is important and we are well aware of the fact that Tuesday will be a difficult game. We will be ready.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com