TIJUANA –The LA Galaxy know that the storm is coming.
And how they weather that onslaught may determine if they’re going to advance past Club Tijuana in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Up a goal on aggregate against Club Tijuana in their CCL quarterfinal series, the Galaxy will face a desperate Xoloitzcuintles side eager to overturn the result at the Estadio Caliente where they are unbeaten in 17 of their last 18 league matches.
Tijuana head coach Cesar Farias’ teams are well-known for their attacking prowess and with the Xolos needing to score, the Galaxy understand that weathering the early onslaught will be vital.
“We have to soak up everything as quick as possible and try to get used to the surroundings with the atmosphere and the [artificial-turf] field,” Keane who has scored once in two CONCACAF Champions League matches in Mexico told reporters at a press conference on Monday. “Certainly the first 15 to 20 minutes they'll want to come out and press us and try to play with high intensity. That's something we certainly have to be aware of.”
Tijuana’s high pressure game will be aided by what is expected to be a full-strength Xolos squad that rested eight starters in their weekend defeat to fellow CCL quarterfinalist Cruz Azul. Farias will also likely be able to call upon playmaker Fernando Arce, who has been sidelined with an injury in recent weeks.
LA will need to be mindful of the Tijuana native but the Galaxy affirm that they cannot simply sit back for 90 minutes—and possibly more— on Tuesday.
“It's only halfway through the competition. A goal in our favor would go a long way to helping us advance,” said head coach Bruce Arena. “We know the importance of that. We don't anticipate being defensive for 90 minutes. We need to get a goal, we know that.”
And while some players shrink to the challenge posed by the ferocious crowd at Estadio Caliente and the game’s massive stakes, Keane is not fazed.
“You look for these challenges as a player,” said Keane. “You want to be put in difficult situations, because that's why we play the game, to be put in difficult situations and try to resolve them, to get out of them.”
“This competition is very important for our club so it’s very important for us to advance as far as possible and ultimately try and win the thing,” Keane added. “It’d be great for the Galaxy. It’d be great for American football so that’s something that we’re going to strive to do.”