CRASH THE BUNKER
Defensive play is the name of the game for many Central American teams when they face MLS opposition in the CONCACAF Champions League and the game plan for Isidro Metapán appears to be no different.
From the opening kickoff, expect the Salvadoran club to pack the midfield by dropping players behind the ball in order to limit potential opportunities going forward for the Galaxy. This puts the onus on the Galaxy midfield to provide effective service for forwards Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan allowing them to get behind the Metapán back four and test Metapán goalkeeper Fidel Mondragón.
If LA can find a way to grab a goal, this would cause the Salvadorans to move out of their compact shape by spreading the field in search of a goal, which could lead the Galaxy to even more opportunities and potentially a more flattering score line for LA.
SHUT DOWN THE COUNTER
Not only must the Galaxy deal with Metapán’s defense, but they must also be weary of the Salvadoran club going forward.
Despite being considered one of the most dynamic offensive clubs in El Salvador, Metapán are not expected to try to attack the Galaxy directly, but rather attempt to sit back and attempt to hit LA on the counter. This could cause some dangerous moments for LA as Metapán are particularly skillful in midfield, as well as on the left flank where they look to create chances for forward Nicolás Muñoz, who tallied three goals during their 3-1 victory over the Puerto Rico Islanders in their CCL group stage debut.
For the Galaxy to counteract the Salvadorans’ flank play, they will need steady play from outside backs Sean Franklin and Todd Dunivant, who must attempt to limit the space and crossing opportunities for Metapán’s quick wingers.
MATCH THEIR INTENSITY
For Metapán’s players on Thursday the chance to come up against the Galaxy brings an added significance to the match—beyond simply winning or losing.
In the eyes of the Metapán players, a good showing against the Galaxy’s array of stars could leave a good impression in the eyes of foreign coaches and even potentially an offer to play in a superior league. A situation that the Metapán players hope mimics that of Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas, who helped earn his contract with LA after impressing in the CCL with Costa Rican club Alajuelense.
With Metapán playing with a little extra motivation, the Galaxy must raise their intensity in order to ensure that they come out on top on Thursday.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider