CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy first-teamers who were left home to prepare for Sunday's regular-season finale against Seattle (6 pm PT; ESPN, LIVE CHAT) – and, really, for next week's playoff opener with Vancouver – sure enjoyed their young teammates' CONCACAF Champions League triumph at Isidro Metapán.
Teen striker Jack McBean provided two leads and Michael Stephens crashed the goalmouth to finish an 80th-minute rebound Thursday night to give the Galaxy a 3-2 victory in El Salvador, the No. 4 seed for next year's knockout stage and a quarterfinal date with Costa Rica's Herediano.
“It's an absolutely amazing result,” midfielder Mike Magee said following Friday morning training session at The Home Depot Center. “Going there with some guys who haven't necessarily been playing as much as they'd like to and get a result in a hostile environment after a lot of travel, hat’s off to those guys who won that for us.”
A messy field, heavy humidity and an intimidating crowd, more or less the norm in Central America, made for a tough encounter, especially for players who have so little experience in such circumstances. LA started six rookies or second-year players and brought another off the bench while using a reserve lineup, as they did in their CCL clashes with the Puerto Rico Islanders.
LA took two leads, watched Metapán rally each time, then survived a fervent push by the Salvadorans that, if not for key saves by goalkeeper Brian Perk, could have dropped the Galaxy into a slot opposite Mexican champs Santos Laguna next March.
“It was fun to watch, that's for sure,” Landon Donovan said. “I think it's hard when you go up a goal twice and get tied twice in a place like that – for a bunch of young guys who haven't been in a situation like that – to still have the fortitude to keep going and get the third goal. I was really impressed with that.”
Associate head coach Dave Sarachan, who stayed home with the first-teamers while Bruce Arena and Curt Onalfo traveled to El Salvador, said he saw “a lot of positives” in the game.
“Young players getting minutes in real games that matter, and unless you're there and you realize what you’re dealing with with the climate and everything, those are hard games,” Sarachan offered. “I was pleased we got the result, the young kids showed well, and it's just another notch on their belt and a lot of quality minutes that will pay dividends down the road.”
McBean, just 17, won plaudits from teammates. The still-growing finisher netted his second and team-best third goals of the competition – he now has four goals in four first-team appearances in two seasons – in his most influential performance as a pro.
“Jack's a strong kid,” David Beckham said. “He's so young, and he's fresh. It's good to see him getting goals and playing like he did.”
Said Sarachan: “Jack for a young kid may look like a baby giraffe at times, with his body flailing, but at the end of the day, he gets goals.”