CARSON, Calif. –There is an old cliché in sports that says “to be the best, you have to beat the best” and the in the CONCACAF Champions League, the LA Galaxy have gotten themselves exactly that.
After confidently dispatching C.S. Herediano 4-1 on aggregate to become the fourth MLS side in league history to advance to the CCL Semifinals, the Galaxy earned a semifinal date with Monterrey, the two-time defending CCL champions. The Rayados (pinstripes) advanced to the semifinals for the third straight year with a dominating performance over Guatemalan side Xelajú winning 4-2 on aggregate.
Highlights: LA 4, Herediano 1
While they are currently in 11th place in the Toreno Clausura, two points out of a spot in the Liguilla, they have won the last two Champions League titles with wins over Real Salt Lake (2011) and Santos Laguna (2012).
“Monterrey has been the best club team in our region for a number of years now,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “They’re the best team; they’re the team to beat, so it’s going to be a very big challenge for our club.”
Monterrey boasts a full complement of stars including several international players such as Humberto Suazo (Chile), Walter Ayovi (Ecuador) and Neri Cardozo (Argentina) as well as established Mexican national team players Aldo De Nigris, Jesus Zavala and Severo Meza, among others.
“Everybody knows how hard the league is. Their teams always go to the finals in CONCACAF and we expect a very good game,” said midfielder Marcelo Sarvas. “It’s going to be a game that everyone knows to play, it’ll be very good game.”
Although LA know they’ll get a major challenge from Monterrey, the Galaxy are relishing the opportunity to take on a Mexican club.
“Monterrey's great,” said Mike Magee. “We've seen them do amazing in tournaments, and playing in Monterrey is extremely difficult. Our veteran players are going to have to step up, and we're going to have to have some amazing, amazing performances against them.”
“They’re the two time champs and you have to go through México if you want to win this tournament,” said defender Todd Dunivant. “So we have to go through México and so does Seattle so you couldn’t have it any other way, I suppose.”
When the two teams will face off remains a question mark, but the Galaxy will host the first leg at The Home Depot Center between April 2 and April 4 before the script flips to Estadio Tecnológico for the second leg, which will take place between April 9 and April 11.
Trips to Mexico have confounded MLS clubs for decades as just two MLS clubs (FC Dallas and Seattle Sounders FC) have picked up wins in Mexico. But there is a ray of hope as Seattle’s win came against Monterrey in the group stages of the 2011-2012 tournament.
However, does the success that Mexican clubs have had against MLS teams mean that LA must carry a lead when they travel south of the border?
“You don’t have to. You’d like to. It’s 180 minutes and that’s what the way we look at it,” said Dunivant. “We’re not going to be desperate to go forward. We realize that it’s a two leg series and we’ve done well in those series in the last couple of years.”
But before the Galaxy can start thinking about the two-time defending CCL champions, LA have plenty of work to do.
“We have Chivas on Sunday, we have Colorado [the following weekend] and then Toronto [the weekend after that],” said defender Omar Gonzalez. “There's three more games before we can even start thinking about Monterrey.”
During that time, however, the Galaxy expect to become fully abreast on the tendencies of Los Rayados.
“We have two more weeks to figure that out,” said Dunivant.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com