SAN JOSE, Costa Rica— As the LA Galaxy enter the final stretch of the schedule every game and every point is vital, and that’s no different this week as they hit the road in search of six points.
First on the docket is their CONCACAF Champions League match against C.S. Cartaginés at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica. A draw in Central America will allow the Galaxy to clinch Group 8 and advance to the CCL Quarterfinals, for the third straight year, with a match to spare. After their match in Costa Rica, LA will have to turn the page quickly as they take on the Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field on Sunday afternoon.
Leaving the friendly confines of StubHub Center for capricious environs that the Champions League provides is always a challenge and the Galaxy expect no different against Cartaginés.
“These games are tough,” said midfielder Michael Stephens. “Look at last year, we got big results at home [in Champions League] and then once we went on the road it wasn’t nearly as easy.”
Although you never know what to expect when traveling in the CCL, the Galaxy do their utmost to minimize any issues when it comes to travel. Stephens, a veteran of LA’s continental trips, admits that the club’s ability to utilize charter flights proves to be major benefit as they prepare unpredictable CCL matches and conditions.
“Travel wise is pretty good,” said Stephens. “We get to charter, which takes a couple hours off the flight and besides that, it’s not anymore different than traveling to the East Coast.”
The immediate priority may be placed on the Champions League—and rightfully so—but the Galaxy understand that with two matches on the calendar this week, they’ll need utilize their entire squad once again. Much as they did last week when Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena rolled out a reserve-laden lineup during their 1-0 victory over Isidro Metapán, in order, to allow first team players to focus on their eventual 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders FC.
“It’ll be similar to last week. Last week, we saw that we played most of our reserves and got the result so that if we have to do that again then we’re going to do it,” said Stephens.
First things first however, the Galaxy must get the result necessary to advance to the quarterfinals.
“The quicker that we can solidify that point, the easier that it will be on everyone’s minds. I think that’s the focus. The most important game that we have this season is Wednesday,” said midfielder Pablo Mastroeni. “We need to have the right mentality and team sprit to get the result like we know that we can.”