Landon Donovan couldn't make it back from his sprained ankle, but the LA Galaxy were just fine without him Wednesday night. They put Cartaginés away in the first half-hour, cruising into the CONCACAF Champions League knockout stage with a 3-0 victory in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Jack McBean nodded the Galaxy ahead in the sixth minute, Chandler Hoffman netted his first pro goal in the 18th, and Laurent Courtois scored another beauty in the 29th as Bruce Arena's reserve lineup schooled the Costa Ricans in its most complete performance of the tournament, posting the team's third successive CCL shutout.
The Galaxy needed just a draw to win Group 8 and claim their third successive CCL quarterfinal berth. They're the second team to win a spot in next year's knockout phase – Club Tijuana won Group 7 last week – and join Cruz Azul and Toluca as the only 3-0-0 sides in the competition. Cartaginés finished the tournament with a 1-2-1 record.
The result makes academic LA's last group stage game, Oct. 24 at El Salvador's Isidro Metapán (0-2-1), enabling them to focus entirely on their MLS regular-season finale three days later at Seattle, a match that could have huge implications on the Western Conference playoff race.
Donovan, sidelined since spraining his left ankle a week and a half ago, traveled to Costa Rica but didn't make the starting XI nor the bench in what the club called a game-time decision. Arena teamed McBean and Hoffman up top, gave Colin Clark his first CCL appearance for LA, used Pablo Mastroeni in central defense (with Kofi Opare suspended), and used rookie Homegrown Player Oscar Sorto, making his competitive debut, at right back.
The Galaxy were in charge from the start, with Michael Stephens and McBean driving forces behind their attack in the opening minutes.
The teen McBean, who scored three goals in last year's CCL group stage, provided the early lead from a free kick he won just to the right of Cartaginés' box. Rafael Garcia chipped in a short cross into the middle, and McBean beat Andrés Flores to powerfully head it past goalkeeper Luis Torres.
LA doubled their lead six minutes after that with a superb sequence. McBean, on the right flank, held off two defenders and then split them with a little pass to Stephens, who whipped a ball into the goalmouth. Hoffman, who made his competitive debut for LA in last week's CCL victory over Metapan, took a subtle touch to redirect the ball into the net.
The Galaxy erased any remaining doubt in the 29th minute, when a loose ball came to Courtois about a dozen yards outside Cartaginés' box. He stepped forward into open space, then ripped a left-footed shot past a diving Torres on the bounce and into the right-side netting.
Cartaginés had nearly a half-dozen opportunities in the final 20 minutes, but just three on frame: Free kicks by former Galaxy midfielder Paolo Cardozo in the 71st minute and Leandro Silva 10 minutes later, both snagged by Brian Rowe, and a Pablo Herrera's rocket from the right side that Rowe tipped over the bar in the 86th.
The Galaxy, fourth in the West, return to MLS action Saturday night at third-place Portland.
LA Galaxy 3, CS Cartagines 0
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Estadio Nacional – San Jose, Costa Rica
CONCACAF Champions League – Group Stage – Week Five
LA – Jack McBean 1 6’
LA – Chandler Hoffman 1 18’
LA – Laurent Courtois 2 29’
CSC – Pablo Herrera (Yellow Card) 63’
LA – Rafael Garcia (Yellow Card) 72’
CSC – Danny Fonseca (Yellow Card) 78’
LA Galaxy: Brian Rowe; Oscar Sorto, Tommy Meyer, Pablo Mastroeni©, Greg Cochrane; Rafael Garcia, Michael Stephens, Laurent Courtois (Marcelo Sarvas 77’), Colin Clark (Gyasi Zardes 82’); Chandler Hoffman, Jack McBean (Jose Villarreal 90’).
Subs Not Used: Brian Perk, Leonardo, Sean Franklin, Hector Jimenez.
CS Cartagines: Luis Torres; Andres Flores, Carlos Johnson©, Andres Sanabria, Esteban Sirias; Eduardo Valverde (Erick Scott 34’), Danny Fonseca, Pablo Herrera, Paolo Cardozo (Leandro Silva 79’), Paolo Jimenez (Brayan Lopez 66’); Randall Brenes.
Subs Not Used: Wardy Alfaro, Giovanni Clunie, Felix Montoya, Randall Alvarado.
Referee: John Pitti (PAN)
Referee’s Assistants: Daniel Williamson (PAN) and Rey Mendoza (PAN)
4th Official: Roberto Moreno (PAN)