CARSON, Calif. – Once the LA Galaxy complete their two-and-a-half hour journey to Tijuana, Mexico, they’ll look to do something that few teams have done over the last year: earn a result at the Estadio Caliente.
The Galaxy may be ahead on aggregate after their 1-0 victory over Club Tijuana on Tuesday in the first leg at StubHub Center, but the task that lies ahead of them is great.
The home ground of Club Tijuana has been a stronghold in recent years with the club having gone unbeaten in 18 of their last 19 league games at Estadio Caliente. The record has held true in continental competition as Tijuana went unbeaten during the Copa Libertadores and CONCACAF Champions League group play last year with a 5-0-2 home record in both competitions.
For all their success at home, Tijuana’s last home defeat came less than a month ago when they were trounced 3-0 at home by Liga MX bottom feeder Chiapas FC.
"There are few places in MLS that are as difficult as going to Tijuana so this will be a good test for us. Fortunately we've had a lot of guys who have played in games like this and know what they're doing,” said LA Galaxy forward Landon Donovan. “We expect they are going to throw everything at us, and we want that, we want a good test and a good challenge.”
Earning results away from StubHub Center was a hallmark of the Galaxy’s back-to-back MLS Cup winning sides in 2011 and 2012 with the team going 13-13-11 away from home over the span of two years. But in 2013, they were not the road warriors that they once were with a 4-10-4 record during MLS competitions.
For the Galaxy to reach the summit in league—and Champions League— winning on the road has become a priority, and what better way to start with an assault against one of North America’s greatest fortresses.
“What a way to start then going to Tijuana?” said defender Omar Gonzalez when asked about the team’s hope of improving their road form. “From what I’ve seen on TV, they’re loud, they’re right on top of you, and they never stop cheering. It’ll be tough, but a great test for us. We just need to stick to our game plan.”
Added Galaxy captain Robbie Keane, “After getting a good result in the first leg, it breeds confidence, but we’re under no illusions. It’s going to be a tough place to play especially on turf. It won’t be easy, but we have confidence after getting the result [in the first leg]. The most important thing was preventing the away goals because we’re very capable of going there [to Tijuana] and scoring goals.”
Whether LA can go into Tijuana and score still remains to be seen, but heading into the decisive second leg, the only certainly for LA is that the task ahead will be a massive challenge.
“It will be difficult,” said Donovan. “They hardly ever lose at Estadio Caliente. It will be difficult for us but we have an advantage and we are going to give it our all in order to advance.”