The LA Galaxy have long stated that their aim is to be the top club in their region and success in the CONCACAF Champions League is an important part of that goal.
Despite winning the competition in 2000, since the tournament was rebranded to the Champions League in 2009, the Galaxy have only reached the semifinal round once.
The Galaxy will begin their 10th ever participation in the tournament this Thursday when they host Trinidadian side Central FC. Before the Galaxy begin their latest run to be crowned the top club in North America, let’s take a look back at the club’s history in the competition:
CONCACAF Champions’ Cup
In their first-ever foray in CONCACAF competition, the Galaxy set a tone for success that has resonated in each participation since.
The Galaxy qualified for the 1997 edition of the Champions Cup by downing Mexican power Santos Laguna 4-1 in a one-game playoff at the Rose Bowl which earned them a berth to the 1997 Champions Cup tournament at RFK Stadium. Los Angeles powered through the tournament first defeating Salvadoran club Luis Ángel Firpo 2-0 in quarterfinals and then avenging their 1996 MLS Cup defeat by dispatching D.C. United 1-0 in a semifinal contest.
Unfortunately, the Galaxy saw their quest for a title come to an end in the final against Mexican giants Cruz Azul. Los Angeles took an early lead thanks to an Eduardo Hurtado brace, but La Maquina roared back with three goals late in the first half and then two in quick succession from future Galaxy player Carlos Hermosillo to eventually down the Galaxy 5-3.
After an impressive run to the final a year earlier, the Galaxy fell short at the first hurdle in 1999.
Finding themselves once again in a playoff play-in game after winning the MLS Supporters’ Shield a year earlier, the Galaxy hosted Mexican club Necaxa at the Rose Bowl. Ezra Hendrickson and David Oliva traded goals in regulation but the match soon went to penalty kicks where Necaxa ousted the Galaxy from the competition by winning the shootout 4-3.
The Galaxy earned their first continental title in club history when they won the 2000 edition of the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup.
The road was not an easy one as the Galaxy were taken to penalties in the first two stages of the competition. In the quarterfinals, the Galaxy triumphed over Real España 5-3 in the shootout after a scoreless 120 minutes. Penalties were on the docket once again in the semifinals against D.C. United. LA’s Greg Vanney and United’s Marco Etcheverry scored in regulation but the Galaxy once again advanced by beating D.C. 5-3 in penalty kicks.
In Los Angeles’ second-ever trip to the final, the Galaxy took on Honduras side CD Olimpia at the famed Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Ezra Hendrickson played the hero for the Galaxy as the Caribbean born forward tallied a brace as LA defeated the Honduran club 3-2 and lifted the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup.
The Galaxy re-entered the tournament in 2003 only to see the format changed as CONCACAF had chosen to expand the tournament to 16 teams while also instilling a home-at-home two-leg format for all four rounds.
The defending MLS Cup champions cleared their first obstacle by narrowly defeating CD Motagua of Honduras. The two sides they played to a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Honduras, but a late goal from Alexi Lalas was all that Los Angeles needed in the second leg to advance 3-2 on aggregate.
In the quarterfinal round, the Galaxy were not as lucky against old nemesis Necaxa. In the first leg at Fullerton’s Titan Stadium, the Mexican side flattened the Galaxy by earning a 4-1 result. The match was far more competitive in the second leg as LA took an early lead but eventually fell 2-1 to Los Rayos, dropping the series by a 6-2 aggregate score.
The Galaxy returned to the competition in 2006 after winning MLS Cup but the tournament will always be remembered for far more than on the field matters.
Los Angeles’ quarterfinal first leg against Costa Rican power Deportiva Saprissa was a drab match as the two teams played to a scoreless draw at StubHub Center. The second leg was a dramatic affair as the Galaxy took an early two-goal lead thanks to tallies from Josh Gardner and Landon Donovan but Saprissa roared back with two second-half goals to force extra-time. In extra-time, Saprissa found their goal as Rynaldo Parks scored to give the Costa Ricans a 3-2 victory on aggregate.
On the flight back from Costa Rica, tragedy struck as Galaxy club president and general manager Doug Hamilton suffered a heart attack. Although attempts were made to revive the three-time MLS Executive of the Year, Hamilton could not be resuscitated. He was 43 years old at the time.
CONCACAF Champions League
The LA Galaxy entered the rebranded CONACAF Champions League for the first-time in 2010 after advancing to the MLS Cup final one year prior.
Despite boasting a team that eventually went on to win the 2010 MLS Supporters’ Shield, the Galaxy’s campaign ended early at the hands of lower division side Puerto Rico Islanders. Unbeaten at home in eight matches, LA entered the tournament as heavy favorites but stunningly dropped a 4-1 result to the Islanders at StubHub Center. In Puerto Rico, the Galaxy’s fortunes did not improve as the club only earned a 2-1 result, which was not enough to overturn their early deficit, giving the Islanders a 5-3 aggregate win.
LA’s trip to Caribbean had consequences off the field as well as head coach Bruce Arena contracted Dengue fever in Puerto Rico that forced him to miss a league match against the New York Red Bulls.
Determined to rebound after their humiliating defeat to the Puerto Rico Islanders a year earlier, the LA Galaxy put forth a strong run in the 2011-12 competition. With the rebrand of the competition came another format change as CONCACAF added an opening stage that included four groups with the top two teams advancing to the knockout stages.
The group stage proved to a battle royale between the Galaxy, Mexico’s Monarcas Morelia and Costa Rican side Alajuelense. All three teams soundly defeated Honduras’ CD Motagua each time while winning their own home games against the top three opponents. The results meant that all three teams finished level on 12 points with identical records, forcing CONCACAF to resort to the head-to-head goals tiebreaker, which favored the Galaxy and allowed them to finish top of the group.
In the quarterfinals, the Galaxy were favorites against fellow MLS side Toronto FC but once again could not live up to expectations. TFC earned a 2-2 draw in a frantic match played in front of a raucous crowd of 47,658 at the Rogers Centre. Buoyed by their result at home, Toronto stunned the Galaxy at home picking up a 2-1 victory in Carson to seal the series 4-3 on aggregate.
The LA Galaxy made their deepest run in the continental tournament since 2000 during the 2012-13 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Drawn alongside Salvadoran club Isidro Metapan and Puerto Rico Islanders, the Galaxy breezed through the group stage going undefeated in all four matches. C.D. Herediano of Costa Rica proved a stiffer test in the quarterfinals but not by much. The two sides played to a scoreless draw in the first leg, but LA soundly defeated the Ticos 4-1 in the second leg at StubHub Center.
The Galaxy saw their tournament run end in the semifinal round against eventual champion C.F. Monterrey. In the first leg in Southern California, LA took an early lead on a rare goal from A.J. DeLaGarza but the reigning back-to-back CCL champions struck back in the final eight minutes to win 2-1. Bruce Arena’s side tried to claw their way back into the series in the second leg down in Mexico but a late tally from Monterrey’s Aldo de Nigris ended LA’s comeback hopes, and gave the Rayados a 3-1 aggregate victory.
In the 2013-14 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League, the LA Galaxy once again made quick work of their opponents in the group stage but were unable to advance past the quarterfinals.
The Galaxy easily got through their group by winning their first three matches against Isidro Metapan and Cartaginés. With three wins, LA looked destined to lock down a high seed for the knockout rounds but a crushing 5-0 defeat at the hands of Metapan in their final group stage game caused LA’s seeding to freefall setting up a difficult quarterfinal match against Liga MX side Club Tijuana.
The Galaxy triumphed 1-0 in the first leg at StubHub Center due to an 11th minute tally from Brazilian forward Samuel. However their advantage quickly evaporated at Estadio Caliente in Tijuana as Xolos found the back of the net three times in the opening 28 minutes to take a 3-1 aggregate lead heading into the second half. Robbie Keane scored in 47th minute to give LA a glimmer of hope but a Richard Ruiz finish in the 82nd minute ended the Galaxy’s prospects. Keane added a consolation goal three minutes later but it was ultimately not enough as Tijuana advanced to the semifinals 4-3 on aggregate.