CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s hopes of qualifying for the next round of the CONCACAF Champions League rest in their hands after their scoreless draw with Santos Laguna on Wednesday.
In their first competitive game of 2016, the Galaxy looked to be the more dangerous side for stretches of their match against a Santos Laguna team already in the middle of their season. For all their pressure, particularly in the opening 45 minutes, the Galaxy were left empty-handed in the opening match of their Champions League quarterfinal series.
Despite not scoring at home, the Galaxy were pleased with their ability to keep Santos off the board and set-up a tantalizing rematch in Torreón on Tuesday.
“At the end of the day, you can’t concede at home because if they got an away goal, it'd be even harder for us to get one there,” midfielder Nigel de Jong said following his first 90-minute showing for the club. “We had hoped to get a win and had plenty of opportunities to do so, but we didn’t. The most important thing now though is that we can go to Santos with a clean mind and try to get the win there.”
“If we had scored a goal, it would have been a perfect result but we’ve been banging the drum all preseason about being solid defensively, and that is the base that we can be successful from,” added Galaxy midfielder Steven Gerrard. “We’re very pleased with the defensive side of the game, and now we just need to tweak the balance in the attack, and hopefully the game will come. This game is still in the balance. It’s 50-50 still.”
Los Angeles threatened to take control of the series in the first half when Jelle Van Damme, Emmanuel Boateng and Giovani dos Santos each had their chance to give the Galaxy the lead. LA’s attack waned in the second half as they struggled to create opportunities and ultimately could not take an advantage to Mexico.
On the opposite side of the ball, the Galaxy defense was rock solid with Dan Kennedy making three saves to keep the clean sheet. In front of the ‘keeper, the Galaxy back four were steady in limiting the Santos attack except for a brief period in the second half.
“If they had scored a goal tonight, the game totally goes in their favor. The idea was to stay in the tie and set us up to have a good shot at it next week,” said Gerrard. “This is a very dangerous game for them because they can’t concede a goal now.”
When 31,000 buzzing Santos Laguna fans are barreling down on the Galaxy at Estadio Corona next Tuesday, Robbie Keane is confident that his team’s experience will help Los Angeles carry the day in Mexico.
“When they’re playing in front of their fans, they’ll want [Santos] to come out and press and to score, and that actually might just play into our hands,” Keane said. “These are games that we’ve been used to all our careers. We’re used to playing in hostile atmospheres and Tuesday won’t be any different. Usually, players would be worried about [that match]; I think this team is relishing it.”