Rest pays off as Galaxy open CCL campaign on right foot

Adam Cristman celebrates his goal on Motagua.

Photo Credit: 
German Alegria/LA Galaxy

CARSON, Calif. — With nine days in between games, the LA Galaxy had time to properly prepare for Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League opener against Honduran side Motagua.

It showed.

Buoyed by proper rest and recovery following a rapid-fire pace of games the club had in July, the Galaxy played with high energy and intensity against Motagua and came out with 2-0 victory over the Hondurans in the Group A opener for both sides at the Home Depot Center.

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“As the game wore on, you could tell we were the fresher team,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “We had 10 days off, they played on Saturday and had to travel so I think we just wore them out over 90 minutes.”

Adam Cristman and Donovan accounted for the goals as the Galaxy took an early lead atop the Group A table. If there were any complaints, it was that LA could have scored several more goals and won by a wider margin.

“We started off on the right foot,” Galaxy defender Sean Franklin said. “We could have had a couple more chances to get that third or fourth goal. On the night, we got three points, we got what we wanted.”

The Galaxy pressured Motagua and tested ‘keeper Donaldo Morales often but the goals were not falling for the hosts.

“If we’re a little bit better in front of the goal, it could have been 3-0 or 4-0,” Donovan said.

Still, Donovan said he was not worried about the match and figured the well-rested side would have an edge over the team that faced some fatigue issues.

“We thought they would give us space but they played strong,” Donovan said. “We knew that after 45 or 60 minutes, they would be tired because they played on Saturday, they had to travel here and we kept at it, kept at it and kept at it and got the second goal.”

The Galaxy had a busy stretch in July, having played four league matches, two World Football Challenge games and a US Open Cup affair. Toss in the two games the Galaxy played in the first six days of August and the club went through a 33-day stretch that saw them play nine games.

“We were a pretty tired group and having said that, I realize our opponent has had a very difficult week as well,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “All teams in the competition are going to have to deal with that.”

Motagua kept the Galaxy a bit unsettled at the start of the match.

“They came and put us under a little bit of pressure and we did a good job of getting out of it,” Donovan said. “The first goal was great. The passing was good and we exploited that space.”

On the goal, Juninho found A.J. DeLaGarza on the right side of the box, who slipped the ball to Cristman charging in front of the goal.

“In the early minutes of the game, our opponent came at us pretty hard and played pretty well in the first 15 minutes,” Arena said. “The goal maybe came a little bit against the run of play but after about 25 minutes I think our team played pretty well.”

Donovan gave the Galaxy some breathing room with a goal on the hour mark, when he trapped a cross from David Beckham with his chest, and smashed a point-blank shot into the back of the net.

The win gave :A three points. Coupled with Alajuelense’s 1-0 victory over Morelia in Costa Rica on Tuesday, the Galaxy are even on points with their next rivals. The win thus was important in helping set up the next match and the rest of the group.

“It is very important,” Donovan said of taking a victory over Motagua. “We know they beat Morelia and we will watch video to learn more about Alajuela, but when we start off with two games at home in this tournament, it’s important to get six points.”