CCL: Second straight win gives Galaxy room to breathe
CARSON, Calif. — With a 2-0 shutout of Costa Rican side LD Alajuelense on Thursday night, the LA Galaxy not only strengthened their hold on Group A of the CONCACAF Champions League, but they also followed through on a their goal of winning their first two matches of the tournament.
When the Champions League schedule was released, the Galaxy immediately honed in on their first pair of tilts. Both at the Home Depot Center, LA saw the games as must-wins for several reasons.
With three of the last four games are slated for hostile territory, the Galaxy made it an immediate goal to claim six points from those matches in order to take pressure off themselves, and followed through with that on Thursday.
“This is exactly where we wanted to be,” said Omar Gonzalez, who accounted for one of the Galaxy’s two tallies against Alajuelense. “We wanted to win the first two home games so we can kind of go there with a little bit of breathing room. We’ve done really well to get these six points.”
Gonzalez and Chad Barrett got the goals for the Galaxy on the night as LA moved three points clear of both Alajuelense and Morelia, who beat Motagua 4-0 earlier on the night.
Alajuelense didn’t go down quietly, though. They put up a good fight, stood toe-to-toe with the Galaxy, and made for some uncomfortable situations.
“Not an easy game, a good opponent, different kind of game than we’re used to, different qualities, the officiating is certainly different,” said LA head coach Bruce Arena. “A good experience for our group. For the most part, a number of players haven’t been through a lot of this. Overall we’re real pleased with the win. This is going to be a tough competition right through the end.”
Before the match, the Galaxy found out their league game on Sunday against New York was moved to Oct. 4 due to Hurricane Irene. Without a weekend match to prepare for, Arena was able to field his star players, like David Beckham and Gonzalez, who were originally slated to rest.
It did not matter much to Beckham though, who said he was already focused for the match.
“Bruce was going to rest a few players,” Beckham said, “… but I prepared anyway like I was playing.”
Fielding a strong lineup, the Galaxy took control of the game late in the first half when Beckham found Gonzalez on a corner kick. Gonzalez headed the ball into the back of the net, but didn’t hit it cleanly.
“I kind of gave that guy a little bump to free up some room,” Gonzalez said. “Actually, as the ball was coming in, I went to swing for it and it hit the back of my head and went in. A goal’s a goal, so I’ll take it.”
Barrett knocked in the game’s second goal when Sean Franklin slipped a ball across the goal mouth. Robbie Keane made a run to the near post and drew defenders towards him, allowing Barrett to waltz in and tap the ball across the line.
“It’s a great goal. Anywhere in the world, that’s a great goal,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “We’ll take that goal all day.”
The only blemishes came in the form of injury and cards. Gregg Berhalter left the game midway through the first half after he said he “stepped and felt something pop in my foot.” Further tests will be taken Friday to determine the severity of the injury.
Juninho was also sent off and will miss the match at Morelia. Additionally, Mike Magee, Donovan and Beckham picked up yellow cards and are suddenly in yellow-card peril. Beckham said he was surprised he did not join Juninho in the locker room.
“I expected another yellow card to, be honest, at some point because that’s the way the officiating had gone all night. It was a disgrace at times,” Beckham said. “That’s sometimes what you have to put up with in these competitions. It’s unfortunate, but the important part was we won the game.”