CONCACAF Champions League: Group 8 preview
Group 1 (HOU) | Group 2 (SKC) | Group 5 (MTL, SJ) | Group 8 (LA)
How they qualified: 2013 Costa Rican Torneo Verano runners-up
Coach: Javier Delgado (CRC)
Best Finish: First appearance (Champions League); winners (Champions' Cup, 1994)
Outlook: Cartaginés have one player who should be plenty familiar to the Galaxy: Uruguayan midfielder Paolo Cardozo, who played for both LA and city rivals Chivas USA during a two-year stint in MLS from 2011 to 2012. Elsewhere, Costa Rica international Pablo Herrera will be key in helping the team maintain midfield shape and has also chipped in offensively, coming away from the team's opening win over Isidro Metapán with a hat trick. Forward Randall Brenes, another Costa Rica regular, also figures to be an offensive threat.
Los Azules will be high in confidence after winning a shootout away from home to open their CCL campaign, and should prove the biggest threats to the Galaxy in terms of getting out of the group. However, considering the manner in which LA dispatched another Costa Rican side – Herediano – in the 2012-13 quarterfinals just five months ago, it's hard to imagine them pulling off the upset.
How they qualified: 2012 Torneo Apertura winners
Coach: Jorge Humberto Rodríguez (SLV)
Best Finish: Quarterfinals (2011-12)
Outlook: Coached by longtime Dallas Burn man Jorge Rodríguez (aka "El Zarco"), Isidro have been regular participants in the CCL, having taken part on every occasion since the tournament took its current format in 2008. They've only gotten out of the group stage once, but will be returning a number of experienced campaigners who are plenty familiar with the Galaxy after facing off against the back-to-back MLS Cup champs in last year's group stage.
Panamanian forward Nico Muñoz has been a wrecking ball at the domestic level and scored six of his side's seven goals in the 2012-13 CCL – good enough for the tournament's top scorer award despite having just one win to their name. The team lost Uruguayan playmaker Paolo Suarez (brother of Luis), but reinforced in attack with the signings of Puerto Rico international Hector Ramos and Brazilian forward Pericles Pinto. Former D.C. United man and experienced campaigner Eliseo Quintanilla is one of the more recognizable names in the squad and will offer Los Caleros some stability in midfield.
How they qualified: 2012 MLS Cup winners
Coach: Bruce Arena (USA)
Best Finish: Semifinals (2012-13); winners (Champions' Cup, 2000)
Outlook: After dropping a close semifinal series to Monterrey last time around, the Galaxy have a realistic chance of going one better and becoming the first MLS team since Real Salt Lake in 2010-11 to reach the final. Boasting one of the best rosters and best coaches in MLS, the Galaxy certainly have the depth, pedigree and talent to make another deep run, and at the very least, a third consecutive appearances in the tournament's knockout rounds.
The recent contract renewal for Omar Gonzalez and the signing of experienced Central American campaigner Jaime Penedo in net should put to bed most concerns about defense. The roster should be plenty deep enough to see the Galaxy to the group stages, and should Landon Donovan stay with LA in 2014, it could put the Galaxy over the edge in the knockout rounds, as opposed to the 2012-13 campaign when he was largely a non-factor having recently returned from his four-month leave.
This should handily be LA's group, even if Arena decides to play a mostly reserve lineup as he did last year. Cartaginés should offer some stiffer resistance than the Galaxy faced last year, but even a draw in Costa Rica should leave the Galaxy plenty comfortable. In short, it'd take a big shock for LA not to advance from this group.