Galaxy win in Puerto Rico, but can't produce miracle
The Los Angeles Galaxy claimed a 2-1 victory at the Puerto Rico Islanders in a CONCACAF Champions League match Wednesday, but the result was not nearly enough to send the MLS club through to the group stage.
Puerto Rico claimed the total-goals series with a 5-3 win after having all but wrapped up the series with a 4-1 win over Los Angeles a week ago at Home Depot Center.
Puerto Rico advance to Group D while the Galaxy are now the only MLS team to have failed to win their qualifying series. Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC each won a spot in the group stage with draws in Central America on Tuesday.
The Galaxy fielded a strong lineup. Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts reclaimed the starting spot after backup Josh Saunders was unable to turn away Puerto Rico's attempts in Southern California a week ago.
Needing a four-goal victory to claim a spot in the group stage, the Galaxy came out with a bit of urgency. Tristan Bowen had a dangerous attempt early on as the Galaxy put the hosts on their heels.
However, the Islanders nabbed the first goal in the 33rd minute and seemed to breathe easier afterward. Galaxy forward Edson Buddle was whistled for a foul inside the box when he knocked down Puerto Rico's Marco Velez in the penalty area. David Foley knocked the ball past Ricketts and the Islanders took a 5-1 aggregate lead.
But the Islanders once again gifted the Galaxy a goal. Velez saw a bouncing ball go off him and into the Islanders net. The Galaxy's only goal at home was also product of an Islanders own goal.
Landon Donovan nearly helped the Galaxy get another goal before the break. Donovan was unmarked and had a free header on goal, but Islanders 'keeper Bill Guadette made a diving save. Donovan got to the rebound but his attempt rolled harmlessly across the goal mouth and over the end line.
The Galaxy had a pair of chances early in the second half but were unable to convert. The visitors had the better of play throughout the second half as their desperation grew, and the club was rewarded with a late goal. Sean Franklin found a ball inside the penalty area with his back to the goal. He steadied, turned and finally beat Gaudette.
But the goal, which came in the 84th minute, was much too little for the Galaxy to come all the way back from and the top team in MLS was eliminated from the tournament, ensuring not all five Major League Soccer clubs would participate in the CONCACAF Champions League.