CARSON, Calif. — Major League Soccer clubs have started the CONCACAF Champions League group stage on fire.
Entering the LA Galaxy’s match against Alajuelense on Thursday night (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer), MLS sides have compiled a 7-1-1 record after nine matches of the group stage. The only loss came because FC Dallas defeated fellow MLS side Toronto FC in Thursday morning’s rescheduled match.
“It says a lot about how far our league has come,” LA’s Landon Donovan said. “We have a long way to go, but it’s fun for us around the league to watch it. It’s encouraging and it makes us want to do our part, too.”
What has especially caught Donovan’s attention has been the first-ever wins that MLS teams have pulled out in Mexico. FC Dallas beat Pumas UNAM 1-0 last week while Seattle beat Monterrey on Tuesday.
“It’s fun to watch,” Donovan said. “The reality is, you look at a team like Monterrey with a payroll of — who knows? — $20, $25, $30, $40 million vs. a team with a $3 million payroll, it’s really impressive and especially when they’re traveling and winning there.”
LA will have their own chance of winning on Mexican soil for the first time when the club visits Morelia on Sept. 13, their third Champions League match. If the Galaxy can beat Alajuelense, they will head to Morelia with a group-best six points.
Thursday’s match will prove intriguing not just for the result. LA manager Bruce Arena will also have to juggle his players with an eye toward Sunday night’s nationally televised league match against the New York Red Bulls.
Arena has to shuffle his lineup with two massive games in the span of 72 hours. However, he says he has not made decisions over who to play and who to sit against Alajuelense and New York.
“We’re closer to knowing what we’re doing [Thursday] than we are on Sunday,” Arena said after Wednesday’s training session. “Sunday is going to be a reaction off of Thursday. We’re not playing 11 players against Alajuela and then 11 new players against New York. It’s going to be somewhat of a mix, what it is exactly I don’t know at this point.”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @RunnerLuis