MORELIA, Mexico – FC Dallas tossed Major League Soccer’s 800-pound gorilla off their collective back, and Seattle stomped it to death.
So after two MLS teams picked up historic victories against Mexican clubs on Mexican soil, surely Galaxy players are cracking their knuckles, ready to land another death blow on an unsuspecting Mexican club, right?
Not so fast, said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena.
“The results Seattle and Dallas got don’t help us because I think Morelia will come close to playing their full team,” Arena said ahead of Tuesday night's CONCACAF Champions League match here at Morelia (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer). “Dallas played against reserves and youth players and Seattle didn’t play against the full first team either. We’re going to play against the full team … we’re going to play against their best group.”
Morelia’s best group is capable of pulling out some results in difficult situations. After starting the season off with a win over Xoloitzcuintles of Tijuana, Morelia lost three consecutive matches before drawing Puebla and beating San Luis. This past weekend, though, Morelia beat Cruz Azul in Mexico City, which gives the club a bit more breathing room and time to focus on the Galaxy.
“Having gotten a result this weekend makes things a little easier because they were under a little pressure in the league,” Arena said. “They would have been thrilled to come home with a point and they got three. That takes a little pressure off them. They can say now that this week, this game is more important than the game we have on the weekend.”
Morelia cannot get away with anything but their best against the Galaxy.
“What’s happened in the past is that Mexican teams could field a B or a few members of their A team and some kids from the youth team, but now they realize that it’s just not good enough and they’re not going to win that way,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “With a big crowd showing up [on Tuesday], my guess is that they’ll bring as close to a full team as they can and they’ll be ready to go.”
Still, while Morelia may have been put on notice because of what happened earlier this year in other Champions League matches, the Galaxy’s job was always going to be a challenge.
“It’s always been a difficult thing for US teams to come into Mexico and get wins, and just this year you’ve started to see that breakthrough with Dallas and Seattle getting wins,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said. “Hopefully we can follow suit, and hopefully that barrier is coming down a little bit.”
Part of Morelia’s reaction to the losses suffered by Pumas UNAM and Monterrey may be to take this match as serious as a league game and field the team’s strongest unit. Regulars or not, moving players in and out of the lineup won’t be an advantage one way or another.
“Whoever they bring out, we’ve done scouting — but we don’t know their first, second team and they don’t know ours,” Dunivant said. “It’s all new on the night, so we have to go ahead and do our job. We can’t really worry about that."
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com