ALAJUELA, Costa Rica – Had things gone differently in Morelia a week ago, Wednesday’s match at Alajuelense (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer) might be just another date on the fixture list for the LA Galaxy. Instead, it's a massive clash that could determine both teams' continental future.
The Galaxy could have had nine points – or even seven – and could be sitting in a much different position. Instead, the club is even with Morelia and Alajuelense on six points and will enter their match at Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto with a bit more pressure than they would have otherwise.
Having had the experience of playing a CONCACAF Champions League match on the road, the Galaxy now know what to expect.
“There was a lot thrown at us [in Morelia] in different ways as far as them, the officiating, the atmosphere – there were a lot of things that went on,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said on Tuesday. “It’s a good learning experience if we apply it tomorrow in San José and then in October against Motagua. We’ve got to make sure we learn from it.”
One major difference from a week ago will be the presence of David Beckham. The former England captain did not make the trip to Morelia but is with the club here, as is goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
While the Galaxy will play a league match in Columbus on Saturday, head coach Bruce Arena said he wouldn’t look ahead to the Crew match when planning for Wednesday’s tilt.
“We’re just focused on this game and this team,” he said. “We’re not trying to forecast a whole lot of stuff down the road. If you ever think that people do all of this elaborate planning, then they don’t always know what they’re doing.”
Beckham was unable to play in Morelia in part because of how he came out of the match against Colorado a few days earlier after taking a hard fall. The star midfielder appeared much better against Vancouver this past Saturday, and that also plays a role in how long he’ll be on the pitch against Alajuelense.
“You have to just see your players react after every game and the lead up to that game, as well as whether or not they’re up to playing,” Arena said. “In David’s case, we think that he’s in much better shape this week than last week, so we think that he’s capable of playing.”
Alajuelense have lost just one of their three Champions League matches, a 2-0 setback at the Home Depot Center. Beckham had a hand in both goals, sending a free kick into the box that Omar Gonzalez buried, and then distributing a ball out to Sean Franklin, who crossed it in to Chad Barrett to finish the play for the second goal.
The match Wednesday will probably be a bit of a different challenge.
“This game is going to be a little different for a lot of reasons,” Donovan explained. “They traveled to play us last time. I don’t think their travel was nearly as pleasant as ours was. You could tell that took a toll on them. They’re going to be rested, they’re going to be ready, they’re going to be excited. It’s going to be a much different game. I think we’re still confident that this is a team that we’re good enough to beat.”