CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy know what stands between them and an MLS Cup title, and now they know the beginning of a path that could lead to international glory.
The Galaxy were matched up with Toronto FC in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal draw on Tuesday and will play a home-and-away series against their MLS brethren in March.
And while it was never going to be easy, there was one upside to drawing the Reds.
“Whoever we were going to draw wasn’t going to be an easy game,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena told MLSsoccer.com. “At least it’s a club we’re somewhat familiar with in Toronto, as opposed to a Salvadoran club.”
The Galaxy won Group A and advanced to the knockout round by virtue of a 4-2-0 record against Morelia, Alajuelense and Motagua. Since they couldn’t play group runners-up Morelia in the quarterfinals, they had three potential opponents – Toronto FC, Seattle Sounders and El Salvador's Isidro Metapán.
In Toronto FC, the Galaxy will face a club that overcame difficulties to advance out of Group C. Toronto won their first game, defeating Tauro FC in Panama by 2-1, but dropped matches to FC Dallas (1-0 at home) and Pumas UNAM (4-0 in Mexico City). The Reds then beat Tauro FC and tied Pumas at home before stunning FC Dallas with a 3-0 victory at Pizza Hut Park to claim the second spot in the group.
“Both teams are on a level playing field,” Arena said. “We know their team, there’s going to be changes to both teams in the offseason and it’s going to be what it is – playing in Toronto in March. They’re going to be a very difficult opponent. There’s no question about that.”
The first leg will be played in Toronto between March 6-8 with the return leg taking place at the Home Depot Center between March 13-15. Despite having competitive games before the start of the MLS regular season, the Galaxy won’t change their preseason around much, if at all, to accommodate for the series.
“I don’t think this competition changes a whole lot with what we’re doing,” Arena said. “MLS season next year, if I’m not mistaken, starts March 17 so we’re not that far off.”
Still, the Galaxy’s focus is not quite yet on preseason camp in January and February. There is, after all, the matter of trying to win the third MLS Cup title in club history.
“We’re going to get through this game the next couple of weeks and start zeroing in after that how we’re going to work the preseason,” Arena said. “We have a postseason tour in a couple of weeks. We have a lot of things we have to get accomplished. I think we’re going to put our preseason on the back burner.”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org