CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy learned their fate for the new-look CONCACAF Champions League group phase on Tuesday, but don't look for them to be offering any conclusions about it quite yet.
What is known is that the team will have little margin for error in its trips to El Salvador and the Caribbean if it is to replicate last year's group-stage success.
But is the draw that grouped them with Isidro Metapán of El Salvador and a to-be-determined Caribbean side a kind one or a challenging one?
“Only knowing one team in the draw right now, you can’t conclude how the draw is and we don’t know when we’re playing, where we’re playing,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “It’s rather incomplete at this point.”
The only thing that is certain with the Galaxy’s draw is that two of their four group games will come in the form of home and away matches against Metapán. The winners of El Salvador's 2011 Apertura tournament should be no strangers to MLS supporters – they beat out Colorado for second place in last year’s Group B as each team took turns beating the other on their home turf.
Isidro Metapán also lost to Seattle in a preliminary round series the tournament the year before and were in the same group as Houston in the 2009-10 edition.
As for the Caribbean squad, it will be one of Puerto Rico Islanders, Antigua Barracuda or Caledonia AIA or W Connection, the last two from Trinidad and Tobago. The four have reached the semifinals of the CFU Club Championship. Antigua will play Caledonia AIA in one semifinal while the Islanders and W Connection will meet in the other. The semifinal losers will play for third place on June 21 and the winner will be the Galaxy’s rivals.
That offers the possibility that LA might have another run-in with the Islanders, who play in the second-tier NASL and knocked LA out of the preliminary rounds in the 2010-11 edition of the tournament.
Still, the uncertainty of it all makes it not even worthwhile to Arena to discuss a possible strategy for approaching a three-team group.
“We don’t know who we’re playing, we don’t know when we’re playing, we don’t know where you’re playing and you’re asking how my planning is going,” Arena said. “Until we get some of that stuff, it’s hard to really get back in the lab and figure everything out. We’ll wait until we get more information to understand our approach to everything.”