CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy aren't too familiar with Isidro Metapán, their opponent in their CONCACAF Champions League opener Thursday night (10 pm ET, FOX Soccer), but they do know this: They must be wary of the Salvadorans.
Isidro Metapán have played in every edition since the competition switched to the current format four years ago – they knocked off two Mexican champions in a quarterfinal run in the last go-around – and they already have three points after knocking off the Puerto Rico Islanders, 3-1, in the Group 5 opener three weeks ago.
“I don't know a whole lot about Metapán ... but I know they're [one of] the top teams in El Salvador at the moment,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena (above) said this week. “Obviously, they did a good job in the opening game in our group. It's obviously a good team that we'll be facing.”
They might have to do so without captain Landon Donovan, who suffered a hamstring strain early in last week's US victory over Mexico at Estadio Azteca and says he's “gonna see how it is [Thursday] and go from there. Just play it by ear and hope I can contribute tomorrow.”
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The Galaxy aren't worried about it – if he can't play, then they feel comfortable enough filling his role – but they understand the task at hand: It's essentially a must-win, especially with just one quarterfinal berth available for three Group 5 teams, and increased production could be vital for quarterfinal seeding purposes.
“We've always respected teams like [Metapán]," David Beckham said Wednesday. "They [have] a good team unit, and we know enough about them to know we have to play well to win the game.”
Isidro Metapán are second in El Salvador's Liga Mayor, behind Alianza on goal difference with a 3-1-2 record, and have a potent attack led by Panamanian international Nicolás Muñóz, who scored all three goals against Puerto Rico and has tallied in four of six league games.
The lineup also includes three former Major League Soccer players: midfielders Eliseo Quintanilla (D.C. United) and Ramón Sánchez (San Jose), and defender Alfredo Pacheco (New York).
Galaxy assistant coach Curt Onalfo, who scouted Metapán, told his club's blog that he was impressed by the Salvadorans' midfield, their abundance of left-footed players and that “they're a team that know how to play at home and on the road.”
The expectation is that Metapán will look to keep at least 10 players behind the ball, clog up all the space and toil for a share of the points. The Galaxy are ready.
“I certainly think that probably will be the case,” said forward Robbie Keane. “It's a good test for the players, because we're going to come up against teams like that also in the league. It's good we know how to deal with that, how to break teams down.”