CARSON, Calif. – Their late collapse in last week's CONCACAF Champions League showdown with Monterrey has left the LA Galaxy with a monumental challenge. They must score at least two goals and beat the two-time defending champions in Wednesday's semifinal second leg to have any chance of reaching the title series and keeping alive hopes of playing in the FIFA Club World Cup.
The equation would have been far simpler had LA held on to a first-leg advantage that lasted until Humberto Suazo's finish in the 82nd minute, or had they not surrendered a second goal, to Aldo de Nigris in stoppage time. But their plan to overcome the 2-1 defeat is based on what happened before everything fell apart.
The Galaxy were the better team for the first 75 minutes or so and might have scored three or more goals with more precise finishing, and that has confidence soaring heading into the decisive match at Estadio Tecnológico (Wednesday, 10 pm ET, Fox Soccer, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Highlights: LA 1, Monterrey 2 (1st Leg)
“For 70 minutes we were on top of them, we created good chances, so why not go there with the right mentality to try to win in Monterrey?” goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini told reporters on Monday before departing for Mexico. “We don't have to be afraid of nothing. We clearly showed [in the first game] we can do a good job over there.”
Head coach Bruce Arena said it was important to go in “with the attitude that we're going to win the game and let the math take care of itself.” The math isn't hard: Lose or draw (or win, 1-0) and LA are done. A 2-1 victory forces overtime. A 3-2 win, or triumph by two or more goals, and the Galaxy are taking on Santos Laguna or the Seattle Sounders in the finals.
“We need to get two goals, no matter which way you slice it,” Landon Donovan said before the Galaxy traveled Monday to Monterrey. “Even if they score a goal, hope isn't lost. It takes one goal, and then we've got a chance to get another goal. ... We've got to go there and score goals. It's kind of nice when you know that. We have to go there to win the game, so we're just gonna go for it.”
Getting an early goal would help, but LA likely will need to weather some heavy pressure from Monterrey, who changed seven starters for this past Saturday's Liga MX loss at Toluca, saving them for CCL clash. Donovan called it a “pretty strong statement” that “shows the respect they have for us. We expect to get their best on Wednesday, no question.”
WATCH: Bruce Arena on 1st leg loss vs. Monterrey
ALL-ACCESS PODCAST: Asst. coach Dave Sarachan discusses Monterrey challenge
“The first five, 15, 20 minutes will probably be hectic,” winger Sean Franklin said. “We don't think they're going to just sit. They're going to come out and pressure. We've got to make sure we do a good job of being smart early and make sure we're not giving up a goal and going down, 3-1, in the series.”
Said defender Todd Dunivant: “We're pretty loose. We kind of have nothing to lose. We're going to go in with an aggressive attitude and aggressive mentality, and, hopefully, that bodes well for us.”
And if they pull it off, that makes getting to the final all the more special, right?
“Obviously, it's going to be a big challenge,” captain Robbie Keane told MLSsoccer.com. “To lose at home is always difficult, and the manner that we lost was hard to take ... but I said to the lads after the game: The good thing is that you go there and you get a result, and it's even better. It makes it even better, you know?
“That's what we're going to try to do. Well, we have to. Because if we don't, then we're knocked out. It's simple.”
Scott French covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com.