MONTERREY, Mexico – The LA Galaxy came into Wednesday’s second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal clash with Monterrey with a plain objective in mind: Score two goals, and they'd stand a strong chance of reaching the finals. But on a night when even one goal could have provided the momentum they needed, their hosts were having none of it.
Monterrey made sure the Galaxy barely even got a sniff at goal, playing what forward Robbie Keane called a “shrewd game” that left the MLS side with nothing to show for on the score sheet in a 1-0 loss that saw them fall just short of the finals, 3-1 on aggregate.
“There was no reason to believe this game was going to be open in the first 60 minutes of the game,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena explained after the game. “[Monterrey] could comfortably organize their backline and their midfield and pick their spots to go forward.”
The Galaxy did manage four shots on target throughout the game, all in the first half, though long-range efforts from Juninho, Marcelo Sarvas and Keane never really troubled Monterrey backup ‘keeper Juan de Díos Ibarra.
“We had a go, but maybe half chances,” Keane, whose tame 28th-minute effort was his lone shot of the game, told reporters after the game. “We didn’t have too much, but sometimes you have to give the opposition credit. They were a good team, they probably deserved to go through.”
The one chance that did cause a moment of panic for the Monterrey faithful did not fall to one of the Galaxy’s attacking players, but rather to Omar Gonzalez, who very nearly poked the ball home from a corner kick scramble, only to see Ibarra make an excellent kick save on what looked a certain goal.
“The ball just dropped and no one knew where it was for a little bit, and I just saw it and my eyes opened and I just to get a quick tap-in,” Gonzalez recalled, “but the ‘keeper made a great save.”
That 31st-minute effort was the last clear sniff at goal Monterrey got until Jack McBean put a left-footed effort wide late on, as Monterrey ratcheted up the pressure, culminating in a second half where the Galaxy could barely mount an attack.
“They were just good, they were really good,” Galaxy attacker Mike Magee admitted. “They were disciplined and it was pretty hard for us just to get the ball out of our own end with the pressure they continued to put on us.
“They didn’t sit back, credit to them, and they made it extremely difficult for us to pretty much do anything.”
Despite being snuffed out in the second leg, though, the Galaxy were able to hold their heads high after their performance against a team Landon Donovan called the “best in the region,” admitting that most of the damage had been done by LA’s late collapse in their 2-1 loss in the first leg at the Home Depot Center.
“There are a lot of positives [we can take],” Arena said. “Our team played pretty well in this competition and this series and we learned that maybe 10 minutes [in the first leg] might have sealed our fate.”