TIJUANA, Mexico – The LA Galaxy's horrid first-half performance cost them their chance to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. Their play after halftime nearly pushed them through to the next round.
It was another tale-of-two-halves kind of encounter Tuesday night, and Club Tijuana's 4-2 triumph in the quarterfinal decider – for a 4-3 aggregate victory – was easier than expected and more difficult that it appeared to be.
The Galaxy conceded twice and nearly three times in the first nine minutes and were down by three in the 26th minute, but a direct approach in the second half twice brought them within a goal of stealing the series away from the Xolos.
“We had to dig deep, we had to show some character ...,” said forward Rob Friend, whose presence after halftime provided a foundation for LA to mount a comeback. “All we had to do is get two goals and we're back in the game. We would advance.
“I think that last goal [in the 82nd minute by Richard Ruiz] kind of killed us, but we still showed, and I think if we would have played 10 more minutes in that game, we could have got a result. Because those guys [for Tijuana] are happy the game ended when it did because we were pressuring them, and I don't think they could handle us at the end there.”
Robbie Keane scored two second-half goals, in the 47th minute to leave the Galaxy needing one more to take command of the series, and then three minutes after Ruiz's strike, again pushing LA within one goal of advancing.
“We showed a lot of character in the second half, which is obviously a positive ...,” Keane said. “The game was really over after the first 10 minutes, simple as that. We can't start away from home with that, especially in a game like this. It was going to be difficult for us to get back in the game.”
That the Galaxy were able to do so enables them to depart the competition on a real positive note, but it doesn't erase the failures of the first half-hour.
“When you start a game like that, you don't deserve it,” said Landon Donovan, who set up both of Keane's goals. “We lost the game in the first 25 minutes, we know that. It's disappointing, because we know what we're capable of, we've shown what we're capable of, and, unfortunately for us, we were a little naïve.”
Head coach Bruce Arena called the Galaxy's first-half play “awful.”
“I don't know how else you describe it,” he said. “Right from the start. We understood the conditions, the field was going to make the game hectic, the ball was going to bounce around, spin and all that, and right from the start, we concede a goal in the first minute. Very disappointing.
“It took our team 30 minutes to get into the game, and we were down three goals. We positioned ourselves in the second half to advance, if we'd gotten another goal, and then conceded the fourth one. Embarrassed at our performance in the first half, real proud of our team in the second half.”