The LA Galaxy made no excuses for their lopsided loss at Santos Laguna in Tuesday's second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, but conceded they were the second-best team as they crashed out of the competition.
The Galaxy, who had the statistical advantage after securing a scoreless draw in last week's home leg, conceded three first-half goals -- two on set pieces, both stemming from poor defending -- en route to a 4-0 loss in Torreon, which sent Santos, the runner-up in 2012 and 2013, to a semifinal home-and-home against defending champion Club America or the Seattle Sounders, who meet Wednesday in Mexico City (8 pm ET, FS2).
“Clearly, Santos was the better team today,” Bruce Arena, the Galaxy's head coach, said to start his postgame news conference at Estadio Corona. “They started in an aggressive fashion, were technically better than us and fitter. At this time of the year, they're just a better team than we are.”
That last point may have tipped the balance in the Liga MX club's favor, as that league is in the middle of its spring clausura tournament, while MLS opens its regular season this weekend.
Queretaro also advanced after a 1-1 draw Tuesday at D.C. United, and America and UANL Tigres, should they advance on Wednesday, can make it an all-Mexico final four for the second time in seven tournaments. All but two of the previous seven finals have been all-Mexico affairs.
Arena said that Liga MX “is ahead of MLS at this point in time” but that the US league is “closing the gap.”
When asked about the Galaxy's superstars -- Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane, Nigel de Jong, Giovani Dos Santos and Jelle Van Damme started; Ashley Cole was in Rome for the birth of his son -- Arena noted that he “didn't see any superstars on our team today.”
Santos put heavy pressure on LA from the start, went ahead through Martin Bravo on a poorly defended corner kick in the 19th minute. The Galaxy conceded again in the 23rd, with Bravo feeding Ulises Davila, then went down by three when Djaniny Tavares headed home a corner kick that developed following a turnover in their defensive third. Bravo added a 61st-minute goal, but Santos might have scored several more.
“I think mentally we'll be fine. We'll recover from this performance,” Arena added. “And our league starts on Sunday [with the Galaxy home against D.C. United], so we have to be ready to play on Sunday.”
The schedule of games favors the Mexican clubs, he acknowledged, noting that making the calendar more equitable is “something they should be working to do.”
“It's been, obviously, a complaint of ours for a number of years,” Arena said. “However, in all fairness to CONCACAF, they're adherent to [FIFA's] international calendar."