CS Cartaginés vs. LA Galaxy
Estadio Nacional, San Jose, Costa Rica
September 25, 2013 (CONCACAF Champions League group stage)
10 pm ET (Fox Sports Plus)
The LA Galaxy need just one more point to secure their spot in next year's CONCACAF Champions League knockout phase, and they're hoping to take care of that Wednesday night when they face Cartaginés at Costa Rica's Estadio Nacional.
The venue could be pivotal: LA's past CCL matches in Costa Rica have been in old, tiny club facilities, on hard, sometimes bumpy artificial turf, with venomous fans right on top of the field – and right on top of the Galaxy bench.
Cartaginés will have no such advantage. The Estadio Nacional is a modern facility with nicely groomed grass and a running track separating the spectators from the field.
“I think it's going to be exciting for our guys to play here,” Landon Donovan told reporters Tuesday in San José, Costa Rica. Donovan played the full 90 minutes for the US national team in their 3-1 World Cup qualifying loss to Costa Rica at the venue earlier this month and hopes to play Wednesday.
“Generally, we play in small stadiums with bad fields and turf, old stadiums that are kind of weathered,” he said. “This will be an opportunity to play in a nice stadium, but we expect they'll still have a raucous crowd and it will be like an away game in CONCACAF, and that has to be the mentality. [We'll] do our best to get out of here with a point.”
Shutout wins over Cartaginés (1-1-1) on Aug. 20 and El Salvador's Isidro Metapán (0-2-1) last week at the StubHub Center have the Galaxy (2-0-0) two points ahead of the Costa Ricans, who must win to stay alive in Group 8.
LA will reach the quarterfinals for the third successive CCL tournament with a draw or better on Wednesday or Oct. 24 at Metapán. But clinching now would be a huge boost for the club, allowing Bruce Arena to rest everyone he needs for the Oct. 27 MLS regular-season finale at Seattle – a game that could be critical for playoff positioning, or perhaps even determine whether LA make the postseason – when they visit El Salvador.
“I think it's important, especially with what we're encountering in league play moving forward,” midfielder Pablo Mastroeni said before the Galaxy's departure on Monday afternoon. “The quicker we can solidify that point, the easier it will be on everyone's minds. So that's the focus.”
The Galaxy will again field a mostly reserve lineup, probably with a few first-teamers mixed in. In addition to Donovan, Marcelo Sarvas, Gyasi Zardes, Sean Franklin, Leonardo and Hector Jimenez traveled, while Robbie Keane, Omar Gonzalez, Juninho, Todd Dunivant and Jaime Penedo did not.
Donovan sprained his ankle a week-and-a-half ago at D.C. United and hadn't fully trained since before leaving for Costa Rica.
“Every day it's getting better,” he said. “We'll keep doing everything to try to get it ready for the game.”
The Galaxy expect a difficult game, more so than their 2-0 victory in August, when Cartaginés kept the score at 0-0 until the 67th minute.
“They're going to have to come out a little bit more. They need the result more than we do,” midfielder Michael Stephens said. “I think that will change the dynamic of the game. It might help us a little bit, as far as having more opportunities to get them on the break.”
Said Mastroeni: “I think we're ready to rock 'n' roll. ... We're ready to take on a good opponent in a tough environment and see if we can't come away with a good result and lock this up.”