LA Galaxy confidence grows with Cruz Azul next in Leagues Cup

CARSON, CA. — Can the LA Galaxy make it two in a row against Liga MX teams in the inaugural Leagues Cup? After stunning Club Tijuana to win a penalty shootout in the quarterfinal stage Tuesday night, the MLS giants are now set to face Cruz Azul in the semis on August 20 at Dignity Health Sports Park. 

“We will go game by game trying to find a balance, and also find balance in our games,” said Galaxy manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto when asked about prepping for Cruz Azul. “The truth is that in our recent results, in the derby [versus LAFC], or today’s result against Club Tijuana, it gives us a lot of positive energy to face these series of [MLS] games that we have to play as visitors, and to be prepared to see how far we can get in this [Leagues Cup] tournament.”

Realistically speaking, it won’t be easy for the Galaxy to reach the final. A Mexican powerhouse, Cruz Azul beat the Chicago Fire, 2-0, in Tuesday’s other Leagues Cup quarterfinal battle. With a star-studded roster, including Elias Hernandez, Yoshimar Yotun, Pablo Aguilar, Roberto Alvarado and Milton Caraglio, La Maquina should be the favorite to reach Las Vegas.

Nonetheless, the Galaxy players are gaining an immense amount of confidence at the moment. While the starters secured an emotional 3-2 El Trafico win over LAFC Friday, a rotated squad followed with an impressive win over Xolos in the Leagues Cup just four days later.

“I’m really happy to be fighting with these guys because it’s a great group, the whole [Galaxy] team,” said goalkeeper Matt Lampson, who saved three attempts in the shootout. “The starters that weren’t even on the bench today came out on the field celebrating with us. That’s the type of group we have.”

Midfielder Emmanuel Boateng echoed those thoughts after the Galaxy advanced, noting the improved performance from the last time a rotated roster stepped on the field.

“We kind of had a similar lineup in Portland and we didn’t put in a good performance [in the Open Cup], we didn’t work as hard, and we made sure today to come in and leave everything out there on the field,” he said. “Especially in the second half, we decided we wanted to get back in the game [after trailing 2-1 at halftime], and everybody was going to work, and that’s what we did in the second half.”

Now, the big question for the Galaxy is how will Schelotto find that aforementioned balance? The Leagues Cup semifinal against Cruz Azul will land just five days before the next El Trafico game against LAFC. Squeezing in another Leagues Cup contest also means the Galaxy will play six games during a 23-day run in August.