CARSON, Calif. — If the LA Galaxy go far in the CONCACAF Champions League, the club may want to send Real Salt Lake a thank-you card.
RSL may have come up painfully short in their run at the CCL title earlier this year, but their efforts in reaching the final served as motivation.
"We want to do well and represent MLS," Galaxy left back Todd Dunivant said. "We saw what Salt Lake did last year and everyone took pride in that. Every team saw that that does mean a lot and representing MLS, we think we should be the best league in this region and we want to prove that."
Thus far, MLS clubs have done well in Champions League play. All three MLS clubs participating in the preliminary round qualified for the tournament proper, the first time that ever happened. MLS clubs also started the group stage of the tournament off with an unbeaten record through six matches, which included wins in Mexico by FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders.
The Galaxy opened their own participation in the tournament with a convincing 2-0 win over Honduran side Motagua and the MLS league leaders are fully immersed in the Champions League. The focus LA have shown in preparing for this tournament is different than what occurred in 2010 — Puerto Rico beat them by a 5-3 aggregate score in the preliminary round.
“We’ve put that behind us," Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee said. "I don’t think any of us have ever really played in the competition before. Going into that, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.”
When the Galaxy began preparing for this year's tournament, it was not the sting of last year's loss that drove LA, but rather their Western Conference rival's 2010-11 experience.
“We kind of watched Salt Lake’s run and I personally wasn’t too familiar with the tournament either," Magee said. "To watch how well Salt Lake did and see the importance of it, I think watching Salt Lake is what made this more important [for us], not necessarily losing to Puerto Rico last year because that was kind of surreal.
“I remember watching Salt Lake, which isn’t necessarily a team we normally want to win but watching them last year, I was rooting for them pretty hard. You are representing the other teams who aren’t playing in the tournament as well."
The Galaxy will represent once again on Thursday night when they host Costa Rican champs Alajuelense at the Home Depot Center (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer). LA will have a chance to walk away with six points after two home games before heading to face Mexican side Morelia on Sept. 13.
"There are always have been a lot of excuses why we haven’t been able to do well in these tournaments and Salt Lake kind of proved that doesn’t have to hold true," Dunivant said. "We want to follow in their footsteps."