MORELIA, Mexico – The LA Galaxy’s mixed roster of veterans and youngsters has served them well this season, but it’s up to the big brothers of the team as a new challenge awaits this week.
Heading into the team’s huge CONCACAF Champions League Group A matchup against Mexican side Monarcas Morelia on Tuesday (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer), it’s up to club veterans like Landon Donovan, Frankie Hejduk and Jovan Kirovski to lead the way for those new to suiting up in Mexico.
“Some of the younger guys, the guys who haven’t been there, we’ll drive it home over the next few days, mainly to expect the unexpected in these situations,” Donovan said ahead of the Galaxy’s match. “There are a lot of different things that can happen, a lot of things go against you, but you’ve got to continue to stay positive and keep going. Teams who do that get results in difficult places.”
Morelia certainly qualifies as a difficult place. Twice, Monarcas have hosted MLS teams in CONCACAF tournaments and each time come away with wins. They’ve beaten Columbus and Chicago in prior CONCACAF tournaments at Estadio Morelos in the past.
And although they might not be a traditional power in Mexico, the hosts have a built-in advantage.
“It’s a game at altitude so it’s kind of like playing Colorado at their place,” defender Todd Dunivant said of Morelia, located at roughly 6,300 feet above sea level, a full 1,000 feet higher than Denver. “It’s not going to be easy. It’s not an easy place to get a win.”
Having the chance to see Donovan, who has long been a villain for Mexican national team fans, will likely drive the locals out en masse. A hostile crowd could be waiting for the Galaxy on Tuesday, and it’s then that the team’s experience could come into play.
“There are a lot of ancillary things going on that can distract you," Donovan said. "Our goal and our focus needs to be on what’s going on, on the field. A play doesn’t go your way, a call doesn’t go your way, a bounce doesn’t go your way, you’ve got to get on with it.
“Sometimes you can get away with those things when you’re playing in MLS but you can’t get away with that in this competition,” he added. “You’ve got to make sure we’re real good with those things.”
Despite wins in Mexico earlier this summer from FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders, Mexican teams have traditionally rattled MLS clubs to the tune of just two MLS wins in 26 attempts south of the border.
But for the Galaxy – who lead group A with six points in two matches after a win over Costa Rican side Alajualense their last time out – there’s hope that Mexico’s grip on MLS loosens just a bit more this time around.
“It’s a big help when have guys who have had that savvy-ness in those kinds of games and those kinds of stages,” Dunivant said. “If you are a team who hasn’t seen the before, it can be overwhelming to handle it. Our roster is full of guys who have played in those kinds of games, those kinds of environments and it will make a huge difference.”