Last week couldn't have gone any worse for the LA Galaxy and their CONCACAF Champions League campaign. A loss in Costa Rica and a win by Morelia in Honduras combined to knock the Galaxy from first place to third in the Group A table.
But all hope is not lost. Far from it, in fact.
In what will be their most important match of 2011 to date, the Galaxy can shoot right back towards the top with a win over Morelia on Wednesday. It would be a major step toward qualifying for the knockout rounds and could make their final group-stage match at Motagua on Oct. 20 a win-and-you’re-in scenario.
For that to happen, the Galaxy must defeat Morelia at the Home Depot Center. A draw may not mathematically eliminate LA, but one or no points would be catastrophic to the cause.
Alajuelense and Morelia are tied atop Group A on nine points. The Costa Ricans are technically ahead of Morelia via tiebreakers, but both sides are ahead of the Galaxy, who are on six points, and Motagua, who’ve lost all four games they’ve played thus far.
Should Alajuelense beat Motagua at home on Thursday, the Galaxy would not be able to catch them.
Still, regardless of what Alajuelense do in Costa Rica, the Galaxy are not out of it. A win over Morelia and they would have as many points as the Mexicans, then would leave LA head to Honduras with a chance of reaching the quarterfinal round.
Worried about the Galaxy’s play away from home in this tournament? Refereeing decisions and a well-taken free kick did LA in on the road, not poor play, not frightened players, not a lack of desire.
Now, like other Mexican clubs, Morelia will head into the HDC a confident bunch. The previous two Mexican sides to play at MLS teams have won as Santos and Pumas UNAM beat Colorado and FC Dallas, respectively. It seems as if all Mexican sides have awoken and are suddenly focused on the tournament more than they were at the start.
But there are plenty of reasons to remain optimistic:
The Galaxy played Morelia toe-to-toe in Mexico on Sept. 13. Were it not for an unfortunate sequence of events – highlighted by perhaps the biggest officiating gaffe in a tournament of filled with them – the Galaxy would have left Mexico with at least one point, and likely three.
David Beckham will not play on Wednesday due to yellow-card accumulation, but he did not play in Mexico either and the Galaxy were able to score two legitimate goals. LA did well to put pressure on Morelia’s goal throughout the match and even after allowing a late equalizer were able to get ahead, although the goal was disallowed.
A draw would suit Morelia best, which means the Mexicans could come to LA looking for just that. When Morelia were looking to attack as they were in Mexico, the Galaxy were forced to be on the defensive somewhat, but were still able to get forward and attack with confidence. Either way, they’ve shown the ability to go at the Mexican side.
The objective is simple, but accomplishing it won’t be. Morelia are playing for their own lives and will pose a challenge.
But the Galaxy are also fighting to survive. And playing at the Home Depot Center seems to tip the scales in their favor.