CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy have played in a lot of big games in 2011, from the season opener at Seattle to games against Supporters’ Shield contenders such as the Sounders, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake.
In terms of magnitude, though, Wednesday’s Champions League game against Morelia (10 pm ET; FOX Soccer) dwarfs them all.
“At different times of the year when we’re going through different things, there are games that feel more important than others,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said, “but it’s an elimination game. If we lose the game, we’re done.”
Technically, a loss would not yet kill the Galaxy, but funeral arrangements certainly would be forthcoming. Victory would not only ensure LA prolonged life in this tournament but also put them back into a favorable position, which the team had held after their first two games.
“It’s unfortunate because after the first two games we were in the power position,” Donovan said. “The third game really hurt, the missed call really hurt us and playing a poor game in the fourth game really hurt us. This becomes essential.”
The missed call was a disallowed goal that Robbie Keane scored. That “goal that never was” would have given the Galaxy a 2-1 lead in stoppage time of a game that turned out to be a 2-1 Morelia victory. A week ago, they lost 1-0 at Alajuelense and they head into Wednesday’s game with only the six points collected from their first two games, 2-0 home wins over Motagua and Alajuelense.
Needing a victory won’t necessarily force the Galaxy to play any different than they usually do, particularly at their own ground.
“We do try and win every time we’re at home, for sure,” LA head coach Bruce Arena said. “This isn’t anything new to us.”
Morelia and the Galaxy played an entertaining and strongly contested match on Sept. 13 in Mexico. The visitors scored first as Keane broke through early in the second half while Adrián Aldrete scored the equalizer with less than 10 minutes left. Keane’s disallowed goal set the stage for Miguel Sabah to win it with a header in stoppage time as the result turned things around for the Galaxy, who were within minutes of taking control of the group.
While the Mexicans will not have the comforts of playing at home, Donovan said the team will be as much of a handful in Carson as they were in Michoacán.
“They’re a good team,” Donovan said. “They’re not only talented individually, but they’re a good team, they’re well coached. They play well together. I thought our performance down there was real good given the circumstances and we expect a similar performance here.”
The Galaxy seemingly face some logistical challenges as the club played in Costa Rica and traveled immediately to Columbus, Ohio, for a league match there. But Morelia have had it tough, too, playing last Thursday in Honduras before a league match on Sunday. The Galaxy hope to turn that in their own favor.
“They played a day later than us, they had to travel, they played at high altitude in Toluca, so there are no excuses for us,” Donovan said. “I know we’ve played a lot of games, but if anyone has an advantage in that way, it’s us and we want to use that as an advantage for us, make the game fast and get after them.”