Photo Courtesy of LA Galaxy
CARSON, Calif. — Juninho kept the LA Galaxy's CONCACAF Champions League hopes alive with a dramatic match-winner in second-half stoppage time as the Galaxy beat Morelia 2-1 at the Home Depot Center on Wednesday.
The Brazilian midfielder's goal came in the dying moments of what looked to be a certain draw. Morelia would have gone through to the quarterfinals with a point and the Mexicans nearly got what they came for. But Landon Donovan knocked a corner kick in and, after a brief scramble, Juninho punched the ball into the back of the net.
It was a spectacular finish to a night that, for a time, looked like it would end LA's continental hopes.
The Galaxy broke open the scoring in the 20th minute when Todd Dunivant and Mike Magee combined on a quick play inside the penalty area. Dunivant carried the ball down the left side of the box and quickly slipped a pass to the front of the six-yard box. Magee got his foot to the ball and one-timed it off Federico Vilar's hands and into the back of the net.
Morelia threatened the Galaxy goal in the 31st minute when Damián Manso turned and fired a shot on goal from close range. The ball deflected off a Galaxy defender and, with goalkeeper Josh Saunders reaching the other way, the ball bounced harmlessly past an empty LA net and out for a corner kick.
Several minutes later, Donovan did well to shake free from Morelia's defense and ripped a shot on Vilar but his attempt went wide.
Magee came off at halftime due to a hamstring issue as Bryan Jordan came on at right midfield for the second half.
Even with the lead, the Galaxy kept pressing, looking for a second goal. Dunivant had a look from about six yards out in the 56th minute after Omar Gonzalez headed a ball into him on an LA set piece, but the veteran's attempt went well over the crossbar.
Morelia capitalized, equalizing just past the hour as the visitors' pressure paid off. Manso slipped a ball into the penalty area and Jordan slid to clear it, but ended up pushing the ball toward the middle of the box. Saunders couldn’t get there in time and Rafael Márquez Lugo eventually pushed the ball past A.J. DeLaGarza and into the back of the net.
Moments later, Morelia went for the kill as manager Tomás Boy inserted Miguel Sabah and Edgar Lugo into the match. Instead, the hosts battled and eventually their persistence paid off in the form of the dramatic winner.
The Galaxy will head to Honduras on Oct. 20 to face an already-eliminated Motagua side to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals. Currently the Galaxy, Morelia and LD Alajuelense of Costa Rica are all tied on nine points each. A victory will see LA through to the quarterfinals.