CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy's CONCACAF Champions League match against Club Motagua is without a doubt one of the Galaxy's biggest matches of the season, but it's one that they may have to play without their biggest star.
Galaxy captain Landon Donovan has battled a quadriceps injury since an Oct. 1 match with Real Salt Lake, and it’s forced him to him miss several games for both the Galaxy and US national team. Donovan skipped Galaxy training on Tuesday and instead opted for the trainer's table, as he “threw the book” at the injury in order to try and return for the must-win match Thursday against Motagua (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
“We'll just play it day by day and see what we get to,” he said. “The body is weird, sometimes you heal quickly and sometimes you don't, so I have every intention of playing. But if I'm not ready then I'm not ready.”
The Galaxy midfielder admitted that he has been icing his quadriceps a great deal and that he will be taking the necessary measures during the team's flights to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to assure that he has the best chance to play.
LA now must win Thursday's game after Group A rivals Morelia came from behind on Tuesday night to defeat Alajuelense 2-1 in Mexico. Should the Galaxy earn a victory in Honduras, all three teams will be level on 12 points with LA advancing due to a superior goal differential in matches played between their three rivals. Anything less than a victory and Alajuelense will advance to the quarterfinals instead.
Donovan admitted that even if his injury prevents him from starting the game, he expects see time off the bench.
“That's my hope for now, but unless something crazy happens, I expect that I'll keep improving so that I'll be able to contribute in some way,” Donovan said. “If I can start the game then I want to start the game; if not, then I can contribute in some way. Obviously in a perfect world, we could win the game and a couple of guys that need rest or are borderline don't need to play, but at the end of it all, we need to win the game.”
The Galaxy will also be without versatile right back Sean Franklin (inflamed knee) and forward Robbie Keane (adductor) due to injury.
While the Galaxy have everything to play for, Motagua have only pride on the line. Currently at the bottom of the table in the Honduran Apertura and having earned zero points in Group A, the match represents a potential silver lining in what has been a trying season for the Ciclón Azul (Blue Cyclone). Although the Hondurans have struggled so far in the competition, the Galaxy are expecting their best when the match kicks off at the formidable Estadio Nacional.
“They're playing at home and I think that it's going to be a big game for them,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena told reporters on Tuesday. “I think that they're going to play really hard and obviously try to beat us. We have to be prepared for them to play their best game in group play and we have to be ready to play as well.”
As the Galaxy look to advance to quarterfinals with a victory in Tegucigalpa, they expect no favors, not from the crowd, nor the injury report and especially not from Motagua themselves.
“We're expecting the worst,” asserted Donovan, who last played in Honduras in a World Cup qualifier in 2009. “If it's anything different than that, it will be a plus, but regardless of all that, we just need to win the game.”
Adam Serrano covers MLS for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.