TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – The LA Galaxy became MLS' third team to claim a spot in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League thanks a 1-0 victory over Motagua at the Estadio Nacional on Thursday night.
Juninho provided the lone goal for the Galaxy in the 29th minute of play.
The win catapulted the Galaxy up the table to first place in group A, ahead of Alajuelense — who were eliminated — and Morelia due to head-to-head goal differential among the three sides.
The Galaxy were able to earn the result without stars Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane. Donovan started the match on the bench due to a nagging quadriceps injury but eventually put in 22 minutes of work, while Keane remained out due to an adductor strain.
One of Motagua’s largest crowds in recent history came out to see David Beckham & Co., who were received with cheers rather than jeers – the latter which has been the case in other venues throughout Central America.
The match started off sloppy, but it was the Honduran side who nearly drew first blood in the 19th minute, when forward Jerry Bengtson fired a shot that went just wide of Josh Saunders' net.
Just two minutes later, it was the Galaxy who were threatening the net as Chad Barrett forced a diving save from Motagua goalkeeper Donaldo Morales.
The visitors finally broke through in the 29th minute when Juninho fired an audacious ball from 35 yards out that appeared to be going over the bar before dipping over Morales and into the net. The goal was the Brazilian's sixth in all competitions, with five of the goals coming from beyond the box.
As the Galaxy sought to preserve their lead, Motagua threw numbers forward in search of the equalizer and forced Saunders to make a number of key saves to keep LA in the lead.
The pressure from Motagua did not last long, however, and the Galaxy began to control wide stretches of possession as the game went into the waning minutes.
LA nearly put the match out of reach in the 89th minute, when Donovan fired a shot from the top of the box that sailed over the bar.
Just moments later, Motagua nearly ended the Galaxy's dreams of reaching the quarterfinals when Frankie Hejduk was forced to make a last-minute poke as the home side’s Guillermo “Pando” Ramírez prepared to shoot from just outside the six-yard box.
The loose ball, however, fell to Bengtson. The Honduran international took it on the bounce but fired it well over the crossbar.
With the result, the Galaxy could face Salvadoran club Isidro Metapán or fellow MLS sides Toronto FC or Seattle Sounders in the quarterfinals.