CARSON, Calif. – Entering 2012, the LA Galaxy had made the CONCACAF Champions League a priority. The club had done well to win important games in the group stage last autumn, and seemed poised for a deep run in the knockout rounds.
All of that ended abruptly on Wednesday at the hands of Toronto FC. The Canadian club beat the Galaxy 2-1 at The Home Depot Center and 4-3 on aggregate.
“This is kind of a bit of disbelief,” Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee said. “I thought we came in with the right attitude, and we started the game well, and we kind of had them on the back foot. Then we allowed two lousy goals and we didn’t finish any of our many chances, so it’s frustrating.”
Losing at this stage in this manner was difficult for the players to accept.
“A lot of emotions right now,” Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said. “Obviously it's disappointing to be knocked out of a competition that we expected to go further in. Tonight's a disappointing night because we didn't expect to lose the game, we didn't think we were going to lose the game, we didn't want to lose the game, so we're disappointed.”
Not only did Galaxy players think they would win the match, but they unapologetically thought they would be in the semifinal round at minimum. While the results have gone against them in the early going – an 0-1-2 overall record to start the year – their overall play has not been terrible.
They have simply been inconsistent.
“We definitely expected to advance,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “It's just disappointing. I think in any of these first three games I don't think we've been awful, but we've made some poor mistakes.”
And those mistakes happened at both ends of the pitch. Rookie defender Tommy Meyer was burned on both TFC goals, while veteran striker Robbie Keane botched a pair of one-one-ones against TFC ‘keeper Milos Kocic.
“We’ve had a lot of chances,” Donovan said. “I think we were a little bit fatigued so we're not quite as sharp as we could be. You could see a little bit in the legs.”
Fatigue or not, LA didn’t convert chances they’d normally expect to. Toronto, meanwhile, capitalized on their scant few scoring chances in part because of LA’s defensive breakdowns. Ryan Johnson leapt over Meyer in the first half to open the scoring, while Nick Soolsma strolled into the penalty area unmolested to one-time Johnson’s cross past Josh Saunders.
That was the goal that saw TFC through, and saw an end to the Galaxy’s all too short CCL run.
“They made the big plays,” said Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant. “They didn’t have a lot of chances, but when they did they converted them. Maybe you could say the opposite was true of us. We didn’t make the big plays when we came down to it, and that was the difference.”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com