After an MLS Cup/Supporters' Shield double, not to mention an impressive CCL group-stage campaign, big thing were expected from the Galaxy as 2011 wound to a close. But things took a sharp nosedive in the 2011-12 quarterfinals when they were upset by Toronto FC, a result that set the stage for this season's early struggles.
Indeed, Bruce Arena’s men spent most of the first half of the MLS campaign hovering at or around the bottom of the Western Conference. However, the summer months have seen an uptick in form, as the Galaxy have slowly risen back up the table. They'll be eager to have another shot at establishing themselves as a CONCACAF power.
Best Showing: Quarterfinals (Champions League, 2011-12)/Winners (Champions' Cup, 2000)
Still without an MLS title in 2000, the Galaxy gave fans something to shout about when they lifted the CONCACAF Champions' Cup, edging out Honduran outfit Olimpia 3-2 in a thrilling final at the LA Memorial Coliseum.
The recent memories are not so fond, however. LA have been upset in the last two edition sof the tournament, having been knocked out at the quarterfinal stage by Toronto in the most recent edition and in the preliminary stage by the Puerto Rico Islanders in the one prior.
- The 2011-12 tournament wasn’t all doom and gloom though. In the fifth round of group play, LA’s chances at advancing were hanging by a thread when Juninho turned home a corner kick in stoppage time to give the Galaxy a 2-1 win over Morelia, their first against Mexican opposition since winning their first-ever game in the competition back in 1997 over Santos Laguna. Juninho played the hero once more three weeks later, scoring the lone goal in a win over Motagua that sealed passage to the quarterfinals.
Who will they face?
Isidro Metapán: El Salvador’s 2011 Apertura champions should provide a stern test for LA. They have established themselves as one of their country’s premier teams, winning six of the last 11 titles on offer and edged out the Colorado Rapids in the 2011-12 tournament to become the first Salvadoran team to advance from the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Attacking midfielder Paolo Suárez – older brother of Liverpool FC’s Luis Suárez – will be the man to watch out for, as he can both pull the strings in midfield and score goals. MLS fans will also recognize well-traveled midfielder Eliseo Quintanilla, who played for D.C. United in 2003 and 2004 and has scored 15 goals in 66 appearances for El Salvador's national team.
Puerto Rico Islanders: There will be some old ghosts haunting the Galaxy when they square off with the North American Soccer League’s Islanders. Puerto Rico qualified by virtue of their third-place finish in the 2012 Caribbean Club Championship and will be hoping to repeat the feat they pulled off two years ago, when they pulled off a 5-3 aggregate victory over the Galaxy in the preliminary round of the tournament.
Currently sitting second place in the NASL, the team boasts few players with any significant MLS experience. However, the Galaxy will be all too familiar with Jamaican forward Nicholas Addlery, prolific in both the league and at the continental level, and who scored two goals in the upset two years ago.
Can they win it all?
On paper, the Galaxy should have the ability to mix it up with the region’s top teams, especially if their Designated Player trio is firing on all cylinders and Omar Gonzalez returns to his dominant best. However, this season has shown that’s not necessarily an easy ask, and the Galaxy’s tough group only heightens the pressure. They should still be considered favorites to get out of the group stage, but can they win a series against a Mexican side?