CARSON, Calif. – The real work is done in the LA Galaxy's CONCACAF Champions League campaign after the Puerto Rico Islanders' victory Thursday night over Isidro Metapán, but they'd like to win next month's group-stage finale anyway, just not for the expected reason.
The Galaxy's Group 5 point total will determine its quarterfinal foe next year, and logic suggests the more points accumulated – victory in the Oct. 25 clash in El Salvador would give LA 10 points – the better the chance to advance.
Hogwash, says Bruce Arena.
“The seeding is ... who cares?” the Galaxy head coach said following Friday's training session at the Home Depot Center. “What are you going to do with the seeding? We have no choice in the matter anyway. We certainly want to go down there and win and have 10 points, but the seeding is what it is, you know? We're not going to be first and we could be last, I guess. It is what it is.
“But certainly that has not been any of the emphasis in this competition. It was to qualify out of the group stage.”
The Galaxy (2-0-1) did so when Puerto Rico (1-2-1), who were eliminated in a scoreless draw with LA last week in Bayamón, claimed a 3-0 home triumph over Metapán (1-2-0), who needed a tie or win to stay alive.
“I'm not surprised Puerto Rico won yesterday,” Arena said. “We were the only team in the group that got a point on a road. That was the whole objective going to Puerto Rico [last week]: get a point. Knowing that would probably position ourselves to either advance after yesterday's game or at least put us in a very good position going down to El Salvador...
"We kind of knew the plan was to get six points in the first two [home] games and then if you get a point in game three, you're in pretty good shape. It turns out that we were in real good shape, 'cause we advanced.”
The Galaxy, who would be seeded fifth and take on Costa Rica's Herediano in the quarterfinals if the the current standings hold, will be expected to use a reserve lineup at Metapán, as they did for both games against the Islanders.
The absence of pressure “lets us focus a little more on MLS, which is big,” says midfielder Mike Magee. The CCL group strage finale comes during the final week of Major League Soccer's regular season, sandwiched between games at San Jose and at home against Seattle.
But CCL seeding is on some minds.
“You don't want to play Santos Laguna in the first round [of knockout play],” Magee said. “You want to play somebody else. So we'd like to get three more points in the next game, but we don't want to risk and MLS Cup trophy for it.”
Said David Beckham: “When you get to these stages, whoever you come up against, it doesn't matter at this point. If you're going to go all the way in a competition, you have to beat the big teams and the best teams.”