HEREDIA, Costa Rica – The LA Galaxy will head into next week's second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals with a slight advantage after securing a 0-0 draw Thursday night with Herediano, a clash almost as tight as the scoreline.
Both teams hit the crossbar – Herediano did so twice, with Ismael Gómez smacking the horizontal on an 87th-minute penalty kick – and benefited from fine backline play in a game played mostly between the boxes, with the Costa Ricans creating better chances despite seeing less of the ball.
Gómez's effort against the bar came after he went down following minimal contact from Sean Franklin, causing Jamaican referee Courtney Campbell to point to the spot.
Yedrick Ruiz nodded catalyst Elías Aguilar's corner kick off the bar in the 43rd minute for Herediano, and Mike Magee knocked a Robbie Keane cross off the bar seven minutes into the second half. Magee found the net 15 minutes later, but he had been flagged on a tight offside call.
The Galaxy's backline – the usual quartet, with A.J. DeLaGarza sliding back in the middle and Franklin on the right, until Leonardo came on after an hour and LA reverted to the group it used at the back and on the right flank in last weekend's MLS-opening win over Chicago – repelled most of Herediano's forays, with Omar Gonzalez's height providing a huge advantage.
Keane needed some time to acclimate to the artificial turf at Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero, but once comfortable was at the heart of the Galaxy attack. He might have gotten more from a shot in the 30th minute, when Heredia captain Pablo Salazar dived to block his effort at the top of the box.
Herediano needed a half-hour to assert themselves, then did so several times behind Aguilar. LA goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini dived to knock down a blast by Esteban Granados in the 33rd minute; Aguilar volleyed wide from the top of the box after Gonzalez headed away a cross by right back Marvin Obando; and halftime substitute Gómez went just past the right post on a free kick from just outside the area in the 71st.
The second leg is next Wednesday, March 13, at the Home Depot Center, with top-seeded Monterrey likely awaiting the winner. The Rayados beat El Salvador's Xelajú, 3-1, in their away leg a night earlier.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Marcelo Sarvas||Midfielder looked comfortable on his return to Costa Rica, providing a steeled presence in the midfield and moving the ball well|
|2||Elías Aguilar||The heart of all good things the home side did on attack on the night. Forced off in the 78th minute through injury and will be a big loss for Herediano if he can't play in LA|
|3||Omar Gonzalez||Used his size advantage over the Costa Rican forwards to great effect, all but shutting down Herediano's ability to create from crosses|