MONTERREY, Mexico – The LA Galaxy gave a good account of themselves on Wednesday night in the hostile environs of Estadio Tecnólogico, but it wasn’t enough. Thanks to a late Aldo de Nigris strike, Monterrey topped LA 1-0 in the second leg of their semifinal series and eliminated them from the CONCACAF Champions League by a 3-1 aggregate score line.
The Galaxy looked strong defensively and confident pushing forward in the first half, only to find themselves on the back foot in the second. They were eventually undone nine minutes from the final whistle when winger César Delgado broke down the right-hand side and cut back for a wide-open de Nigris, who put the ball between Carlos Cudicini’s legs for the only goal of the game.
Monterrey will now face US international Herculez Gomez and his Santos Laguna side later this month in the finals – a rematch of the 2011-12 edition – in what could be los Rayados’ best chance at silverware this year as their playoff hopes in the Liga MX dwindle.
Both teams were able to create good looks at goal for themselves in the first half. The Galaxy had a huge advantage in set pieces and earned five corner kicks to Monterrey's two, on one of which they came closest to scoring.
Omar Gonzalez found a loose ball at his feet after challenging for a corner in the 30th minute and toe-poked it from close range, forcing a great kick-save Monterrey 'keeper Juan de Díos Ibarra.
Monterrey had the better looks from open play, though, with de Nigris the prime beneficiary of the chances his team created. He sent a 27th-minute breakaway shot high and wide under strong pressure from Gonzalez, and finally put Monterrey's first shot on target with halftime approaching, though his flick at the near post was smartly anticipated by Cudicini.
The home side capitalized on the momentum they started to gain towards the end of the first period and looked to go for the kill after halftime. Only a pair of goal-saving challenges from Gonzalez and another from Juninho kept the Rayados from finding the net early on.
Though the Galaxy did have some promising breaks in the second half, their imprecision in the final third came back to haunt them as de Nigris’ late strike all but put the series to bed.
LA head coach Bruce Arena fielded a mostly familiar lineup, with Mike Magee the only notable omission, as right leg soreness dropped MLS' leading scorer to the bench. Monterrey were also able to field a first-choice lineup after chosing to rest most of their starters for this past weekend’s league game.
The Galaxy will be back in the CONCACAF Champions League this summer, as their MLS Cup 2012 title puts them back in the tournament for the 2013-14 edition. They return in league action this weekend, and will head straight from Monterrey to Texas to prepare for their league showdown with FC Dallas on Saturday.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Aldo de Nigris||After a Man of the Match first leg, los Rayados No. 9 was again a force in the second; you've simply got to tip your hat to the Mexican international.|
|2||Omar Gonzalez||A brick wall for LA and the only thing between Monterrey and at least three more goals. MLS Cup 2012 MVP is a bona fide superstar.|
|3||Walter Ayoví||Ecuadorian veteran was silky smooth and solid on both sides of the ball tonight, snuffing out LA attack and going forward.|