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LA Galaxy vs. CS Cartagines: CONCACAF Champions League Preview

STUBHUB CENTER, Carson, Calif.
August 20, 2013 (CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage)
10 pm ET (FOX Soccer Plus)

The LA Galaxy will look to start their 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League campaign on the right foot as they host Costa Rican club Cartaginés for a Group 8 match on Tuesday night.

LA reached the semifinals of last year's Champions League only to fall to eventual champions Monterrey (Mexico) in agonizing fashion by a 3-1 aggregate score, and this time around tthe Galaxy have set their sights on another successful run to the knockout rounds and, eventually, the CCL trophy.

“We want to get back to where we were last year and advance,” defender Sean Franklin told “We were disappointed in how we went out last year in the semis. We’re excited to get this competition going and advance and be in the tournament next year.”

Fresh off Saturday's impressive 4-2 league defeat of Real Salt Lake, the Galaxy open this season's campaign against an unheralded foe making their CCL debut. Costa Rica's oldest club, Cartaginés qualified via a second-place finish in the Verano phase of the Costa Rican Primera División, and while this is their first time in the Champions League, they do have a CONCACAF championship in their past, having won the 1994 edition of the Champions Cup, CCL's predecessor.

Cartaginés defeated El Salvador’s Isidro Metapan 4-2 at Estadio Cuscatlán in Group 8's opening match on Aug. 8, a result in which they blitzed Metapan with 18 shots and nine corner kicks as Costa Rican international Pablo Herrera notched a hat trick. Two Cartaginés players, goalkeeper Luis Torres and defender Carlos Johnson, were called up to Costa Rica's Gold Cup squad earlier this summer.

“We don’t know a whole lot about them, but I’m sure they’ll be a good team,” said LA head coach Bruce Arena. “They’re in the beginning of their club season and there’s not a whole lot of information. They had an impressive run last year to get here. We respect our opponent, but we obviously need to be more concerned about ourselves.”

Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas is a veteran of the Costa Rican league who was spotted by LA when his former club LD Alajuelense met the Galaxy in CCL play two years ago. He offered some insight into Cartaginés ahead of this week's meeting, suggesting that Tuesday's visitors may not be suited for a defense-first approach against the defending MLS Cup champions.

“I think that they’ll be a little bit scared when they see the size of the field because it’s not usual for them to play on this type of field,” Sarvas told the LA Galaxy Insider blog in reference to the roomy pitch at StubHub Center. “In Costa Rica, they don’t have that much organization, so if they sit back, it’s not the best for them because they don’t keep the lines and it’s not what they normally do.” 

He does predict a spirited performance from a group of players eager to showcase their abilities on one of the region's biggest stages, however.

“I expect a team that’s going to come with a lot of energy. It was the same for me two years ago when I came here,” Sarvas said. “You want to show yourself to the Galaxy and look for new options.

“I expect a good game.”

At least one face will be quite familiar to the Galaxy. Cartaginés' squad includes Uruguayan midfielder Paolo Cardozo, LA's first-round pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft and a member of their MLS Cup championship team that season.

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