Now that the LA Galaxy have clinched a berth among the final eight in the CONCACAF Champions League, they’re hoping they have the means next year to go farther than in the previous two competitions.
The Galaxy, using a reserve lineup, won Group 8 and advanced to next year's knockout stage with a simpler-than-expected 3-0 romp Wednesday night over Cartaginés, their first victory in four tries in Costa Rica.
The Galaxy lost to Toronto FC in the 2011-12 quarterfinals and to Monterrey in the semifinals back in April, and head coach Bruce Arena was asked in his postgame news conference if LA could do better.
“Next year we will have a new team,” Arena said. “There will be changes, of course, so I can't answer that question at this point, but hopefully we'll have a team that can advance in the competition.”
The Galaxy have all three of their Designated Players – Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez – locked up, as well as other key figures, but they'll be in early-season mode when they head into the home-and-home quarterfinals early next March.
Arena had hoped to give Donovan at least a few minutes against Cartaginés, but his sprained left ankle hadn't healed enough and he watched from the stands.
Donovan told reporters in Costa Rica before the game that he wanted to play, but that “we're going to do what's right.”
“If I can play then I want to play,” he said. “I'm not going to do any more damage, then I want to play. If the determination is that I can still do more damage, then we'll be smart.”
The Galaxy played it smart.
“We didn't want to risk it in this game,” Arena said. “We're hopeful he can be ready for [the game at Portland on] Sunday.”
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The Galaxy's victory means they can concentrate on what could be a pivotal MLS regular-season finale Oct. 27 at Seattle, but the final CCL group-stage game three days earlier at Isidro Metapán still has meaning.
Seeding is based on points and goal difference, and the Galaxy (3-0-0) are third in the overall standings with a 6-0 goals total, trailing Toluca (10-3) and Cruz Azul (8-1), who have also won all three of their matches. Three other group leaders – Club Tijuana, who also has advanced, Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo – are 2-0-1.
“We're going to go down [to El Salvador] with a game plan, going to send down a team that we know we can get a result,” goalkeeper Brian Rowe said. “We're going to come in with the same mentality as this one and try to put ourselves in the best position for the quarterfinals.”