CARSON, Calif. – The importance of getting off to a good start in the home leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against Club Tijuana certainly isn't lost on the LA Galaxy.
They've been schooled too many times on what can happen when chances aren't taken in the opening legs of home-and-home series, and they're coming off something of a reminder with the loss to Real Salt Lake in their MLS opener.
The Galaxy's dominance in opening home legs of their last two two-match competitions, against Monterrey in the semifinals of last year's CCL and Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference semifinals last fall, didn't count for enough after road defeats in second legs.
“I think in both those games we played very well, much like this past weekend, but we didn't finish chances, and it gets magnified in these series,” Landon Donovan said on the eve of Wednesday's showdown with the Xolos at StubHub Center (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer Plus, Galavision). “During the season, you miss a few chances, you might get out of it with a tie or win, 1-0, and you still get the points. But in a series like this, every goal is important.
“That was our only fault in both of those [games], and we just have to do better in front of goal. It's simple as that.”
The Galaxy was the better team for 80 minutes of their opening leg with Monterrey but had hit the net just once and was pushing forward in search of a second goal. The Rayados, who won the CCL title, tallied twice in the final minutes for a 2-1 win, then held off LA and scored another late goal for a 1-0 win in Mexico.
LA deserved at least three goals in the first leg against RSL last November but scored only one in a narrow win, then lost in overtime in Sandy, Utah.
“Every goal matters in this series, and we know that,” defender Todd Dunivant said. “And we also have to remember the lesson from Monterrey, that you can't push too much, and if you do, you're going to get burned. We turned a 1-0 win into a 2-1 loss and really put ourselves up against it going down there.
“It's got to be a smart game. You have to take your chances when you get them – that's true of every game, but you have to really be clinical in these series and take you chances. That's how you have your success. And from a defensive standpoint, we have to make sure we keep them off the scoresheet and do our jobs, because every single goal matters.”
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The Galaxy saw it again Saturday, when they took 27 shots and created at least a dozen decent scoring chances in a dominant showing but lost to RSL 1-0, when they failed to finish.
“It's still early days, you know, the first game,” said captain Robbie Keane, who hit the post and saw his stoppage-time penalty kick saved by Nick Rimando. “We were unlucky and certainly Saturday is a game we could have easily won, but there's a lot of positives we can certainly take, with the opportunities we created.
"There's certainly positives. It's only one game into the season, this is a different competition, and, of course, in any game you have to take care of your chances if you want to win.”