TIJUANA, Mexico – The LA Galaxy lost command of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series less than a minute into Tuesday night's second leg, were playing catch-up after 10 minutes, and found themselves in a deepening hole before a half-hour had gone by.
Their hopes of a second straight trip to the semifinals, and a potential FIFA Club World Cup assignment in December, disappeared in nearly nothing flat, victim to three first-half goals as Club Tijuana romped toward a 4-2 triumph at Estadio Caliente.
Jaime Ayoví tallied twice in the opening minutes, Darío Benedetto added another in the 26th minute, and Richard Ruiz added a late insurance strike as the Xoloitzcuintles cruised into the region's club final four with a 4-3 aggregate victory.
Robbie Keane scored twice in the second half, tallying at the start of the second half to give LA hope, but the Galaxy couldn't score a second – that would have put them ahead on away goals – until after Ruiz's 82nd-minute finish provided Tijuana a needed cushion.
Tijuana are the first team to claim a spot in next month's semifinals, in which they will face Sporting Kansas City or Liga MX rivals Cruz Azul. The reigning MLS Cup champions head into Wednesday's second leg in Mexico City with a 1-0 advantage on aggregate.
The Galaxy used the same lineup, with the same bench players, as in the first leg and their MLS opener against Real Salt Lake. Tijuana made one change from its lineup at StubHub Center, with Benedetto up front and Fidel Martínez on the bench. Fernando Arce was in the 18 in place of Oliver Ortiz.
LA arrived with a 1-0 aggregate lead, thanks to Samuel's 11th-minute goal in last Wednesday's first leg at StubHub, but the Xolos erased the advantage while fans were still finding their way to their seats.
Ayoví tallied just 57 seconds into the game, an easy finish at the right post after the ball ricocheted around the Galaxy goalmouth. He started the sequence, running onto a ball on the right flank and crossing from the edge of the box. A.J. DeLaGarza blocked Joe Corona's shot, but it caromed behind him, and Benedetto tumbled – James Riley appeared to trip him up – as he tried to shoot. The ball rolled Ayoví's way, and he didn't disappoint.
The Ecuadoran international then hit the crossbar after a free kick into LA's box deflected to him just four minutes later, and he finished a breakaway in the ninth minute, beating Jaime Penedo just above the box and firing into an empty net from Javier Güemez's expert ball over the top.
Güemez hit the top of the crossbar from distance in the 22nd minute, and Benedetto made it 3-0 four minutes after that, also on a breakaway. A Galaxy pass was broken up at midfield, with the ball caroming forward, and as Leonardo tried to bring it down while facing his goal, Benedetto raced in, knocked it away, carried into the box and slotted past Penedo and inside the left post.
The Galaxy created just one first-half chance – Marcelo Sarvas forced a diving save from Cirilo Saucedo in the 39th minute – but Keane struck after a 47th-minute free kick to give the Galaxy life.
LA didn't create much afterward despite better form than in the first half, and Ruiz, a second-half substitute, beat Penedo from the right side of the box when Benedetto nodded on a Cristián Pellerano chip.
Keane scored again in the 85th, finishing from Donovan's feed, and the Galaxy pushed forward looking for a goal that would push them through. Five minutes of second-half stoppage helped their cause, but they created nothing particularly worrisome in the final 10 minutes.
The Galaxy return to MLS action Saturday night at Real Salt Lake, who won the first meeting, 1-0, in the MLS season opener 10 days ago in Carson.