Alan Gordon came off the bench to do what he does best, and the LA Galaxy were set to claim the No. 1 seed in the CONCACAF Champions League knockout phase after taking a late lead Wednesday night against Comunicaciones.
It all fell apart in stoppage time.
LA, which too often have conceded debilitating late goals, gave up a 93rd-minute equalizer to Rolando Blackburn, and the 1-1 draw in Guatemala City knocked them down to the No. 5 seed and a quarterfinal assignment with Mexico's Santos Laguna.
It mirrored, somewhat, the Galaxy's situation two years ago, when they headed into their final CCL group-stage game in position to claim a top-three seed, dropped a 4-0 decision at Isidro Metapan to fall to No. 6 in the ranking of group winners, and had to face a quarterfinal showdown with Club Tijuana, which won over two legs.
The Galaxy (2-0-2) would have played the Seattle Sounders in the quarterfinals had they held on Wednesday. Instead, all four final-eight matchups will pit MLS teams, in preseason form, against Mexican clubs well into their Liga MX clausura campaign.
Blackburn's goal, a tap-in at the far post after he ran through open space when Agustin Herrera beat Todd Dunivant and Baggio Husidic on the right flank, spoiled what was looking like a fine night for LA, who got help in MLS when Sporting Kansas City -- their foe in Sunday's regular-season finale -- lost at home against Colorado. LA likely will still need a victory to claim the Western Conference's No. 2 seed for the MLS postseason, but it will be nearly impossible for KC to catch them.
Comunicaciones (1-2-1), with nothing but pride to play for, dominated the game from start to finish, outshooting LA, 23-6, while conceding just two shots on goal.
The Galaxy created just two legitimate chances, the first an Edson Buddle shot off the right post late in the first half, as Comunicaciones came close repeatedly in the first half and early in the second half.
Dunivant made his first appearance in three months, stepping into his familiar left-back role while wearing the captain's armband, and Buddle teamed up front with Jose Villarreal as the Galaxy left all 11 first-choice players at home with head coach Bruce Arena ahead of Sunday's clash.
Associate head coach Dave Sarachan guided LA in Guatemala City.
Comunicaciones, which have been in form in Guatemala's Liga Nacional, won most of the midfield battles and played through captain Jose Contreras to create a half-dozen good opportunities before halftime.
LA nearly went ahead in the 38th minute, when Ignacio Maganto took a deflected ball from Villarreal and took off toward the Comunicaciones box on a two-on-one break. The Spaniard played the ball to the right at the top of the box for Buddle, who had to wait on the bouncing ball, then dinked it over goalkeeper Mynor Padilla, who got a slight touch on it, and toward the net.
The ball bounced off the right post and then hit defender Joel Benitez, racing back to his goal line, and his momentum drove the ball toward the net. Benitez was able to turn and clear it from danger.
Los Cremas came close in the 18th minute, when a Contreras ball from the right just missed Emiliano Lopez at the near post and rolled past the far post, and LA goalkeeper Brian Rowe made saves on Rolando Blackburn in the 20th minute and on Benitez and Carlos Castrillo on back-to-back corner kicks about a half-hour in.
They nearly took the lead three minutes after Buddle's attempt, with Blackburn taking a Contreras feed that split two defenders into the box, the curling the ball by an onrushing Rowe. It went just past the right post.
The Galaxy added some veteran leadership in the second half, bringing on Dan Gargan at halftime and Husidic -- his first appearance since suffering a knee injury in the CCL draw at Central FC a month ago -- a dozen minutes later.
Comunicaciones tested Rowe in the 56th minute -- the 'keeper parried Kendel Herrarte's shot and then tipped it over his crossbar -- then came close two minutes later, when center back Tommy Meyer blocked shots off the goal line by Blackburn and Lopez.
Gordon, who has built his late career around scoring goals off the bench, came on in the 75th minute and fired LA ahead in the 84th.
Mika Väyrynen played the key pass, lofting a long ball from deep on the right flank to the left side of Comunicaciones' box. Dunivant collected it and tried a shot, but it ricocheted off Benitez's foot and rolled along the 6-yard line. Gordon turned on the ball, and fired inside the right post.
It wasn't enough, not after Blackburn's finish nine minutes later.