Los Angeles Soccer: CONCACAF Champions League
The game originally was scheduled to be played Sunday, Sept. 16. and would have made the team's window to travel to Puerto Rico for a Sept. 19 game much smaller.
“We have made this decision, with the support of Major League Soccer and our opponents the Colorado Rapids, for purely competitive reasons,” Galaxy Vice President Chris Klein in a statement released by the team. “We want to position our team as best we can to be successful in our trip to Puerto Rico on September 19 to face the Islanders in the CONCACAF Champions League and felt that we would be more adequately prepared for that important game with two extra days of rest and training ahead of it.”
The trip to Puerto Rico will be the team's first road game in the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League.
That leaves no margin for error against Salvadoran powerhouse Isidro Metapan, the only club not from Mexico or Major League Soccer to reached the quarterfinals in the last competition, and Puerto Rico Islanders, a 2009 semifinalist who beat the Galaxy in the preliminary round in the 2010-11 tournament.
CONCACAF on Friday announced the matches for eight three-team, first-stage groups, with the first games -- one involving two-time defending champion Monterrey, from Mexico, and the other with Real Salt Lake visiting Costa Rica's Herediano -- set for July 31. Puerto Rico, which plays in American second-division North American Soccer League, claimed the final berth in the tournament Thursday by winning the third-place match at the Caribbean Football Union Club Championship.
The Galaxy have a bye in the first week and open their Group 5 schedule Aug. 23 at Home Depot Center against Metapan, then take on the Islanders at HDC on Aug. 29. They play Sept. 19 at Puerto Rico and Oct. 25 at Metapan.
L.A. will have no complaints about the delayed start: The friendly against Real Madrid is Aug. 2, during the first “match day,” and comes in a stretch of seven games in 23 days, including also the July 24 friendly against Tottenham.
Now L.A. gets another stab at the Puerto Rico Islanders, who on Thursday claimed the final spot in Group 5 of the Champions League with a victory over Antigua Barracuda in the third-place game at the Caribbean Football Union Club Championship.
The Islanders, making their fifth successive appearance in CONCACAF's club championship, will play home-and-homes later this summer and in early fall with the Galaxy and El Salvador's Isidro Metapan, with the top side advancing to next year's quarterfinals.
The clubs expected a match schedule last week, but CONCACAF has not yet provided one. Openers are to be played July 31-Aug. 2, and the group stage ends Oct. 23-25.
The Islanders, who play in the second-division North American Soccer League, ousted the Galaxy in the preliminary round of the 2010-11 Champions League, rolling to a 4-1 victory in the first leg at Home Depot Center and advancing after the Galaxy won, 2-1, in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Bill Gaudette, the Galaxy's No. 3 goalkeeper, was in the nets for the Islanders, who also have beaten Toronto FC, Mexican clubs Cruz Azul, Santos Laguna and Toluca, and Costa Rican powerhouse Alajuelense in the competition. Coach Bruce Arena came down with dengue fever while in Puerto Rico.
The Islanders lost to Isidro Metapan, on the away-goals rule, in last season's prelimary round. The Salvadorans, who also have taken part in all four tournaments since CONCACAF switched to the league format in 2008, were the only club not from Mexico or Major League Soccer to reach the knockout stage. Metapan defeated Santos and Pumas UNAM at home during their run but was blown out in the away legs.
The Galaxy will face Salvadoran powerhouse Isidro Metapan and the least of the Caribbean's three qualifiers in the group stage of the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League.
Tuesday's draw in New York placed the Galaxy, the top U.S. qualifier for the regional club championship, atop Group 5. Metapan, which is making its fifth successive CCL appearance, was the only club not from Major League Soccer or Mexico to reach the knockout stage of the competition that wrapped in April. It has won six of the last 11 league titles in El Salvador, since spring 2007.
The Caribbean entrants will be determined in a four-team group final in the Caribbean Football Union's Club Championship. The finalists include two teams playing in U.S. leagues -- two-time defending Caribbean champ Puerto Rico Islanders (from the second-division North American Soccer League) and Antigua Barracuda (from the third-division USL Pro) -- along with Trinidadian powers Caledonia AIA and W Connection. No schedule has been announced.
CONCACAF also hasn't announced a schedule for the Champions League, which kicks off July 31. Group play runs through mid-October and the eight group winners will be seeded based on results for the knockout stage, which begins next March.
Here are all of the groups:
Santos Laguna (Mexico)
Toronto FC (Canada)
Aguila (El Salvador)
Herediano (Costa Rica)
Real Salt Lake (U.S.)
Houston Dynamo (U.S.)
FAS (El Salvador)
Seattle Sounders (U.S.)
Isidro Metapan (El Salvador)
UANL Tigres (Mexico)
Alajuelense (Costa Rica)
Real Esteli (Nicaragua)
The Major League Soccer campaign isn't going so well for the Galaxy, and neither did the U.S. Open Cup -- nor the knockout rounds of the last CONCACAF Champions League.
But there's one more trophy to pursue, and L.A. will learn its path Tuesday when CONCACAF stages the draw for the 2012-13 Champions League at its New York offices.
The Galaxy, as MLS Cup champion, will head one of eight three-team groups in the competition's first stage, with the winner advancing to next year's quarterfinals. They're one of eight clubs in Pot A for the draw and will be joined by one team each from Pots B and C.
L.A. cannot be drawn with other U.S. teams -- the Seattle Sounders also are in Pot A, and the Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake are in Pot B -- or with a Mexican club. That means that they will be joined from Pot B by one of four clubs:
- MLS rival Toronto FC, which beat the Galaxy three months ago in the 2011-12 quarterfinals
- Costa Rican power Alajuelense, which was in Group A with the Galaxy last year
- Honduras' Marathon
- El Salvador's Isidro Metapan, the only 2011-12 quarterfinalist not from MLS or Mexico
Pot C contains five Central American clubs and three teams, yet to be determined, from the Caribbean Football Union. Two of the four Caribbean finalists play in U.S. leagues: Puerto Rico Islanders (in the North American Soccer League) and Antigua Barracuda (in the USL Pro).
The group winners will be ranked by their records and seeded into the knockout bracket following group play, which begins July 31 and runs into October. The quarterfinals will be played late next winter.
Mexico's Monterrey is the two-time defending champion, beating Real Salt Lake in the 2011 title series and countrymen Santos Laguna earlier this spring.
El Salvador received a third berth as the only Central American country to send a club to the 2011-12 knockout stage. FAS takes the slot from Belize, which has no stadiums that meet CONCACAF standards.
Below is the list of teams in each pot, the Caribbean finalists and previous winners of the tournament:
The Galaxy is in the competition for the third successive tournament, and they will be top seed in one of eight first-round groups, with a format change dwindling the size of each group from four to three teams while eliminating the preliminary round.
All four U.S. representatives were determined by results in Major League Soccer last year, and the league likely will get a fifth entrant when the Canadian Championship -- with three MLS clubs among four semifinalists -- is contested next month.
Half the qualifiers from Mexico and Central America have been selected, with the current spring championships to decide the other half. The three Caribbean representatives will be selected in a tournament next month.
The CCL will kick off with games July 31 and Aug. 1 and 2, with further first-round games slated for Aug. 21-23, Aug. 28-30, Sept. 18-20, Sept. 25-27 and Oct. 23-25.
Group winners will advance to the quarterfinals (March 5-7 and 12-13, 2013). The semifinals will be played April 2-4 and 9-11, and the final is slated for April 24 and May 1.
CONCACAF has not yet announced a date for the tournament draw, but the Galaxy's group will include one team each from Pot B (possibilities are one of Mexico's runners-up, Canada's rep, the top qualifier from El Salvador and the No. 2 qualifiers from Costa Rica and Honduras) and Pot C (No. 2 teams from El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama; the Nicaraguan and Belizean champions; the three Caribbean qualifiers).
Here is where things stand in qualifying:
United States: Galaxy (MLS Cup/Supporters' Shield champion), Seattle Sounders (U.S. Open Cup champion), Houston Dynamo (MLS Cup runner-up), Real Salt Lake (third in Supporters' Shield, with No. 1 Galaxy and No. 2 Seattle qualifying through other means).
Mexico: Pumas UNAM (Apertura champion), Santos Laguna (Apertura runner-up). Two more slots, for the Clausura champion and runner-up.
Canada: Canadian Championship winner, tournament begins May 2.
With star striker Humbero Suazo, author of both goals in last week's first leg, suspended for the title-series finale, the Rayados created nearly nothing offensively until the finish, when Neri Cardozo delivered with one sensational run.
Cardozo's goal in the 82nd minute trimmed Santos Laguna's margin of victory in the second leg to 2-1, giving Monterrey a 3-2 aggregate advantage in the all-Mexican final.
Monterrey, which wins a return trip to the FIFA Club World Cup, slated for next December in Japan, becomes the fourth team to repeat as champion, joining countrymen Cruz Azul (twice) and Pachuca. Mexico City's Cruz Azul won a record three in a row from 1969 through 1971.
The Galaxy reached the quarterfinals in the tournament, losing to Toronto FC, which lost to Santos in the semifinals. They'll be in the next edition, which is slated to begin in late July.
Santos, playing at home in Torreon, evened the series at two goals apiece with strikes at the end of the first half and near the start of the second. Daniel Ludueña fired inside the right post from just above the box three minutes into first-half stoppage, and Oribe Peralta fired to the top-right corner in the 51st minute, following Rodolfo Salinas' failed bicycle-kick attempt after Monterrey goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco slapped away a Carlos Quintero cross.
Monterrey put only two shots on target, but the second was a worthy winner. After a Santos turnover, Cardozo was fed just inside the midfield stripe and took off on a 50-yard run. He beat two defenders with a quick give-and-go with Walter Ayovi, chested down the return pass just outside the box and half-volleyed a deflected shot inside the left post.
CONCACAF CLUB CHAMPIONS
CONCACAF Champions League
2011-12 -- Monterrey (Mexico)
2010-11 -- Monterrey (Mexico)
2009-10 -- Pachuca (Mexico)
2008-09 -- Atlante (Mexico)
The Chilean striker scored in the 60th and 86th minutes to give the Rayados the advantage heading into next week's second leg in Torreon. He finished from Aldo de Nigris' feed for the first goal, then added a splendid finale by beating four defenders on a tight, weaving run into the box.
The goals were his sixth and seventh of the competition. He netted just once during the group phase, then tallied four times -- twice in each leg -- in a quarterfinal victory over Morelia.
Suazo will miss the second leg after picking up a yellow card in the fourth minute, and Santos defenders Felipe Baloy and Omar Mares also will be suspended after they were cautioned.
This is the third all-Mexican final in four tournaments since CONCACAF switched its club championship to the current “league” format in 2008. Atlante beat Cruz Azul in the 2009 final and Pachuca beat Cruz Azul in 2010. Monterrey toppled Real Salt Lake in last year's final.
This will be the seventh straight year, ninth time in 11 editions and 12th in 16 that a Mexican club will win the championship.
Santos scored four second-half goals en route to a 6-2 triumph Wednesday night over Toronto in the second leg of a semifinal, posting a 7-3 aggregate victory to forge the third all-Mexico final in four tournaments since the region's club championship switched to its current “league” format in 2008.
The Guerreros in the final will meet defending champion Monterrey, which completed a 4-1 aggregate victory in the other semi with a 1-1 draw against Pumas UNAM in Mexico City. The first leg, on April 17, 18 or 19, is in Monterrey, and the second leg, a week later, will be played in Torreon.
Former Galaxy forward Herculez Gomez scored two first-half goals for Santos, each answering a Joao Plata strike that gave Toronto the advantage. A 2-2 tie would have sent the Reds to the final, but Juan Pablo Rodriguez converted penalty kicks in the 56th and 64th minutes, Oribe Peralta added an insurance goal in the 66th, and Daniel Ludueña added another in stoppage.
Angel Reyna scored in the 35th minute Wednesday for Monterrey, and Antonio Garcia pulled Pumas even in the 71st.
Toronto eliminated the Galaxy in the quarterfinals, claiming a 4-3 aggregate win with a 2-1 triumph March 11 at Home Depot Center. Santos the same night eliminated the Seattle Sounders with a 6-1 victory in Torreon. The Galaxy, Seattle, Real Salt Lake and Houston will represent MLS in the next tournament, which begins in late summer. Toronto competes in the four-team Canadian Championship for another berth.
Benfica (Portugal) at Chelsea (England)
Fox Soccer Channel, 11:30 a.m.
Salomon Kalou's second-half goal delivered a 1-0 victory to Chelsea in the first leg. If the Blues hold on at Stamford Bridge, they're in the final four. Replays: Fox Soccer Plus, 2 and 5:30 p.m.; Fox Deportes, 2 p.m.
APOEL (Cyprus) at Real Madrid (Spain), Fox Sports West, Fox Soccer Plus and Fox Deportes, 11:30 a.m.; Fox Soccer Channel, 2 p.m.
CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Toronto FC (Canada) at Santos Laguna (Mexico)
Fox Soccer Channel and Telefutura (KFTR/Channel 46), 5 p.m.
The Galaxy's killer played Mexico's top club to a 1-1 draw in the first leg, but Santos scored six at home against Seattle -- and last week's red cards and postgame melee will amp up the intensity. Replay: FSC, midnight.
Monterrey (Mexico) at Pumas UNAM (Mexico), Fox Soccer Channel and Telefutura (KFTR/Channel 46), 7 p.m.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Montreal Impact at Real Salt Lake
MLS Direct Kick, 6 p.m.
Quebec's expansionists are still looking for their initial victory, and Rio Tinto is a tough place to get it, regardless of what Chivas USA pulled off a week and a half ago.
Santos (Brazil) at Internacional (Brazil)
Fox Deportes, 6 p.m.
Group A leader Santos and second-place Internacional tangle with at least one round-of-16 spot on the line. Santos won the first meeting in South America's club championship on Neymar's hat trick.
Olimpia (Paraguay) at Lanus (Argentina), Fox Deportes, 4 a.m.
Flamengo (Brazil) at Emelec (Ecuador), Fox Deportes, 11 p.m.
TORRANCE -- Tim Leiweke has a message for those counting the Galaxy out following a nightmare start to their season: Do so at your own peril.
His other message: Blame's on him.
Back-to-back losses to Real Salt Lake in their Major League Soccer opener and in the decisive leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against Toronto FC have the reigning MLS champions reeling, but Leiweke, the president and CEO of owner Anschutz Entertainment Group, says all is well.
“This team is always going to be competitive,” Leiweke said following a news conference announcing a 10-year, $44 million extension of the club's sponsorship agreement with nutritional supplement company Herbalife. “And if people think the demise of the Galaxy is upon them, they sorely misunderstand the character and passion of this organization.”
The Galaxy collapsed after taking a late lead against RSL in a 3-1 loss last Saturday night, then dominated play but struggled in the boxes in a 2-1 defeat Wednesday night, a huge upset that sent Toronto to the regional club championship's semifinals.
Leiweke, like head coach Bruce Arena before him, took responsibility for the failure, citing loan deals that deprived L.A. of stars Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane until a few days before the first leg against Toronto and an “unfair” schedule that forced the Galaxy to play three important matches in eight days while Toronto and fellow Champions League quarterfinalist Seattle Sounders received byes when league play began last weekend.
“It's been a couple of tough weeks, but that's my fault,” Leiweke said. “We lent players out, we have guys overseas, we probably should have fought back over the schedule. The schedule was brutal, unfair, and we're the only team that had it. So as governor of the team, I take full responsibility.
“The league, I think, didn't treat this team fairly, and I'm no happy with the league, and they should accept responsibility. But we're not whining about it. It is what it is [and] we congratulate Toronto -- they did a great job.”
CARSON -- The Galaxy's unexpected collapse in the CONCACAF Champions League came as a body blow for Major League Soccer's top team. “We definitely expected to advance,” noted captain Landon Donovan, who before both quarterfinal legs with Toronto FC said when the “opportunity to do something special” comes along, “we want to take advantage of it.”
Instead, it's Canada's team, after a 2-1 second-leg win for a 4-3 aggregate triumph, that will join three Mexican clubs -- Santos Laguna, Monterrey and Pumas UNAM -- in the final four. The prevailing mood in the Galaxy locker room? “Kind of a bit of disbelief,” reported Mike Magee.
The Galaxy, 0-2-1 to start the year, dictated terms all night but weren't sharp enough to find the net, and errors in the back -- including two very costly failures by rookie Tommy Meyer against Ryan Johnson -- cost L.A. its chance to be special.
The Champions League, which sends the victor to next December's FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, was the Galaxy's No. 1 priority this year. It wasn't going to be easy: Santos Laguna, who would have been L.A.'s semifinal foe is the best side in the competition, and the other side of the bracket is nearly as good. There remains a gap between Mexico's top league and everyone else, especially with Mexican clubs in midseason form and MLS teams nowhere close to that.
The Galaxy's preseason development lagged behind nearly everyone else's in MLS. They started a week later than most clubs after playing into December, were without two-thirds of their Designated Players during all of preseason, and haven't yet figured out how to overcome losing Omar Gonzalez to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Exiting the competition might be a good thing. They drop at least two and as many as seven games from a heavy schedule that could have kept them on the field, from preseason kickoff to final whistle, for nearly 11 months. They're able to focus on developing this team -- building chemistry among the attackers, solidifying the back line best they can without Gonzalez, implementing that killer attitude so important in last year's title run -- while pursuing the three domestic titles and readying for another Champions League go when the next tournament kicks off in late summer.
“I think the biggest thing we need is time to get on the practice field and work on things,” Donovan said Wednesday night, “because when you're playing game after game, you don't have time to train. As disappointing as this is, at least after this weekend we have two full weeks to get back on the field, watch tape, work on things that we need to get better at so that we can all start gelling better.”
Manchester United (England) at Athletic Bilbao (Spain)
GolTV, 11 a.m.
United had Champions League aspirations when the season began, but that didn't work out so well, and now the Red Devils are on the verge of elimination in Europe's No. 2 club competition, after a 3-2 home loss in the first leg of the round-of-16 series.
Manchester City (England) at Sporting Clube (Portugal), GolTV, 1 p.m.
Olimpia (Paraguay) at Flamengo (Brazil)
Fox Deportes, 6 p.m.
The top two teams after two games tangle in a tight Group 2 of South America's club championship.
Santos (Brazil) at Juan Aurich (Peru), Fox Deportes, 3:30 p.m.
CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Isidro Metapan (El Salvador) at Pumas UNAM (Mexico)
Galavision, 7 p.m.
Lester Blanco scored twice as the Salvadorans stunned the Mexico City giant in a quarterfinal first leg last week in Metapan. Second-leg success will be much more difficult.
CARSON -- The Galaxy's unexpected exit Wednesday night from the CONCACAF Champions League exposed, or perhaps confirmed, weaknesses at the back while illustrating that it's not how many chances are created but rather what is done with them.
L.A. dictated nearly every facet of its quarterfinal second leg against Toronto FC, but it failed in the most vital areas, and so it's adventure in this competition is done while the Reds, after a 2-1 triumph at Home Depot Center provided a 4-3 aggregate victory over two games, are headed to the region's final four.
Rookie Tommy Meyer was schooled twice by Ryan Johnson and the Galaxy failed to turn its opportunities into goals, sparking some serious hand-wringing over what's missing and what needs to be done.
The biggest issue, no matter how often head coach Bruce Arena protests otherwise, continues to be Omar Gonzalez's absence and L.A.'s inability to find an adequate replacement, but something else is afoot.
“It's more mentality,” said midfielder Mike Magee, whose go-ahead goal a little more than midway through the first half was wiped away by a possibly errant offside call. “We have the defenders. Obviously, you can't replace Omar, but the mentality is not right. It's not the defenders, it's not the goalie, it's all of us. We're kind of lacking a bite, which is something that won us a championship last year.
“If you don't have a bite as a team, you're not going to beat anyone.”
The Galaxy did enough to advance to a semifinal against Mexico's Santos Laguna, but it managed to find the net just once -- when former L.A. defender Ty Harden, sliding to break up a Landon Donovan pass for Robbie Keane, knocked the ball into his net for an own goal 10 minutes into the second half -- despite creating at least a dozen good opportunities.
They weren't sharp when it mattered, especially Keane, who was stopped twice by TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic in one-on-one opportunities, the most frustrating in the 74th minute, when his chip after Donovan played him into the box was slapped away.
Ultimately, it wasn't enough, as L.A. sputtered out of the regional club championship Wednesday night despite dominating Toronto FC more or less from start to finish, a 2-1 setback sending the Canadians to the semifinals on 4-3 aggregate.
Ryan Johnson scored against the run of play in the first half and Nick Soolsma in the second as the Reds, Major League Soccer's lone survivor in the competition, twice took advantage of rookie defender Tommy Meyer.
The Galaxy have lost back-to-back games at Home Depot Center for the first time in five years.
Former Galaxy defender Ty Harden knocked a cross from Landon Donovan into Toronto FC's net 10 minutes into the second half as L.A. rallied to tie the score, and, had nothing changed, the Galaxy would have advanced on away goals. Had Harden not slid into the ball, Robbie Keane was behind him for what surely would have been a simple finish.
Mike Magee scored in the 27th minute from Keane's feed, but Panamanian linesman Jaime Smith judged him offside, a call that replays did not support.
Johnson escaped Meyer's mark at the left post to head home Soolsma's cross in the 35th minute. Soolsma volleyed a chip in the 67th from Johnson, who beat Meyer on the left side of the Galaxy box.