MORELIA, Mexico -- Morelia had its foot on the gas from the start of Tuesday night's CONCACAF Champions League clash with the Galaxy, using its advantages -- primarily related to touch, positioning and comfort in tight spaces -- to exert pressure on the Galaxy's defense.
That left space to exploit, and when the Galaxy finally took advantage, early in the second half, Robbie Keane demonstrated why he could be so valuable an addition.
Keane scored in the 52nd minute, and it would have been enough to send L.A. to a Group A upset at Estadio Morelos if not for a pair of uncharacteristic errors near the finish by goalkeeper Josh Saunders.
Instead, Morelia rallied for a 2-1 Group A victory, pulling out three points on Miguel Sabah's header two minutes into stoppage. Saunders had the shot covered, but it ricocheted off him and rolled into the net.
The Monarcas tied the score nine minutes earlier when Saunders fumbled Adrian Aldrete's 83rd-minute blast across the goal line.
It was a tough ending for Saunders, who was certainly L.A.'s -- and perhaps the game's -- man of the match, making seven superb saves, including at least three of real brilliance in the second half -- two on Rafael Marquez Lugo and another, even better, on Jorge Gastelum.
He had Aldrete's sharp shot covered, too, but it slipped through his legs, and although he leapt on the ball while it was still on the goal line, he pushed it into the goal while wrapping his body around it.
“I don't really know what to say,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “I thought some difficult decisions went against us to decide the game. ... I thought Josh played well. We don't even know if the first [Morelia] goal was a goal.”
Arena also was troubled by linesman Oscar Velasquez's decision to flag Keane offside in the 90th, after he knocked in a rebound -- for a would-be 2-1 lead -- after Morelia goalkeeper Federico Villar made a diving save on Omar Gonzalez.
The result dropped L.A. to 2-1-0 in the regional club championship and vaulted Morelia (2-1-0) atop the group. The teams meet again Sept. 28 at Home Depot Center.
L.A.'s defense, under considerable pressure all night, was remarkable, but it could absorb only so much, and Sabah's introduction at halftime added a spark to the Monarcas' attack, although it was the Galaxy who struck first.
It came from a cross-field ball, from the left wing, from Landon Donovan. Keane took the ball, quickly stepped around Gastelum and fired past Villar from 13 yards.
Keane nearly beat Villar again in the 73rd minute, lofting a long shot from inside the Galaxy half when he saw the keeper off his line. Villar had no trouble tracking the ball, which would have tucked in under the crossbar, pushing it over the bar.
The Galaxy had two fine first-half chances, but Mike Magee's ball through the goalmouth was just beyond Keane in the 17th minute, and Gonzalez's header from a 31st-minute Donovan free kick bounced onto and over the crossbar.
Donovan was jeered and whistled every time he touched the ball.
The Galaxy started four firm first-choice players -- Donovan, Keane, Gonzalez and left back Todd Dunivant -- and another four who start semi-regularly. Morelia coach Tomas Boy included six starters from the group that won Sunday at Cruz Azul.
Estadio Morelos (Morelia, Mexico)
Morelia 2, Galaxy 1
LA -- Robbie Keane (Landon Donovan) 52
M -- Adrian Aldrete 83
M -- Miguel Sabah (Manuel Perez) 92+
Morelia: Federico Villar; Marvin Cabrera, Luis Silva, Diego Jimenez, Adrian Aldrete; Joao Rojas, Jorge Gastelum (Manuel Perez, 78), Aldo Ramirez, Luis Sandoval (Gerardo Lugo, 58); Damian Manso (Miguel Sabah, 46), Rafael Marquez Lugo.
Galaxy: Josh Saunders; Frankie Hejduk, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant; Landon Donovan, Chris Birchall (Jovan Kirovski, 87), Michael Stephens, Mike Magee (Bryan Jordan, 77); Robbie Keane, Adam Cristman (Chad Barrett, 64). Unused subs: Paolo Cardozo, Dan Keat, Miguel Lopez, Brian Perk.
Yellow card: Sabah 93+.
Referee: Jose Pineda (Honduras). Att.: 30,000 (estimate).
1. Morelia 2-1-0 (6-2) 6
2. Galaxy 2-1-0 (5-2) 6
3. Alajuelense 1-1-0 (1-2) 3
4. Motagua 0-2-0 (0-6) 0