Los Angeles Soccer: Joao Plata

Mexico's CCL ownership intact

April, 4, 2012
Toronto FC gave Santos Laguna a battle until halftime. Then things quickly turned sour, and Major League Soccer's last hope for CONCACAF Champions League success was dead.

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.

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GALAXY: Movement key with Donovan gone

June, 10, 2011
The Galaxy's motto all year has been about depth, that they can succeed no matter who's on the field, and their results provide plenty of evidence. Despite missing all three of their Designated Players on occasion, as well as several key figures not making anywhere near seven figures, L.A. is 8-2-5 and targeting successive Supporters' Shields as Major League Soccer's regular-season champion.

The Galaxy weren't so good last week yet claimed a point in a 0-0 draw with D.C. United, which provided a blueprint for the rest of the league with its approach to defending L.A. when Landon Donovan is away, as he is now for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

It's a lesson struggling Toronto FC might want to take to heart Saturday night at Home Depot Center. The Galaxy certainly will -- they'll need better movement, both off the ball and of the ball, to counter the attention David Beckham can expect to receive, especially with fellow central midfielder Juninho missing.

D.C. United deserved all three points after shutting down the Galaxy's fatigued attack, accomplished by putting two defenders on Beckham, denying him space and time to connect with teammates, who mostly were just standing around.

"You know, the biggest thing was the [lack of] movement," Beckham said. "If you have movement in the game, then it creates space, it creates chances. ... It wasn't so much fitness, it was the [heavy] travel, the [loaded schedule] that we'd played, and maybe we had some tired legs out there. That then goes into your performance.

"There's no movement, there's no stepping into spaces where it makes the game easier to play."

Beckham was forced to drop deep in search of space -- too deep, really -- and without his service, the Galaxy had nothing. They thrive on Beckham's and Donovan's (and Juninho's) abilities to link teammates, dominate mismatches and keep up the pressure on opposing defenses, and if Toronto can quiet the English superstar as D.C. did, half the battle is won.

"I think it was just a consequence of [D.C.] marking me the way they did," Beckham said. "They kept the ball away from me, which was obviously their plan. On other occasions, you can get out of those positions, but as a team, we didn't play well, so we didn't combat that."

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MLS DRAFT: Mock first round

January, 12, 2011

The best players available in Thursday's Major League Soccer "SuperDraft"? They're below, in our mock first round. Trades will alter the order, with Real Salt Lake, in particular, looking to deal -- if anybody wants the No. 14 pick.

Several teams, the Galaxy included, could be looking to move up in the draft -- the first half-dozen or so players would help anybody, and there are a few more role players available in a class that might be better than first thought.

The draft has shrunk to just three rounds -- 54 picks -- but those not selected will be available in a four-round supplemental draft Tuesday.

And on to the picks:

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MLS DRAFT: Chivas USA awaits a prize

January, 12, 2011
Chivas USA knows it's getting something special in Thursday's Major League Soccer draft (ESPN2, 9 a.m.), but what?

The guess here is that the Goats opt for one among the three best backliners available with the No. 4 selection: University of North Carolina center back Jalil Anibaba, Akron right back Kofi Sarkodie or Akron defender Zarek Valentin, a center back whose future probably is as an outside back.

Anibaba, skilled and smooth, is a center back with some of the qualities possessed by Robin Fraser, Chivas' new head coach. Sarkodie is ready to step in at right back -- he's a brazen attacker, but there are questions about his defensive game. Valentin, the brother of former Galaxy defender Julian Valentin, is most versatile.

Chivas has plenty of needs, and Fraser could decide to go for a forward -- there are at least a half-dozen who are highly regarded -- or a creative midfielder, but the best value will be at the back.

Chivas' draft:

SELECTIONS: 2 (1st round, No. 4; 3rd round, No. 40)

PRIMARY NEEDS: Just about everything, except perhaps central midfielders -- and maybe wingers, if Rodolfo Espinoza is re-signed. Watch for a top-line central defender, who can learn from Jimmy Conrad, or an attack-minded outside back to arrive with the first pick, although there are a couple of forwards who might prove too enticing.

POTENTIAL TARGETS: Anibaba, Sarkodie or Valentin are the best bets, but Texas-born forward Omar Salgado, just 17, would be a most fitting addition. He comes from the Chivas family -- he was in Guadalajara's youth ranks but was forced to leave when he committed his international future to the U.S. He's 6-foot-4 with tremendous upside. ... Two other forwards who might be considered are Ecuadorans Joao Plata, just 5-3 but with magic in his feet, and Victor Estupian. ... Tulsa wing-forward Ashley McInnes' stock dropped during the combine, but he might be a steal if he's still around at No. 40.