Los Angeles Soccer: Oscar Ramirez

GALAXY: A loss that's a win if form holds

September, 22, 2011
ALAJUELA, Costa Rica -- The Galaxy exited Costa Rica enthusiastic about the atmosphere they encountered at Alajuelense's stadium, but far less so about the unyielding artificial surface that led to what coach Bruce Arena called a “sloppy game” -- and not at all, of course, with the result.

Alajuela's 1-0 CONCACAF Champions League triumph Wednesday night at Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto won't be remembered for much more than the intensity of the Costa Rican fans and Pablo Antonio's exquisite first-half free kick that provided the lone goal.

The Galaxy (2-2-0) dropped to third in the Group A with the defeat, behind Alajuelense (3-1-0) and Morelia (3-1-0), which picked up a road win Thursday, winning, 2-0, against Motagua in Honduras.

Home teams have won every game in the group except the two in Tegucigalpa, and therein lies the Galaxy's path to next year's knockout stage of the region's club championship. It's rather simple, really: Win the last two group games -- against Morelia on Wednesday night at Home Depot Center and Oct. 20 at Motagua -- and L.A. is through.

All because the loss in suburban San Jose was, in one very real sense, a victory. Not that it felt like one.

Landon Donovan said the Galaxy “were a little na´ve in the way we played, the way we went about things” and David Beckham acknowledged that L.A., after Donovan went just wide with a rebound in the fourth minute, didn't “create too much after that” and that “sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say you were beaten by a team that performed better on the night and also scored a great goal.”

“I don't think we played well,” Arena said. “The field was real difficult to play on. Obviously, our opponent is more comfortable on the surface. We're not using it as an excuse, but it's a terrible field to play this kind of competition on. ... You don't want to use that as an excuse. That would not be fair. That would not give our opponent the credit they deserve.”

Winning on the road, especially in Mexico and Central America, is difficult in the Champions League, and field conditions are part of it. Alajuela's turf is similar to Club Tijuana's at Estadio Caliente: green plastic with rubberized pellets that offers little give and unnatural bounces, and La Liga's manager, Oscar Ramirez, didn't disagree with Arena's assessment.

“It's difficult in Costa Rica,” he said through an interpreter. “We don't have the kinds of fields you have in the U.S. It's difficult for grass. It rains too much.”

That's true. San Jose is surrounded by rain forests, and torrential rains hit both days the Galaxy was in town, almost like clockwork, right around 2 p.m. How that impacts grass fields is anyone's guess, but Alajuela knows its advantages and used them against the Galaxy.

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