Los Angeles Soccer: Pablo Antonio
ALAJUELA, Costa Rica -- Had the Galaxy held on to a lead in the final 10 minutes of last week's defeat at Morelia, their place in next year's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals would be more or less assured.
After a second successive road loss in the region's club championship, their hopes of making the knockout stage are in doubt.
Costa Rican champion Alajuelese used a terrific free kick by Pablo Antonio and a superb performance from its backline Wednesday night to surge atop the Group A standings with a 1-0 triumph in front of a singing, chanting, swearing -- at David Beckham, mostly -- crowd at Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto in the San Jose suburbs.
La Liga (3-1-0) moved three points above Mexico's Morelia, which plays Thursday, and the Galaxy (2-2-0), which will be in must-win territory next week at Home Depot Center in its rematch with the Mexicans, dropped from the top spot to third. Only the top two advance from the group stage.
They'll have to win without Beckham.
The Galaxy star -- cheered and jeered by a nearly packed house at the compact stadium -- picked up his second yellow card of Group A play seven minutes into the second half after tripping Luis Miguel Valle in midfield.
Jamaican referee Courtney Campbell delayed his decision, reaching for the card only after lobbying from Alajuelense players, and it carries a one-game suspension.
Alajuela went ahead in the 28th minute. Juninho knocked Jonathan McDonald off the ball about 10 yards above the semicircle, and Antonio's left-footed free kick curled into the upper-left corner, beyond outstretched goalkeeper Josh Saunders' arms.
Saunders never had a chance.
Antonio was sensational. Nominally a left-sided midfielder, La Liga's captain roamed inside at will, working with central midfielder Marcelo Fazzio to connect the Alajuelense attack, surging forward at opportune times and testing L.A.'s defense with several shots from distance -- most off-target, if just barely, but all of them sharp and tidy.