Los Angeles Soccer: Tomas Boy
CARSON -- The Galaxy found redemption when they most needed it Wednesday night, washing away the frustration and injustice of the past few weeks with a stoppage-time goal that delivered a must-have victory in their biggest showdown of the season.
And, of course, everyone took a gander at the linesman, just to make sure.
Juninho's end-of-the-game finish from a corner kick delivered a 2-1 triumph over Morelia at Home Depot Center, exorcizing whatever demons remained from a controversial defeat to the Monarcas in Mexico and leaving L.A. 90 minutes from a berth among the final eight when CONCACAF's Champions League reaches the knockout stage early next year.
“It felt like poetic justice,” said left back Todd Dunivant, who made the feed for Mike Magee's first-half opener, then played a pivotal role in corralling Morelia's counterattack as the Galaxy gambled heavily in the final 10 minutes or so. “I mean, it was pretty ironic the way it happened. Essentially, a tale of two games, and this time it worked out for us and not for them.”
L.A. needed a bit of fortune, a lot of resolve and a series of corner kicks at the end to poke home the winner and put behind them the phantom call that erased Robbie Keane's would-be winner in a 2-1 defeat at Morelia two weeks ago.
It came from the last of three corner kicks near the end, with Chad Barrett rising to nod Landon Donovan's serve into the goalmouth, and Juninho's shot found its way through diving Monarcas goalkeeper Federico Villar and into the net.
The Galaxy, with David Beckham suspended and Keane out with a gluteal injury, was the aggressor from the start, and it paid off with Magee's 21st-minute goal.
A Michael Stephens long ball cleared a scrum at the top of the Morelia box, and Dunivant tracked it down on the left byline and played the ball through defender Marvin Cabrera's legs to Magee. He side-footed it first-time, and Villar, partially screened by Adam Cristman, couldn't keep it from its path inside the far post.
The Monarcas got the equalizer with help from some sloppy defending in the 60th minute. Bryan Jordan cut off a Damian Manso ball into L.A.'s box for Yasser Corona, but Rafael Marquez Lugo got to the ball before Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders or defender Omar Gonzalez, and he was able to slip it past them.
Saunders immediately raced toward Jordan, chastising him for the play, but Corona would have had an open net had Jordan not intervened.
Miguel Herrera is returning home, more or less, to turn Atlante's fortunes around. The veteran coach, who played for the Potros and then guided them through five campaigns in 2002-04, was hired Tuesday by the Cancun-based club.
“I'm home, and I'm grateful,” Herrera said when presented to the media. “I know the institution well, and I have confidence to reach our goals.”
Atlante has reached the Mexican Primera Division playoffs just once since winning the 2007 Clausura championship and finished this fall's Apertura campaign in 16th of 18th clubs, with a 4-9-4 record. Herrera takes over for Argentine Eduardo Bacas, who in September stepped in for Rene Isidoro Garcia, who took over last summer for longtime coach Jose Guadalupe Cruz.
Atlante won the CONCACAF Champions League title in 2009 and finished fourth in last year's FIFA Club World Cup. But it has struggled domestically the past five years and sits fourth from the bottom in the relegation index, the six-season formula that determines which club drops to the second-tier Liga de Ascenso at the end of each Clausura tournament.
“Our priority,” club president Miguel Angel Couchonnal said, “is to get out of this mess.”
And so the Potros -- the Colts -- are bringing Herrera home.
The former defender, a fiery player and emotional coach, started and ended his playing career with the club, which relocated from Mexico City to Cancun in 2007. He spent four stints with Atlante, then guided it to a 38-28-31 record and three playoff appearances after he was hired as head coach in February 2002.
He left the club after the 2004 Clausura and guided Monterrey for all or part of seven tournaments, taking the Rayados to Primera Division title home-and-homes in the 2004 Apertura (losing to Pumas UNAM) and 2005 Apertura (losing to Toluca).
He was unable to save Veracruz from relegation two years ago, and was dismissed in August from Estudiantes Tecos. He had been in charge of the Guadalajara-based club since September 2008.
NEW DATES: The Mexican federation altered the originally reported dates and times for the semifinals in the Primera Division and Liga de Ascenso. All first legs will be Thursday and all second legs Sunday.
Here's the schedule (all times Pacific):
First leg (Thursday)
Santos Laguna at America, 5 p.m.
Monterrey at Pumas UNAM, 7 p.m.
Second leg (Sunday)
America at Santos Laguna, 4 p.m.
Pumas UNAM at Monterrey, 6 p.m.
Liga de Ascenso
First leg (Thursday)
Club Tijuana at Albinegros de Orizaba, 5 p.m.
Veracruz at Irapuato, 6:50 p.m.
Second leg (Sunday)
Albinegros de Orizaba at Club Tijuana, 1 p.m.
Irapuato at Veracruz, 5 p.m.
ETC.: Santos' Oribe Peralta is out for the rest of the playoffs after fracturing his foot at the end of Los Guerreros' quarterfinal triumph over Jaguares. … Uruguayan coach Gustavo Matos will succeed Argentine Angel David Comizzo as head coach of Queretaro's Gallos Blancos. … Tomas Boy will return as Morelia's coach; he said last month he did not plan to be back. The former Mexican national team midfielder has been in charge of the Monarcas since February 2009. … Former Toluca goalkeeper Hernan Cristante, 41, says he's looking into possibilities in Major League Soccer. … Salvador Cabaņas' wife told a Paraguayan radio station that her husband, a star striker who hasn't played since he was shot in the head at a Mexico City nightspot 10 months ago, is owed $1.3 million in back wages and benefits by America and will sue if ongoing negotiations do not lead to a settlement.