The LA Galaxy could not replicate the promise of last week’s opening leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series on Tuesday, falling 4-0 in the second leg to crash out of the competition. A brace by Martin Bravo and goals from Ulises Davila and Djaniny Tavares doomed the MLS side, who played like an entirely different side compared to the first game between the teams.
Given MLS teams’ track record in recent years against Liga MX competition in the CCL knockout stage, the result is not entirely surprising, of course. And add in the timing, with the Mexican sides well into their seasons and the MLS teams not even started with their league campaigns, and the imbalance appears to be bigger than ever.
But LA’s scoreless draw last week in the first leg seemed to set them up for a real shot in the second game. In the end, it was a false dawn, as yet again Santos goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin made impressive saves to stop the Galaxy’s few chances, and the defense that was so impressive last week fell apart pretty easily in Torreon. What’s particularly disappointing is the multitude of ways they were beaten: Twice on set pieces, once from a shot taken from the edge of the box, and another time on a counterattack that stretched the full length of the field. Needless to say, while most early-season MLS opponents won’t have the sharpness of Santos, they will look to attack the Galaxy’s breakdowns having seen the blueprint on Tuesday.
On the bright side for Southern California soccer overall, perhaps, is that two local products advanced in the competition for their respective teams. Former Chivas USA teammates Jonathan Bornstein (Queretaro) and Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna) will likely feature for their respective teams in the semifinals, after both played the full 90 on Tuesday (Queretaro drew D.C. United 1-1 on Tuesday for a 3-1 aggregate win). And they are in opposite sides of the bracket, so if they both advance they could be squaring off directly in the CCL final.
In the meantime, although there are two series yet to be decided on Wednesday, and the two MLS teams still alive, Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake, theoretically still have a chance of advancing, it seems quite likely the American clubs will be unable to advance yet again this year. Thinkpieces will be written, chatter will increase about changing the scheduling of the CCL in order to give MLS teams a better chance, and maybe MLS will look to ways of bolstering its clubs’ chances in the competition behind the scenes. But at the moment, the Galaxy’s dream of contending for silverware to start the year is extinguished.