Bruce Arena’s Los Angeles Galaxy came into Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero in Heredia, Costa Rica with a clear objective: gain the advantage over Claudio Jara’s Club Sport Herediano in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. However, all they could muster was a scoreless draw heading into the second leg of this series.
Here are six things we learned from Thursday night’s first leg in Central America.
1. Home field advantage for Herediano
An artificial grass surface means fast play and the need to ease up on the long balls. Herediano, naturally more familiar with the playing surface, took advantage of their offseason upgrades by playing an uptempo game and forcing the Galaxy catch up. Early on in the first half, Los Angeles struggled with stringing a set of passes together. And this would be the case for a good deal of the match as Herediano peppered the net. That is how you stop the Galaxy: get a pitch that is impossible for opponents of their caliber to move the ball in.
2. Near-miss for El Team in the first half
In the 43rd minute, the home side had a huge opportunity to take the lead off a corner but Cristian Montero’s shot bounced off the crossbar. That could have been a howler there for Galaxy goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini. El Team dominated a number of key stats in the first half, including duels won (23 to 22), duels won percentage (51 percent to 48 percent) and attempts on goal (eight to three), but they were off with their shot selection, earning five shots off target.
3. A frustrating night for Herediano
In the second half, Herediano had a bevy of chances to take the early lead heading into the second leg of this series, including a penalty kick in the 87th minute of play. However, El Team simply didn’t have the type of accuracy and composure required against an opponent of the Galaxy’s caliber and it ended up in a scoreless draw.
4. Los Angeles under the 8-ball on the road
Herediano dominated a lot of categories: attempts on goal (15 to seven), shots off target (11 to three), corner kicks (five to one), open play crosses (18 to 13), duels won (49 to 45) and duels won percentage (52 percent to 47 percent). In the end, their inability to take advantage of what was effectively a smash-and-grab opportunity precipitated by the gullibility of Jamaican match referee Courtney Campbell proved to be El Team’s undoing.
5. Mike Magee touches kryptonite in second half
But it wasn’t just Herediano that couldn’t benefit from the referees. The Los Angeles Galaxy were fully aware that they were going to get some bias against their favor, and in the 67th minute, what should have been an allowed goal by Mike Magee is called offside. One would imagine that at the Home Depot Center, that goal would stand, but keep in mind that this is CONCACAF Champions League refereeing we’re talking about here.
6. A must-win for LA in the second leg
Now the Los Angeles Galaxy need to win in the second leg of this CONCACAF Champions Quarterfinal. A regular draw is as good as a loss, and a scoreless draw will only bring up extra time. The stakes will be even higher on Mar. 13. Kickoff at Victoria Street is scheduled for 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET and will be televised by Fox Soccer.