The unbeaten run was going to end at some point for Bruce Arena’s Los Angeles Galaxy. After a March without a single defeat, the wheels fell off for the defending MLS Cup Champions in the month of April. And who better to deliver the damage than the defending title-holders of the CONCACAF Champions League, Victor Vucinich’s Club de Futbol Monterrey?
It took them 82 minutes, but Los Rayados woke up and put it all together and—to the surprise of no one (if you were surprised by this, I am surprised that you are surprised. A mutual feeling, I know), are up in the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals with a 2-1 first-leg victory in Carson, Calif. Better late than never, right, oh pundits of conventional wisdom?
Oh yes. And now the Galaxy find themselves behind the 8-ball. Actually, MLS is now behind the 8-ball heading into next week’s second legs. Here are six things we learned from the Galaxy’s 2-1 defeat to Monterrey.
1. You Cannot Run With This Rayados Team For 90 Minutes
Yes, it’s the truth. Not even the likes of the Montreal Impact, who are still the best team in Major League Soccer heading into the first weekend of April, can run with Monterrey when they catch fire. Sure, Los Rayados may only be sitting in the middle of the Liga MX Clausura table, but this win is a testament to the strength and depth of Liga MX in comparison to that of MLS.
Those two goals by Humberto Suazo in the 82nd minute and Aldo De Nigris in the 91st minute of play? They came off of sequences of superior speed and reaction, something Los Angeles lacked in the last 20 minutes of the match. Teams in MLS cannot run with Monterrey without giving up a goal or, in the case of LA, two. It’s the cold, hard truth.
2. Humberto Suazo strikes again!
Going back to the goals, I did warn you all, as per my Bold Predictions, that El Chupete was going to score on Los Angeles. What makes Suazo one of the best players Vucinich has ever coached is the way he outmuscles defenders and find space for tap-ins. In this case, he finished of a poor save attempt from Carlo Cudicini. Suazo is not the type of player that will miss a sitter, and as long as he has the finishing touch, it may be likely that his career will end in a Monterrey kit.
3. Aldo De Nigris…as advertised
Another player for Monterrey that was mentioned prior…Aldo De Nigris. When you’re able to figure out the best defender on the pitch for LA in Omar Gonzalez, it’s par for the course. Fittingly, he celebrated with the fans in the northwest corner. A shame he had to be cautioned, but no player is above the law. Aside from that, Suazo and De Nigris have kept Monterrey in a lot of games, and it’s unfortunate that Los Rayados will not be in it next year.
4. The most unexpected of would-be heroes…A.J. DeLaGarza?
The best sequence of the night for the Los Angeles Galaxy came in the 28th minute, when Robbie Keane sent a through ball to Mike Magee, who found A.J. DeLaGarza dead center, who slotted one past Monterrey goalkeeper, Juan de Dios Ibarra. Unfortunately, that would be the only solid sequence LA would muster up for the rest of the match.
5. Juninho’s absence changed the game completely
The 61st minute had to be the turning point of the contest, when Juninho twisted his right ankle making a defensive stop in their own third. Up until this point, LA were poised to head into the second leg with at least a 1-0 advantage. The health and fitness of Juninho is going to be vital. If he is unable to start next week at the Estadio Tecnologico, it may as well be smooth sailing for the defending champions of the region.
6. Landon Donovan is still in preseason form…and so are the others
Another key factor in the Galaxy’s flickering hopes for an upset in this home-and-home is the form of Landon Donovan, who came in as a substitution midway through the second half. Donovan had a great chance to make it 2-0, but his finishing touch was a clear example of his preseason kinks still being ironed out.
Donovan wasn’t the only player that paid the price for bad finished. Sean Franklin missed a sitter in the 42nd minute and Robbie Keane had the best chance for LA to make it 2-0 in the 67th minute, only to see Ibarra deliver the save of the night for the visitors. As mentioned in my Live Blog, teams that are unable to finish the chances will pay the price, and the lack of scoring form from the Galaxy poses the biggest red flag of all going into the second leg.