Things seemed to be slipping away for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Tied at one heading into stoppage time, it looked as if the Galaxy’s chances of advancing to the group stages of the CONCACAF Champions League Tournament would end at the hands of Monarcas Morelia.
Instead, the Galaxy persisted, and got one last shot, and it came from Landon Donovan, Chad Barrett and Juninho. Donovan’s set piece was followed by Barrett’s header to Juninho, and his strike at the start of stoppage time kept LA’s CONCACAF quarterfinal hopes alive with a 2-1 win over Morelia at the Home Depot Center.
“We definitely needed to win, especially at home,” Juninho said. “You always want to get three points at home and that’s what we did.”
The win forges a three-way tie between the Galaxy, Morelia and Costa Rica’s LD Alajelense pending the latter’s matchup with point-less Honduran club CD Motagua on Thursday night. Los Angeles can book its spot in the next round of the tournament with a win over Motagua in Honduras on October 20.
Tied at one with only three minutes of stoppage time left to preserve their chances of advancement, the Galaxy had a corner kick at the right corner. Landon Donovan sent the corner into the 18, Chad Barrett headed a ball into the six and an unmarked Juninho cashed in on the opportunity, as he slotted a point-blank look past Morelia keeper Federico Vilar to the far post. Unlike the last time the two teams met, where the Galaxy had a late equalizer against Morelia calledd back due to what looked like an incorrect offside call, the flag didn’t go up this time around.
Both teams came into the match missing key players. Morelia was missing striker Joao Rojas, whom manager Tomas Boy said had missed Morelia’s last two matches due to “muscluar injury.” The Galaxy’s absences were even more glaring, as they were without striker Robbie Keane, who was out due to an injured gluteus as well as midfielder David Beckham, out due to yellow card accumulation.
Despite the absences, the Galaxy had one objective heading into Wednesday’s match, and that to get three points. The Galaxy struck first in the 21st minute, as Todd Dunivant’s cross went between a Morelia defender’s leg on its way into the box, where Mike Magee slotted a shot past Morelia keeper Federico Vilar to the back post to stake Los Angeles to the lead.
“Before he (Magee) even got to me, he was yelling,” Duinvant said describing the play. “I gave it a quick peak, took a touch, the defender opened his legs and I put through right to Mike and it was great finish.”
The Galaxy took the lead into the halftime break, but 15 minutes into the second half, Morelia tied the match. It started when Bryan Jordan cut off a Damian Manso cross, only to see the ball go into the penalty area, where Rafael Marquez Lugo just happened to be. Marquez beat Saunders to the loose ball and buried the point-blank shot for the equalizer.
“The game was there for us for the taking,” Boy said. “We conceded an early goal a bit silly, but we bounced back from that and we were able to get our game going.”
Energized by the goal, Morelia looked to put the Galaxy out of commission as the match wore on. Morelia had a great chance in the 81st minute to get a second goal when Damian Manso collected Omar Gonzalez’s clearance attempt and let loose inside the penalty area, only to see it bounce off the crossbar, then off Saunders and somehow still in play. The ball was cleared out eventually by AJ DeLaGarza. Morelia failed again to get the second goal when Aldo Ramirez received a through ball inside the 18 which drew out Saunders, but his attempt missed the back post.
“We gambled a lot over the last 15 minutes,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “We opened ourselves up and we’re fortunate that Morelia didn’t close us out.”
So hopes for one trophy are still alive for the Galaxy, but they will look to take a big step towards sealing another trophy on Saturday night, as they host Real Salt Lake, where a win over them pretty much stamps home a second consecutive Supporters’ Shield.
Los Angeles Galaxy 2, Monarcas Morelia 1
CONCACAF Champions League; Group A
September 29, 2011; Home Depot Center
LA – Mike Magee (Todd Dunivant) 21
MM – Rafael Marquez Lugo (unassisted) 60
LA – Juninho (Chad Barrett, Landon Donovan) 91
MM – Diego Jimenez, 55
LA – AJ DeLaGarza, 67
LA – Paolo Cardozo 70
Monarcas Morelia – Federico Vilar, Enriquez Perez, Rafael Marquez Lugo (Miguel Sabah 64), Luis Miguel Noriega (Adrian Aldrete 54), Felipe Ayala (Aldo Ramirez 64), Yasser Corona, Damian Manso, Manuel Perez, Angel Sepulveda, Diego Jimenez.
Substitutes not used: Felipe Rodriguez, Luis Alonso Sandoval, Edgar Lugo, Joel Huiqui.
Los Angeles Galaxy – Josh Saunders, Todd Dunivant, Omar Gonzalez, Frankie Hejduk, (Hector Jimenez 64), Landon Donovan, Adam Cristman (Chad Barrett 67), Mike Magee (Bryan Jordan 45), Juninho, AJ DeLaGarza, Michael Stephens, Paolo Cardozo.
Substitutes not used: Brian Perk, Jovan Kirovski, Dan Keat, Miguel Lopez.