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12/08/2014
 
 
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03/13/2014
 

CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy's triumph in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal opener Wednesday night against Club Tijuana came down to three plays and the right mentality, one borne from the disappointment of 11 months earlier.


Samuel scored an opportunistic goal in the 11th minute, Jaime Penedo scrambled to clear a would-be own goal as it rolled onto the goal line in the 61st, and Marcelo Sarvas cleared a Javier Gandolfi header off the goal line in the 68th, and the Galaxy take a 1-0 lead into Tuesday's second leg at Estadio Caliente south of the border.


“We said at halftime we need, if anything, that the zero remains there, and our guys are smart enough not to concede a whole lot,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said in his postgame news conference. 


“Last year against Monterrey, we were too aggressive to try to get that second goal, and we opened ourselves up, and we lost the game. Winning at home is important, getting a clean sheet at home is very important. We're not in a great position, but we're in a good position for the match on Tuesday”, said Arena. 


Last year's CCL semifinal series against Monterrey provided lessons that enabled LA to hold off against massive Tijuana pressure that lasted almost the entire second half. The Galaxy took a 1-0 advantage into the final 10 minutes of their home leg against Rayados, then conceded twice while surging forward in search of a second goal. Monterrey scored another late goal to win its home leg the following week, and LA was done.


“I think we learn. It's the same group of last year [that we have]. We learn,” said Marcelo Sarvas, whose chip into the Xolos' box went off Robbie Keane's leg straight to Samuel, who finished easily for his first goal with LA. “At halftime, Bruce [Arena] said no matter what, we had to go with 1-0. If we can do another goal, that's fine, but otherwise we win the game with 1-0.”


It required great gumption at the back, as Tijuana sent waves of attackers forward, most efficiently after Dario Benedetto came on in the 60th minute. Penedo tipped a Christian Pellerano shot over the crossbar in the 56th, he watched Herculez Gomez's diving header in the 85th scream past the left post, and he parried a Benedetto shot from distance in stoppage.


His biggest save came off Gonzalez's foot.


Penedo misjudged Benedetto's 61st-minute cross from the right wing, leaping but failing to snag the ball, which caromed into the goalmouth where Gonzalez, a Xolos attacker on his back, was facing the net.


The ball hit Gonzalez's foot and rolled slowly toward the goal. Penedo did well to get to it as it reached the line and palm it out of danger.


“I was frozen,” Gonzalez said. “I caught that ball out of the corner of my eye, because I didn't expect Jaime to drop it, and so I was already turning and I saw it. I just stuck my leg out, didn't know what was going on, but Jaime did an amazing job to dive” and save it.


Said Penedo: “It was all slow-motion. I remember seeing Omar's face -- it was pretty comical.”


Tijuana's fitness advantage enabled it to take charge after the break, but if the Galaxy were outfought in the second half, they made sure they weren't broken. The Monterrey collapse was on everyone's minds.


“From what I remember last year, we kept on trying to push the game, and we had players bombing forward, but this time was totally different,” Gonzalez said. “We had the right mindset, everyone was on the same page. ...


“Tijuana got a second wind, and they started pushing players forward, they started pressing us even harder, playing even harder, and I thought we did well to keep them at bay, to not allow them too much even though they were pressuring us like crazy. The fact that this turned out different from last year, the feeling is great.”


Donovan said the difference in the clubs' fitness was “frustrating,” but it was important to “remember that we're one game into our season. Tijuana is 10, 11 games in. ... You can't overstate the fitness factor. And you could see in the last 30 minutes, they had a lot of energy, they kept going. Our guys were tired, and we held on until the end.”

 
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03/11/2014
 
The 2013/14 edition of the CONCACAF Champion's League (CCL) has brought with it a unique, never before seen match-up. It has the ingredients of an international "Mexico vs USA" rivalry or "Liga MX vs MLS" rivalry. But it also contains a bit of a local derby feel to it due to the proximity of both clubs to each other; both stadiums a separated by a mere 130 miles. 

Four time MLS Cup winners LA Galaxy face the Liga MX Apertura 2013 champion Club Tijuana. Soccerly's own Jonny Rico and Bryan Medina debate who has the stronger team in this international battle of the Californians. They will go line by line to analyze who has the strongest goalkeeper, defense, midfield, and attack.
 
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