Photo Credit: Jeff Golden / Getty Images
Well, that was… something.
The LA Galaxy has arrived in Mexico to prepare for their return leg against CF Monterrey. LA finds themselves down 2-1 after leading for most of the first leg, and dominating play for long stretches at the Home Depot Center. Unfortunately, small moments of creativity was all Monterrey needed to go home with a one goal lead and two away goals in the aggregate series.
Though Monterrey won the match, it was evident that they could not solve the Galaxy’s game plan; at least they could not until the solution fell into their lap, or should I say fell to the grass? Juninho’s injury and subsequent substitution was the turning point of the game, as it allowed Monterrey to exploit the much weaker marking of Michael Stephens. Cesar Delgado’s footwork turned Stephens around with ease and allowed him to make the cross that lead to Humberto Suazo’s 82nd minute equalizer. On the second goal Stephens was walking and watching Jose Basanta go one on one against Leonardo, a situation in which Juninho would typically attack the ball carrier as a second defender, this allowed Basanta to chip the ball to Guillermo Madrigal who, with a quick header, found Aldo de Nigris and caught Omar Gonzalez napping in the 90th minute.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not picking on Stephens. It’s just that with everything he does it is hard to remember that Juninho is in fact a defensive midfielder. Juninho continually disrupted Monterrey’s build up until his injury, and if Monterrey want to finish off the Galaxy, they will need to solve Juninho, who has been cleared to play this Wednesday. Another wrench in Monterrey’s plans may be Carlo Cudicini (seriously, who saw that coming?) who had his best game in a Galaxy jersey in the first leg. Cudicini had not played consistently at Tottenham Hotspur, but it seems he’s finding his form at the right time. That or I am being a bit wishful. Speaking of wishful thinking… Angry Donovan to the white courtesy phone…
Steady As She Goes
Monterrey coach Victor Vucetich will undoubtedly be looking to maintain their current course against Los Angeles. The plan in the first leg seemed to be for Basanta to sweep across the back using his speed to stop the Galaxy attack on the flanks, while quickly getting the ball to the midfield which would try to find Suazo or de Nigris on a counter. This plan was likely a preventive measure since they were the away team, however, with the plan’s success in the final 20 minutes of the game, and the lead already in hand, it’s likely that Monterrey will come out and use the same plan in the second leg. This could benefit the Galaxy, since they were able to find gaps in the defense as Basanta chased the ball but, unlike the first leg, they will need to finish the chances that come from those gaps. With the Galaxy needing to win by two goals expect Monterrey to defend and attack on the counter. Meanwhile the Galaxy should continue to do what they did while Juninho was in during the first leg and hope for better finishing.
The Thunder Rolls
Monterrey enjoy the spoils of a solid fan base, which gives them a powerful homefield advantage. It’s expected that Estadio Tecnologico will sell out, and unlike the 22,000 that showed up at the HDC, the 33,000 in Monterrey will not be split allegiance. It will be a decidedly Monterrey crowd, a large and aggressive Monterrey crowd, that will give the Galaxy hell. That said, the Galaxy have been in that kind of situation before, though Sounders fans are much less harmful… they’re like little puppies and stuff…