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Stars, future stars shine in Galaxy win over Herediano

Mar 14, 2013, 1:37 AM EDT

Omar Gonzalez-Oct

For the first time in CONCACAF Champions League history, there are two Major League Soccer teams in the tournament’s semifinals, with the LA Galaxy joining the Seattle Sounders in the final four after Wednesday night’s 4-1 win over Herediano. But even though the defending MLS champions were expected to move past their Costa Rican counterparts, don’t overlook the danger posed by tonight’s second leg in Carson.

After last week’s 0-0 in Heredia, Bruce Arena’s team couldn’t afford to give up the first goal at home. Should that happen, the Costa Ricans would not only have the lead and the valuable away goals tiebreaker, but they’d be in position to start bunkering almost immediately.

While you can argue LA — the experienced, superior side — was unlikely to let that happen, you could have said the same thing before the play-in round of last season’s playoffs. When Vancouver snatched the first goal last November at Home Depot Center, things got nervy.

(MORE: Harsh realities hit Houston in Torreon)

Tonight there was no such drama thanks to LA’s ever-enviable combination of experienced stars and emerging talents.

It was one of the veterans that opened the scoring early in the first half. Off a corner kick from Juninho, Omar Gonzalez headed home LA’s first, the Galaxy defender putting his team up one in the 18th minute.

But the danger wasn’t over. Up 1-0 at intermission, LA sat through halftime knowing one Herediano goal could put them out of the competition.

In the 69th minute, Jose Villarreal alleviated all worries. The 19-year-old attacker, who was so impressive at the recent CONCACAF U-20 Championships, put in a curler from long-range that beat Daniel Cambronero. LA was up 2-0.

Robbie Keane added a third 14 minutes later, and after Elías Aguilar pulled Herediano back within two in the 85th minute, 18-year-old Jack McBean restored LA’s three-goal margin.

For a team know for their high-priced, superstar talent, the contrast between Wednesday’s goal scorers was striking. On one hand you had Gonzalez and Keane, arguably the best players at their positions in Major League Soccer. One is coming off an MLS Cup Most Valuable Player award. The other has 126 career English Premier League goals.

On the other hand, you have Villarreal and McBean, two players who are a combined 37 years old. Together, they have two Major League Soccer goals, the same number they scored in the last 24 minutes of tonight’s match. And together, they are one of the best prospect tandems in the league.

For LA’s rivals, the onslaught provided a glimpse of a worrisome future, especially considering the Galaxy also count 21-year-old Gyasi Zardes among its young talents. Then there’s this little detail: LA still have that one Designated Player spot open.

If anybody retained hope the waning Beckham-Donovan-Keane era would end LA’s dominance, Wednesday may have provided a wake up call. If they can keep their youngsters in Los Angeles, the Galaxy will reload, not rebuild.

  1. Dan Haug - Mar 14, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    I know it’s just a late night mistake… but it was Toronto, not Vancouver.

    • manchestermiracle - Mar 14, 2013 at 9:31 AM

      The play-in game is between conference rivals. Toronto is in the east, Vancouver is in the west. The Galaxy played the Vancouver Whitecaps, winning 2-1, in the West knockout and Houston beat Chicago, by the same score, in the East knockout. Toronto didn’t even make the playoffs. Interesting that the two knockout winners ended up in the championship game.

      • Dan Haug - Mar 14, 2013 at 10:37 AM

        Ah yes… My bad. I was thinking about the Toronto loss in last year’s CCL, in which they beat LA in the second leg in LA. They came into that match tied 2-2, with LA having 2 away goals, but LA gave up two goals in the first 18 minutes, and Toronto bunkered and held on to advance.

      • Dan Haug - Mar 14, 2013 at 10:43 AM

        Damn… I’m wrong again. I need to quit while I’m ahead. It was the first leg in Toronto when the Galaxy went down 2-0. :p

        Maybe I should just go back to bed :)

      • Richard Farley - Mar 14, 2013 at 1:30 PM

        No worries, Dan. As you allude to in your first comment, sometimes it’s late. Or we go too fast. Or we word something incorrectly. And we should be called on it.

        Your comment came from a good place. Just shows how we can all make honest mistakes.

        Cheers, and thanks for trying to help.

  2. manchestermiracle - Mar 14, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    Another atrociously refereed game, which is troublesome because the same ref will officiate the next USA-Mexico game (according to the game announcers).

    Three handballs by Herediano not called. Inexcusable. And that reckless sliding tackle on Villareal? Straight red card in any real league in the world. At the end the Costa Rican players were just running at the Galaxy side without making any attempts to play the ball.

    I see no reason to continue inviting injury in the middle of the MLS season by playing in CONCACAF and I hope the Galaxy decides that this will be the last time they participate. That said I also hope they crush Monterrey.

  3. wonka44 - Mar 14, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    Considering the abundance of footballing talent in Southern California, the LA academy will likely stock the team for a long, long time. Nice to see someone look at this from the sensible club perspective instead from the silly national team one.

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