USA TODAY Sports
The LA Galaxy got goals from two homegrown players as well as Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez. In a must win match, youngsters Jose Villarreal and Jack McBean stepped up big.
The LA Galaxy have advanced to the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League after defeating CS Herediano 4-1 at The Home Depot Center in front of 8,284 fans on Wednesday night. LA will face current back to back champions Monterrey in the next round, with the first leg to be held at the Victoria Street stadium during the first week of April.
Three of LA's goals featured signs of good things to come. With an assist already this year in MLS play, Omar Gonzalez added a goal in the 18' which put the Galaxy up 1-0. It can't be overstated how much his presence on set pieces helps the Galaxy. His height and awareness create opportunities and he's more than capable of finishing the ones that fall in his lap.
Another great sign was young Jose Villarreal scoring in the '68. He and Keane had combined for a great chance that was wrongfully called offside minutes before. Still he showed the presence to stop short outside the box, losing his marker, and curling a long one past Herediano's keeper Daniel Cambronero.
Fellow homegrown Jack McBean was also able to curl one in with LA in stoppage time. He came in for Mike Magee after Herediano scored and was apparently given the green light to take his chances cause he made the most of his time on the pitch. Between McBean and Villarreal, the Galaxy are getting great play from their academy system when they need it most.
The goal with putting Magee in the midfield was to keep that passing relationship between he and Keane, but add Keane and a young forward combining as well. Playing conservative in the last leg, defensively minded midfielders had trouble connecting with the forwards. Not so in this match, with Magee and Villarreal both showing good combinations against Herediano's defense.
Keane was able to add a late third putting a bow on the match. Herediano was able to score the first goal against Carlo Cudicini in a LA Galaxy jersey in garbage time, but otherwise the Galaxy were able to bend at will the 4-5-1 Herediano trotted out.
The speculation has already begun, as the timing of the next tie coincides nicely with Landon Donovan's return date. What the Galaxy have shown over the last 270 minutes is that it is not on Landon Donovan to carry this club this season. The unit Arena has put together is solid and is capable without him.
Juninho has done a fine job on the free kicks, Robbie Keane has found plenty of striker partners to collaborate with. The back line has been incredibly solid.
More than worrying about if Donovan will be available, the focus should be on just how tough an opponent Monterrey will be. Hopefully the Galaxy will find a way to open up the match to more than the 12,500 cap that weekday matches typically have. Because there's going to be a great appetite for that one in Los Angeles.