The LA Galaxy get to go into the return leg of their CONCACAF Champions League tie with Club Tijuana up 1-0 thanks to a great reaction goal from Samuel and some stellar goalkeeping by Jaime Penedo. Samuel's goal was his first with the club and the Galaxy's first of the season in all competitions. Penedo came up with three big saves, and the back line used the offside trap effectively to limit Tijuana's effectiveness on set pieces.
Tijuana played with five defenders, but in the first half three of them were pushed up into the midfield. That left Robbie Keane and Samuel plenty of room to run around in, and they used it effectively in the eleventh minute. Marcelo Sarvas chipped in a long ball that Keane couldn't quite get a touch on. Luckily Samuel was right there to mop up with no defenders around him.
After the match last year against Monterrey where the Mexican side was able to charge back against a 1-0 halftime deficit and power past tired LA legs, the team was more optimistic about this 1-0 result than they were about the 1-0 result against RSL in last year's playoffs. Arena didn't feel unlucky to get the second goal, and said holding was the focus at halftime.
"We said at halftime 'If anything, the zero stays there'." Bruce Arena told reporters in the press conference after the match that keeping the clean sheet was paramount. Penedo was called on to make three saves in the second half, including a scrambler to keep out a defensive mistake. What worked even better was the offside trap, getting Tijuana to fall offside eight times, five of those times on passes into the penalty area and set pieces. Dangerous game, but something LA worked on after their set piece struggles last season.
The weekday crowd of over fifteen-thousand at the StubHub Center was raucous, as they typically are for these MLS vs. Liga MX matches. As is to be expected, there was a large and loud contingent of Tijuana fans. However LA fans were there in full voice too. A section was left open between the dedicated away supporters section and the Angel City Brigade, as these are local rivals that have been clamouring to get a shot at each other when it counted.
The Galaxy were patient, they were accurate, and although the legs gave out in the end they were controlled. Now they get a full week of rest, after starting the season with two matches in five days. It's tough to keep a Liga MX side ten matches into their season completely off the board. Some of that had to do with Tijuana's choice in forwards who had not played together all season. It was also a great effort by a defense capable of winning these types of battles.
Notes: Still no sign of Todd Dunivant, who was listed as a sub again ... Gyasi Zardes got heavy leg syndrome early in the second half, so it was surprising when Stefan Ishizaki came in for Samuel. Zardes continued to look laboured after moving to the other side of the pitch, and Donovan didn't get shots off despite moving up top ... Baggio Husidic did well to shore up the midfield when Tijuana took advantage of tired legs. The system many Liga MX teams play with five in the midfield can reduce a team to nothing but counters when done effectively and that happened in the second half.