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LA Galaxy vs Santos Laguna, 2016 CCL: Match Preview

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

It is finally here. Excitement has been building for months. The LA Galaxy officially open their 2016 season as they take on Liga MX side Santos Laguna in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League clash.

While historically, Mexican clubs may be far superior in continental play, for the Galaxy it presents a genuinely historic opportunity to puncture that dominance.

Right through the squad, the Galaxy obviously have much more talent than last year. Dan KennedyEmmanuel BoatengJelle Van DammeAshley Cole, and Nigel de Jong are just some names in Galaxy's long recruitment list for the 2016 season.

As so many games in the latter part of 2015 illustrated, the Galaxy seemed like a side waiting on one of their players to produce a moment of brilliance, rather than being that of their team play. For Bruce Arena, that remains the biggest issue. Finding the right balance will be difficult. He will not only have to work out an approach that maintains a certain security at the back but that also enables the creativity of the likes of Giovani Dos Santos and Robbie Keane.

The one caveat -- and most obvious one -- is that MLS sides are just coming back from preseason. This no doubt always brings sighs from most MLS camps, and the Galaxy are one of four teams this year complicated by this.

Santos Laguna are seven games into the Liga MX season and sit 9th in the table. They are winless in their last three league games, although this can be put in the context of the fact that these games were two tough visits to Mexico City and a match against the league leaders Monterrey.

Otherwise, led by 35-year-old manager Luis Zubeldia, Santos have been typically steady, keeping things tight. The creative spark in the team belongs to young Chilean international Bryan Rabello, and with Djaniny Tavares cutting in from the right flank, it is likely to be an anxious night for the Galaxy's defense.

The Guerreros have drawn blank twice away from home already this season, and that may be just what it takes for the Galaxy to have any chance of progressing from this tie, especially when you have the return leg in Torreon.

Still, the Galaxy remain a team full of class players and in that regard, there may be no other MLS team more equipped to spoil Mexico's CCL party.




Galaxy (4-4-2): Kennedy; Rogers, Leonardo, Van Damme, Cole; dos Santos, De Jong, Gerrard, Boateng; Zardes, Keane

Santos (4-2-3-1): Marchesin; Abella, Izquierdoz, Araujo, Villafana; Molina; Gonzalez; Djaniny, Calderon, Rabello; Andrade