[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] One day can make all the difference.
That's the concept Galaxy coach Bruce Arena espoused about the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal, second leg against Toronto FC to be played Wednesday (10 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer, Galavision) at Home Depot Center. It comes three days after the Galaxy lost its league opener to Real Salt Lake, 3-1, just two days after traveling back and forth across the country for the Concacaf first leg in Toronto that ended, 2-2.
Arena blamed the RSL loss on fatigue and his reluctance to revamp the lineup playing on just two days’ rest. With the extra day for the TFC rematch, he hedged when asked about changes. The Galaxy also plays a league match with D.C. United Sunday to conclude a rough stretch of four games in a dozen days.
“We have an extra day’s rest this time,” said Arena to MLSsoccer.com. “There’s a big difference between two days off between games and three. The extra day is important. That brings a lot more players back into the equation.”
If rest is to be the critical variable in this equation, TFC holds the edge – it sat out First Kick weekend, one of three MLS teams to do so, which could have been the cause of Arena’s critical comments aimed at the league in regards to scheduling. Arena may have forgotten that his team has been excused from league play during Concacaf competition in past years; this time around, Seattle got the break for its series with Santos Laguna. (Chicago was the other team to take the weekend off.)
Regardless of the setting, TFC has proven to be a tough out for the Galaxy. The teams tied their two meetings last year, 0-0 and 2-2, and that tie in the first leg runs the streak of consecutive deadlocks between the teams to five. One of the biggest wins in TFC’s early history came in April, 2008, when it humbled the Galaxy, 3-2, at HDC.
Ex-Quake Ryan Johnson and rookie Luis Silva scored in the first leg as a rattled Galaxy fell behind, 2-0, as 47,568 fans rowdy fans at Rogers Centre chanted and cheered in anticipation of a spectacular win. Yet in addition to its status as a three-star team with Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and David Beckham, the Galaxy has heart as well. Mike Magee cut the deficit in half and Donovan stuffed a half-cleared corner kick into the net less than three minutes from the end of regulation.
TFC will be stronger for the second leg. Coming off suspension are Canadian international defender Julian de Guzman and forward Nick Soolsma. "Julian is a guy with lots of experience and he can definitely have a good effect on our roster," said Coach Aron Winter. De Guzman’s presence along with that of Torsten Frings can further disrupt the Galaxy’s play in midfield, which has been partially to blame for the five goals it has conceded against Toronto and RSL.
Center back Andrew Boyens played against TFC, rookie Tommy Meyer got called for the RSL game as Arena searches for the right replacement for Omar Gonzalez. How the Galaxy tracks forward Danny Koevermans and monitors Silva, a native of Los Angeles and product of UC Santa Barbara who will be playing his first pro game in front of family and friends, will be just as important to the outcome as tired legs.
Silva scored by ghosting out of Boyens’ view and heading home a long cross from Frings. “It starts with the coach and then my teammates,” Silva said of his performance that mirrored some impressive preseason showings. “They give me confidence to be able to do that.
“We really rotate a lot and that creates a lot of space for me and I just try to find those little gaps. You don’t always get the ball, but at least you’re making the right runs and the coach notices that.”
So, too, should the Galaxy, if it is to avoid a major upset.