Photo by Michael Janosz/ ISIPhotos.com
BY ADAM SERRANO
"It was embarrassing."
Those were the words of Edson Buddle after the Los Angeles Galaxy suffered a stunning 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Puerto Rico Islanders in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round Series. Islanders forward Nicolas Addlery added a pair in a comprehensive victory for Puerto Rico. The US Division 2 club struck often, handing the Galaxy its worst loss since September of 2009.
"It was one of those games, I give a lot of credit to them, but our result wasn't good enough," said Defender Gregg Berhalter. "It was one of those games where you just you keep knocking your head against the wall, waiting to get a break, but then you give up some good goals. It was a nightmare."
Los Angeles dominated possession throughout the match against the second division club, but the final touch was lacking, which kept the Galaxy from putting shots on frame.
The Galaxy's inability to capitalize was punished in the 26th minute when forward David Foley capitalized on a Sean Franklin clearance to put the Islanders up 1-0. Puerto Rico struck again just seconds before halftime after a cross by Scott Jones was easily buried by Addlery past Saunders.
Down early with the Galaxy pressing, Islanders Goalkeeper Bill Gaudette made a number of vital saves to keep the Division 2 club ahead.
The rout was officially on in just 15 minutes into the second half when former Galaxy midfielder Josh Hansen fired a wonderful shot that went off Goalkeeper Josh Saunders' post and in for a third goal. Addlery would add his second of the goal and put the Islanders up by four with a weak shot that Saunders was unable to save. With the clock ticking and a four goal lead in their hands, the Islanders provided a goal for Los Angeles when a Buddle shot went off the leg of defender Richard Martinez.
"I think how we were incredibly naive with how we went about things after we went a goal down," said Landon Donovan. "Certainly our defending was not good and we need to be better in front of goal because we had 23 shots all night and we only managed an own goal which was just not good enough."
Success in the Champions League is not a new phenomenon for the Islanders, who have tallied eight victories over three years in the competition, MLS teams on a whole have 11 goals during the same period of time. Although the Islanders brought a roster made up of players with only fringe MLS experience, Puerto Rico was vastly more familiar with the Champions League play than the Galaxy who had not appeared in a Champions League match since 2006.
"We knew we needed a bit of luck against a good team and we knew to take our chances, they had a lot of good players that we needed to contain and we managed to do so," said Puerto Rico Islanders Head Coach Colin Clark. "The return leg is going to be a tough game, they won't take this laying down and will want to show they can win, it's going to be a difficult night."
Los Angeles will now need to win by a four goal differential in Puerto Rico to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. Such a victory seems like a tall order for a club that has given up a total of 11 goals in six games in all competitions, after posting 14 shut outs in their first 17 matches in 2010.
Although the defeat will likely sound the death kneel for the club's hopes in the Champions League, the loss may have come at the right time for a club that has appeared lethargic since the end of the World Cup Break. Since the return of Donovan and Buddle from World Cup duty, the club has gone 2-3-1 in all competitions.
The Galaxy now turns its focus to a Sunday game against Chicago before the return leg in Puerto Rico on August 4th, ahead of a match with Real Madrid just three days later. As the league heads into the second half of the season, Donovan admits that results are valuable for a club in a mid-season slump.
"Its difficult going through the summer, but we're as healthy as we've been all season, but guys should know that if they don't play well then they're not going to play" said Donovan. "I think we learned a lot about our team tonight and we have to get a lot better."