By KAYLA KNAPP
The LA Galaxy will take on reigning Salvadoran champion Isidro Metapan on Thursday night at the Home Depot Center in their opening CONCACAF Champions League game of this campaign.
After a weekend off, the team is recharged, refocused and ready to tackle the next ten days.
"This is a big stretch for us, these four games, and when we got back from this little break, Bruce got us together and made sure that we’re really focused on these four games," captain Landon Donovan said ahead of Thursday's match. "Not often do you get four games in a row at home like this, in this close proximity, so we want to make sure that we get all the points we can."
Metapan currently lead Group 5 after picking up a win and three points in their CCL opener against the Puerto Rico Islanders. The Galaxy and Metapan have never played each other before, and LA doesn't know much about their Central American opponent—but that doesn't change the approach much.
"It doesn’t matter whether we’ve heard too much about them, they’ve still got a very good team unit and we know enough about them to know we have to play well to win the game," David Beckham said after training on Wednesday. "It’s just about our own game. If we play our own game, then we’re difficult to stop. But we’ve got to do that."
The Galaxy expect that like many Central American teams, Metapan will put their entire squad behind the ball, and try to defend well enough to earn a draw and a point. Donovan said they would be surprised if Metapan plays a different style from what they're anticipating, and that LA is well-prepared from past experiences to counter that.
"We deal with that a lot here—having to break teams down—and tomorrow will be the same," Donovan said.
A concern for teams in this year's CCL tournament is the change in format. Only one team out of the three in each group goes through to the next round, making every single point absolutley crucial. But for LA, that doesn't mean much.
"We’re not too worried about the format, obviously it’s about winning our home games and then worrying about doing what we can when we go on the road," Beckham said. "So as long as we do our job in the sense of winning, getting three points tomorrow, that’s a good start."
Robbie Keane echoed his teammate's sentiments, saying their approach is the same no matter the match, league or tournament.
"We want to win every game that we’re involved in Champions League or in the league [MLS], for us it’s the same process that we do every week," Keane said.
DONOVAN INJURY UPDATE
Donovan played the first 45 minutes in the US men's national team's historic win over Mexico at Azteca last week. But the Galaxy captain made an early exit at halftime because of a mild hamstring strain in his left leg that happened just 10 minutes into the match.
Donovan isn't sure if he'll be ready to play in the Galaxy's CCL opener.
"We’re going to see how it is tomorrow, and just go from there and kind of play it by ear and hope that I can contribute," Donovan said after Wednesday's training session.
LOOKING AHEAD TO FC DALLAS
Metapan is the first of a four game stretch over the next 10 days for the Galaxy, and next up after their CCL opener is a weekend match against surging FC Dallas. Their recent good form and return of key players getting hot at the same time makes Dallas a formidable opponent, even as LA themselves are on the rise.
"They’re playing very well, and they’re playing well on the road. I think they’re a team that’s built to play on the road better than they are at home because they like to counterattack so they defend very well," Donovan said of FC Dallas. "They got two very good defensive results against two very good teams in Vancouver and Salt Lake, and they’re going to come here and try to do that same."
LA will host Dallas at the Home Depot Center this Sunday at 4:00 PM PT.