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Conditions prove decisive as Galaxy fall to Alajuelense in key CCL match

Galaxy Alajuelense 1 (Getty Images)


ALAJUELA, Costa Rica — The Los Angeles Galaxy were made painfully aware that earning road points in the CONCACAF Champions League is no easy task, falling 1-0 to Alajuelense at the Estadio Alejandra Morera Soto.

Pablo Gabas’ free kick goal in the 28th minute of play handed the Galaxy their second straight defeat in group stage play. It was a difficult night for the Galaxy, who battled an abysmal turf field, a frenzied crowd and a talented Alajuelense side that proved to be too much.

The defeat sets up a must-win matchup next Wednesday against Monarcas Morelia at the Home Depot Center. It's a result that Los Angeles will need to earn without David Beckham, who is suspended due to yellow-card accumulation. Whereas last week's deficit to Morelia was chalked up to questionable officiating, this time the Galaxy could simply admit the obvious — they simply did not handle the conditions well.

"We didn't play well. The field was really difficult to play on," head coach Bruce Arena said. "Our opponents were more comfortable, not to use it as an excuse, but it's a terrible field to play a competition on. We played equally as poor and our opponent played better from start to finish. They played with a lot of energy and a lot more confidence on the surface than we did."

The Galaxy also battled a ferocious crowd that pelted them with insults and disdain from the moment that the team bus arrived in Alajuela. When the Galaxy entered the stadium, every obscene gesture and whistle could be heard as the venerable stands shook due to the noise level. Los Angeles controlled possession during the first half and nearly silenced the crowd in the fourth minute. Mike Magee fired in a volley off a pass from midfield by Beckham, forcing a save form Alajuela goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton. The Alajuela goalkeeper fumbled the rebound, which fell to Landon Donovan, who fired a shot off the post.

The hosts finally broke through in the 28th minute when a foul by Juninho on Jonathan McDonald nearly 30 yards out set up a free kick for Gabas. The Alajuela captain fired his shot into the upper left corner and beat the out-stretched Josh Saunders, who could do little on Gabas' laser. The goal sent the Liga fans into a fury as fans climbed fences and chanted after Gabas' decisive goal.  It was Gabas — an Argentine who was recently nationalized by Costa Rica — who was perhaps the finest player on the night, routinely creating chances that challenged the Galaxy backline.

"Today was a full day. In the morning, with the nationalization and at night I scored a goal," Gabas told reporters after the match. "I'm happy because we give the three points in a game that was a final against the Galaxy who are fighting with us in the standings."

In the second half, the Galaxy struggled to generate chances on the harsh surface while Alajuelense rode the momentum generated from the crowd and pushed for a second goal. Alajuelense came close to scoring four times, but were unable to finish, and in the moments that the Galaxy did push ahead, the Alajuelense players frequently resorted to time wasting in order to stall any Galaxy impetus.

In the 52nd minute, Jamaican referee Courtney Campbell dealt a blow to the Galaxy when he issued a yellow to Beckham after his trip of Luis Miguel Valle near midfield. It was Beckham’s second yellow of group play, which carries a one-game suspension.

Although the Galaxy were unsuccessful in Costa Rica, the experience at the Estadio Alejandro Morera Sota was truly a sight to behold.

"Probably the loudest crowd I've ever played in front of," said Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza. "It's something that we kind of thrive on as a pro. We like to play in front of venues like this. The crowd was loud. You could barely hear the person next to you. It was a great atmosphere. This is where we should shine."

The Galaxy still control their own destiny in group play going their next match on Sept. 28th against Morelia. Depending on the result of Morelia's match in Honduras against Club Motagua on Thursday, a win or draw for the Galaxy next week would help Los Angeles bypass the Mexicans in the group standings.

"It's a home game. We came into this tournament knowing that we have to win at home," Magee said. "Especially with the way that the points lined up the way that they were, we're going to have to win." 


  1. 1. I thought the atmosphere was overhyped. Fans weren’t that loud.
    2. That field was a joke.

    LAG manhandled these guys at the HDC. This says nothing of the quality of MLS teams in CCL. At least 2 clubs will make it to the knockout. Can’t win them all.

  2. I’m starting to think that Beckham’s yellow cards are actually a convenient way to rest him without dealing with the backlash from the fans if they sit him voluntarily. I don’t mean that he is intentionally going after yellows, but I’m not sure the coaches are too vigorous in stopping him either. His quality goes down when he plays too many games in a row.

  3. Remember that silly Yellow he got in either the home game vs Motgua or Alajuenese. It may come back to haunt the Galaxy as he could have proved very valuable against Morelia.

  4. I’d like to know as well. That silly Yellow he got in either the home game vs Motgua or Alajuenese may come back to haunt the Galaxy as he could have proved very valuable against Morelia. Maybe they will play more reserves.

  5. I was surprised how bad Dunivent looked…easily his worse game of the season.
    and Donovan’s 2 give-aways back to back, quite telling.
    Thought Arena pulled the wrong midfielder out when he took Juninho out; as well it should have been Cardozo for Barrett rather than Christman in…seriously that lineup lacked anyone in the midfield to control the game…not that Juninho was good, he was not.
    Best Galaxy players of the evening were probably Gonzalez and DelaGarza and their man marking on set pieces was downright scary…just a night to forget.

  6. Can’t speak for the other MLS teams, but that was easily the worst game the Galaxy have played all season. Ok, maybe the Real Madrid game was worse, if you want to count that.

    The problem as I see it is not simply the field conditions or the long distance travel or the hostile crowds. The CCL schedule is simply too tight. All the MLS teams are in the playoff fight at home, and now their schedule doubles? Galaxy are playing nine games in thirty days, and they’ve already got five (5!) starters out with injuries. Not to make excuses for the Galaxy alone; they were horrid. But so were all the MLS teams except for Toronto (who apparently have chosen to save all their horridness for MLS play). The group stage needs to be spread out more, and played earlier in the MLS season.

  7. Becks really need to be less reckless, at this stage of his career he should know better than to pickup a card that would make him miss the next match. I believe hes missed several matches because of this, getting paid a lot of $$$ to miss games.

  8. Or, by mere coincidence, 4 of 5 MLS teams had bad nights, each defined by a unique situation and circumstances. Keep in mind, all MLS have won on the road, save for Galaxy. But LA have won all their home games. Simply put, shite happens. I’m not ready to say “pull the plug on CCL” over a couple bad results. Wait until the group stage has been settled. Then we’ll see how MLS fairs.

  9. Tonight’s results added to Seattle losing at home to the worst team in the tournament hints of an MLS collapse.I can’t see any MLS side going past the first round. In the last four games I watched MLS teams have been out-worked, out hustled all over the field. This has been both at home and away, and with first and second teams. Perhaps with the MLS play-offs approaching both the managers and players are pulling back. If so, the commissioner needs to look at MLS’ commitment to the tournament, take it up a notch or pull out. These walkabouts are bad for MLS

  10. i’m interested to hear what Beckham thinks of that type of latin-american atmosphere. a global icon like beckham… how does it compare to hostile environments in europe? ives let us know!

  11. FIFA does have international specifications for turf quality, but I suppose it’s one thing to have specifications and another to have monitoring and enforcement. Agreed, the pitch was shite. You could tell that Beckham, Donovan and others didn’t want to go at speed or into tackles for fear of injury. Can’t blame them. The field reminded me of the turf soccer fields (rug on concrete) on the East Coast in the 1980’s. BU, ODU, Navy and many other colleges had this and it was terrible.

  12. Not to harp on the issue, but it does make a difference:

    CONCACAF or FIFA needs to step in and force any club playing in an international competition to have their field updated to a playable surface. They might as well have played on concrete.

  13. No kidding, huh. Things are looking bleak for MLS teams in CCL. No team mathematically eliminated yet, not even TFC, but things have got to change asap.

  14. This game was eerily similar to the Seattle/Herediano game on Tuesday:

    Free kick goal by the Costa Rican team in the middle of the first half, and then suddenly the pitch turned into a trauma ward. And both Costa Rican goalkeepers had HORRIBLE HORRIBLE ON-THE-GROUND MINUTE-EATING INJURIES and were fine two minutes later, and both also earned an unrelated timewasting yellows in the 58th (Herediano) and 59th (Alajuelense).


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