CARSON, Calif. – The new-look LA Galaxy opened their 2016 campaign with five new starters, but the same goal as every year – to become the first MLS side to win the CONCACAF Champions League. To do so, they will now need to gain a result on the road in Mexico, after battling the Liga MX defending champion Santo Laguna to a 0-0 draw at StubHub Center on Wednesday night.
The match was a lively, if at times ragged, back-and-forth affair, with Santos maintaining the lion’s share of possession, and generating the majority of chances in the run of play. The Galaxy manufactured a few solid opportunities off set-piece plays.
Both sides may well rue their missed opportunities, but the Galaxy will at least be pleased with the shutout. The lack of away goals will no doubt frustrate Santos, but the impending home advantage will no doubt ease the pain Los Guerreros may feel as they depart California.
Santos’ two best opportunities came off set pieces as well. In the 80th minute, Nestor Calderon drove a direct kick from the corner of the penalty area hard into the Galaxy wall, and the deflected ball spun and missed the far post by only inches.
Calderon also had an opportunity in the 67th minute when he volleyed a corner kick at the same post, but Galaxy striker Gio Dos Santos was alertly parked on the frame and cleared the shot.
Chilean playmaker Bryan Rabello put multiple shots on frame but could not find a way past new Galaxy goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.
The Galaxy appeared out of sync for large portions of the evening, with missed passes and missed shots, and players yelling at one another as they tried to find team chemistry after only being in camp for a month.
Despite the apparent lack of familiarity with one another, the Galaxy nearly drew first blood when a Giovani Dos Santos corner found the head of a diving Jelle Van Damme. The header forced a quick reaction save on the low header from Santos keeper Augustin Marchesin to keep the the game level in the first minute.
The match got chippy in the closing minutes as players’ frustration at the looming scoreless evening mounted and each side began shoving and yelling, culminating in Galaxy captain Robbie Keane getting into a sideline scuffle with Santos head coach Luis Zubeldia. Honduran referee Armando Castro showed four yellow card cautions on the night.
The two sides will meet again for the return leg in Torreon, Mexico, on Tuesday evening, March 1st.