Action from the CONCACAF Champions League game between the LA Galaxy and visiting Isidro Metapan on September 18, 2013, at StubHub Center, in Carson, California. (Photo: German Alegria)
METAPAN, El Salvador -- With a quarterfinal berth in the CONCACAF Champions League already secured and a vital Major League Soccer game in the waiting, the LA Galaxy (3-0-0, 9 points) is expected to field a youthful side against host Isidro Metapan (0-1-2, 1 point) on Thursday.
The Galaxy is eyeing Sunday’s regular-season finale at the Seattle Sounders, where a win would allow it to avoid playing in a special playoff game for the second consecutive season and give the team several days of rest prior to the Western Conference semifinals.
The match against Metapan, though, holds future significance. The Galaxy can clinch the top quarterfinal seed outright with a win of five goals or more. Mexico’s Toluca currently leads the overall table with 12 points and +11 goal difference. The number one seed will square-off against the San Jose Earthquakes in the first knockout round.
“Bruce (Arena) gave us a breakdown of the point situation,” midfielder Michael Stephens told lagalaxy.com. “It’s important as far as seeding goes that we finish strong to set ourselves up for the next round.”
These are busy times for the two-time defending MLS champion, which sealed a league playoff berth thanks to a scoreless draw at the San Jose Earthquakes last Sunday.
Several key LA players are nursing injuries, including United States internationals Landon Donovan (left ankle inflammation) and central defender Omar Gonzalez (left hip strain). Neither is expected to play against the Salvadoran side in the CCL Group 8 finale for both teams.
LA clinched the group title with a 3-0 win over host Cartagines on September 25. Jack McBean, Chandler Hoffman and Laurent Courtois scored for the visitors.
Metapan has lost its previous three CCL encounters with the Galaxy. In their last meeting on September 18, LA got a sixth-minute goal from Courtois and held on for a 1-0 win.
A win would boost the Salvadorans into second place over idle Cartagines (1-1-2, 4 points). It has scored two goals or more in each of its last five CCL home games with forward Nicolas Munoz netting five goals over that period.
Metapan (5-5-3, 20 points), which is coming off a 3-2 home win over Once Municipal Sunday, is in third place in the Salvadoran Apuerta standings behind leader Atletico Marte (7-6-0, 27 points) and second-place Alianza FC (6-3-4, 21 points).