Landon Donovan (white jersey) of the LA Galaxy tries to hold off and Club Tijuana's Hernan Pellerano during their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal on March 12, 2014, in Carson, California. (Photo: German Alegria)
CARSON, California – Though the geographical proximity of the teams lends a “local derby” ambiance to their CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) quarterfinal series, the LA Galaxy and Club Tijuana are not crosstown adversaries. After all, they are separated by142 miles and a border.
That fact, however, does not diminish what promises to be a keenly contested second leg on Tuesday at the Xolos’ Estadio Caliente. In the bigger picture, it serves to enhance the prospects of a budding rivalry between clubs from the United States and Mexico.
Thanks to Samuel’s 11th minute goal in the opener, the Galaxy holds a slim 1-0 advantage, but second straight trip to the semifinals is by no means a certainty.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re close, it’s about getting to the next round,” surmised forward Robbie Keane, who has scored five career CCL goals. “We did well tonight, we know that’s only half way, we have another half to go. It’s going to be tough, but we put ourselves in a good position.”
In order to solidify that position, LA will have to achieve success at a stadium in which the host has experienced defeat only once in its last 19 games.
“There's few places in MLS that are as difficult as going to Tijuana so this will be a good test for us,” said forward Landon Donovan. “Fortunately we've had a lot of guys who have played in games like this and know what they're doing.
“We expect they are going to throw everything at us, and we want that, we want a good test and a good challenge.”
While the Galaxy had the weekend off from MLS play, Tijuana lost 2-1 in a Liga MX battle of CCL quarterfinalists at first-place Cruz Azul. Richard Ruiz gave the visitor a 1-0 lead just before the half, but Marco Fabian struck twice to give La Maquina the three points.
With the their focus squarely on the second leg against LA, Xolos manager Cesar Farias left Javier Gandolfi, Juan Carlos Nuñez, Dario Benedetto, Fidel Martinez, Fernando Arce, Joe Corona and leading scorer Cristian Pellerano out of his lineup.
Despite posting only one win in its last six games in all competitions, there is calm in the Tijuana camp. A strong second-half performance in the quarterfinal’s first leg has provided a certain measure of confidence.
“I think we did a pretty good game overall,” noted midfielder Joe Corona, one of only two players to appear all five of Tijuana’s CCL matches. “We created a lot of opportunities. Unfortunately, we couldn’t score the goal, but it’s going to be different in Tijuana with our people, we’ll have a lot of energy from the fans and I think we have to have patience. There’s still 90 minutes to go and I think that the team did well and we are now looking ahead to the second leg.”
As are all fans of football in the region.
Club Tijuana v LA Galaxy