By Dylan Butler
MONTERREY, Mexico -- Monterrey is in familiar territory heading into the second leg of its CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series against the LA Galaxy Wednesday night at Estadio Tecnologico.
The Rayados were victorious in the opening leg in each of the last two competitions en route to winning back-to-back championships.
Two years ago, Monterrey had a 2-1 edge on Liga MX rival Cruz Azul following 90 minutes and, last year, it had a 3-0 lead on Pumas UNAM.
The biggest difference from the previous two semifinal appearances, though, is this time Monterrey head home for the second leg with the advantage after a dramatic come-from-behind 2-1 win at the Home Depot Center last week.
Humberto Suazo and Aldo De Nigris struck twice inside the final eight minutes to send Monterrey into the second leg with a one-goal lead.Still, the Rayados players, who are undeterred by a 1-0 loss to Toluca in Liga MX play Sunday, know nothing has been won yet.
"We have a good score, but we are confident," Monterrey defender Ricardo Osorio said on the club's official site."We'll think we're 0-0 and try to finish what we started in Los Angeles.It would be something historic to play in our third consecutive final."
Despite the gut wrenching loss at home in the opening leg, LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said his team, which didn't have a domestic match over the weekend, remains confident heading into the second leg.
"It's not anything we haven't faced before," Arena said on the club's official website."It certainly won't be easy, but we've got to go there with the attitude we're going to win the game and let the match take care of itself."
Los Angeles will be buoyed by the return of playmaker Juninho from injury after the Brazilian midfielder was replaced in the 61st minute of the first leg with what he described as a "headache."
"It was my first day back, I feel OK," Juninho told LAGalaxy.com Sunday after training. "I need a little bit more with the guys, my headache has no pain any more. I'm available for the next game. I want to help. It's a very tough game and everyone knows that. Monterrey has a very good team, but we're prepared. Now let's go win."
Juninho's influence in the opening leg was unmistakable.When he was on the field, LA was dangerous in the attacking third and controlled the pace.With Juninho sidelined, Monterrey took over and eventually struck for a pair of dramatic late goals.
"There are no secrets.We played at home last game and it was very good in the first half, but we slept late in the game and they scored two goals," Juninho said."Next game is going to be the same, we're going to press them and the guys have to be ready for a big game."