Wednesday night’s CONCACAF Champions League match between LA Galaxy and El Salvador’s Isidro Metapán was hardly a classic but last year’s MLS champions will take the 1-0 victory as they inch closer to the knockout stage of the tournament.
A sixth minute strike by Laurent Courtois gave LA the lead and Bruce Arena’s squad, comprised largely of backups and reserves, dug deep defensively to preserve the clean sheet in front of 6,211 at the StubHub Center.
The loss eliminated Metapán from the competition and leaves the Galaxy in charge of Group 8, needing only a single point in next week’s clash with Costa Rican side Cartaginés to go through to the knockout stage.
Los Angeles took the early lead when Greg Cochrane’s thow-in from the left side of the pitch found Jose Villarreal, who found Courtois and his first time effort swerved just inside the far post for his first goal of the season.
Poor defending led to opportunities for both teams. Courtois nearly had his brace with a strong effort from outside in the 19th minute that was well saved while Chandler Hoffman, who led the Galaxy’s three man attack alongside Villareal and Jack McBean, saw his 32nd minute header fizz over the bar.
In the 53rd minute, Villareal nearly doubled LA’s lead when he latched on to a low cross from right back Rafael Garcia that forced Metapán goalkeeper Henry Hernández into a fine save. Hernández was up to the task again three minutes from time when Gyasi Zardes, a 68th minute substitute for Villareal, was unable to convert from close range.
Employing a route one style of play, the visitors predominantly threatened down the right side of the through Nicolás Muñoz. The forward managed to get off four shots but only one was on target, which goalkeeper Brian Rowe was quick to cover up. Trouble also came from Metapán’s marauding right back, Jose Peraza, who let three shots fly on the night, the most dangerous of which Rowe did well to save on the dive.
At the end of the night, LA’s performance was exactly what one would expect from a MLS side that included just six starters in the 18-man roster – some shaky moments defensively balanced out by an impassioned performance of young, eager players looking to make an impression.
For Bruce Arena, the move proved quite shrewd as players like McBean earned valuable minutes while Courtois bossed the midfield, impressing with his eye for goal and knack for playing the dangerous cross. What’s more, the Galaxy will now be well rested heading into Saturday’s crunch match with the Seattle Sounders.