Comeback can’t sugarcoat it: LA Galaxy had a bad, telling night in Tijuana

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Come full-time, the LA Galaxy were one goal away from the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, a description that flatters the team’s overall performance. Conceding three goals within Tuesday’s first 23 minutes, the Galaxy gifted Club Tijuana an insurmountable lead, with two second half goals from Robbie Keane doing little to sugarcoat a disastrous defensive performance. At the final whistle, Xolos had turned around the 1-0 deficit they were handed in Carson, Calif., advancing to the semifinals with their 4-2 (4-3, agg.) win.

Detached from its details, that result looks respectable, but the first half was anything put. Tijuana striker Jaime Ayovi scored in the second minute of the game, with the team hitting the woodwork again shortly after. In the ninth minute, Ayovi put Tijuana in front overall, while Dario Benedetto doubled Xolos’ lead in the 26th minute. Before the team’s went into intermission, Greg Garza would test the woodwork once more.

While Keane was able to bring the Galaxy back to within one two int he 47th minute, Richard Ruiz restored Tijuana’s lead in the 82nd. That Keane responded three minutes later created some late drama, but Los Angeles was ultimately unable to overcome their first half collapse.

Calling a one-goal deficit after 180 minutes a collapse may seem harsh, but as Tuesday’s first half unfolded, the performance felt like the bottom had dropped out of the Galaxy’s Champions League chances. Just as in the second half of leg one, Tijuana was better in all facets of the game, but instead of a remarkable night from Jaime Penedo saving them, the Galaxy had to live with the mere mortal efforts of its goalkeeper. That meant three goals within 23 minutes as LA gave one of their worst defensive performances in recent memory.

It was a performance bad enough to make you wonder if they can compete for a title in Major League Soccer. That’s too broad a conclusion to draw from one 90-minute stretch — particularly against a team of Tijuana’s quality — but it’s still fair to consider. Given defending was a big question mark coming into the season, tonight’s collapse in an important game makes you wonder if something similar can happen in MLS. When games are most important and LA has to get wins against Real Salt Lake, Portland, and Seattle, will its defense hold up?

They have seven months to improve. In that time, they need to decide if Leonardo is a starting-caliber defender. If not, either move A.J. DeLaGarza back in or start giving minutes to Tommy Meyer or Kofi Opare. They need to decide what to do at left back, because over his first three starts, James Riley hasn’t provided answers. If LA’s question coming into the season was defense, the year’s first 270 minutes have produced at best mixed results.

Perhaps in November, the defense will be better, but looking very much like a team that just came out of preseason, the Galaxy have bowed out of the Champions League. That it happened so decisively leaves gives Bruce Arena his first challenge of the season.

Club World Cup wrap: Gremio reaches final, Urawa takes fifth place

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One half of this year’s FIFA Club World Cup final was decided on Tuesday as Brazilian side Gremio topped Liga MX champions Pachuca.

Second-half substitute Everton proved to be the difference for the Brazilians, with the attacker scoring in extra time to lift Gremio.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

Pachuca’s chances of completing a comeback were extinguished with 10 minutes remaining in extra time, as Víctor Guzman was sent off upon picking up his second yellow card of the semifinal.

Meanwhile, Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds captured fifth place in the tournament after narrowly topping Wydad Casablanca, 3-2.

Despite going behind early, Urawa responded almost immediately in the first half, before building its lead to 3-1 at the hour mark.

A late penalty kick from Reda Hajhouj gave Casablanca a glimmer of hope in the dying moments, however, the Moroccan-based club couldn’t find a way to equalize.

Gremio will await either La Liga giants Real Madrid or Al Jazira in the Club World Cup final, which will be played on Saturday. The loser of that match will take on Pachuca in the third-place game.

Below are the scores from Tuesday’s FIFA Club World Cup matches.

Gremio 1-0 Pachuca (after extra time)

Wydad Casablanca 2-3 Urawa Red Diamonds — Fifth-place match

LAFC selects Urena, 4 others in MLS Expansion Draft

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Los Angeles FC selected five players in the MLS Expansion Draft, including Costa Rican national team star Marco Urena.

Whether they’ll make their way to the City of Angels is another story.

The first pick from general manager John Thorrington was goalkeeper Tyler Miller from Seattle Sounders.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Going next was Latif Blessing from Sporting KC, an electric attacker who netted thrice with an assist last season.

Next was Urena from San Jose and the Costa Rican national team, a huge addition, and then Columbus left back Jukka Raitala before closing up the draft with Raheem Edwards from Toronto FC.

LAFC has already announced the signings or acquisitions of Carlos Vela, Walker Zimmerman, Carlos Alvarez, Monday Etim, and Guillermo Vizcarra.

The club will also loan Omar Gaber from Basel and Rodrigo Pacheco from Lanus.

WATCH LIVE: Three Premier League matches

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Chelsea visits the John Smith’s Stadium to face Huddersfield Town in one of three Premier League fixtures this chilly Tuesday in December (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues are now 14 points back of Manchester City, and three points clear of fifth place.

Meanwhile there are a pair of matches on NBC Sports Gold: Burnley looks to keep pace with its Top Four ambitions when it hosts struggling Stoke City, while in-form Crystal Palace seeks a home win that would move it out of the drop zone. In its way? Dangerous, attack-minded Watford.

Burnley vs. Stoke City — 2:45 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Crystal Palace vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

FIFA bans Colombia midfielder Cardona 5 games for gesture

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has banned Colombia midfielder Edwin Cardona for five matches for making a discriminatory gesture with his eyes toward a South Korean opponent.

FIFA will allow Cardona to serve the ban in friendly games, so he should be available for Colombia’s World Cup opener against Japan on June 19.

[ MORE: Pep on post-derby celebrations ]

Cardona has also been fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150) because of the incident last month in a friendly in Seoul.

Cardona apologized at the time, saying he “didn’t mean to disrespect anyone, a country or a race, but if anyone felt offended, or interpreted it in that way, I am sorry.”