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Galaxy can advance in CONCACAF Champions League

After losing MLS opener, Galaxy faces Toronto FC at Home Depot Center.

March 13, 2012|By Kevin Baxter
  • Galaxy forward Edson Buddle, right, celebrates with teammate Sean Franklin after scoring a goal against Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
Galaxy forward Edson Buddle, right, celebrates with teammate Sean Franklin… (Bret Hartman / Associated…)

No Major League Soccer team has ever won the recently revamped CONCACAF Champions League. And Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena thinks he knows why.

"We probably don't schedule it as a priority," he says. "So there's things as a league that we have to make better for us to have the elite clubs in North America and Central America. We have to grow as a league on the field and off the field in order to achieve that goal."

The Galaxy has a chance to brush aside those obstacles, not to mention Toronto FC, when the two MLS clubs meet in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Home Depot Center in Carson (the game will be televised on Telefutura and Fox Soccer).

The Galaxy will advance to the tournament semifinals later this month with a win or by holding Toronto to less than two goals in a tie. Because of a complicated tiebreaking formula involving goals scored on the road and, apparently, the barometric pressure on Saturn, a 2-2 tie Wednesday would be followed by overtime while a draw in which the teams combine for six or more goals would send Toronto to the next round.

Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said the team will try to keep all that simple.

"We want to win this," he explained.

With Champions League play resuming the same week the MLS regular season began, the Galaxy finds itself halfway through a 12-day period in which it will play four times. That's a heavy workload for a team featuring seven starters aged 30 or older — and Arena said it caught up with his team in Saturday's MLS opener, when the Galaxy blew a 1-0 lead in the final 17 minutes to lose to Real Salt Lake, 3-1, its first loss at home in 17 months.

"In the future, I'm going to take much more responsibility in scheduling," Arena said Tuesday. "We're not going to put ourselves in this position again."

Yet while Saturday's late collapse — the Galaxy gave up three scores, including an own goal, in a 12-minute span — will hurt the team in the MLS standings, it might actually help them against Toronto FC.

"Everyone is kind of chomping at the bit because we were a little frustrated with how the game ended," captain Landon Donovan said. "Sometimes a loss is a wake-up call. "

Dunivant agreed.

"It's motivation more than anything. We didn't finish off the game," he said. "We want to come back and rectify that."

As for the schedule, Dunivant refuses to use it as a crutch.

"There's no excuse," he said. "This is the hand we're dealt. It's not easy but it's what we've got to do to advance."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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