Which Galaxy team will show up?
The last meaningful game the Galaxy played was last fall’s Major League Soccer Cup final, which it won 1-0 to cap its first championship season in six years.
But it’s been tough sledding since then, with the team winning just two of its eight preseason games against MLS opponents. So the question heading into Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal game with FC Toronto at the Rogers Centre (Fox Soccer, 5 p.m. PST) is which Galaxy team will show up: the world-beater that won a title last year or the one that was outscored nearly 2 to 1 this winter while being shut out three times?
To be fair, the Galaxy hasn’t been at full strength in the preseason. Forward Robbie Keane and midfielder Landon Donovan didn’t rejoin the team from their loans to European clubs until this week. And recently reacquired striker Edson Buddle missed time to play with the U.S. national team.
As a result, Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena has played some combinations he wouldn’t think of using once the games start counting.
“We’ve been making some mistakes,” defender A.J. De La Garza said. “It’s stuff that can’t happen [this] week.”
No MLS representative has ever won the CONCACAF Champions League, which features 24 teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean. If the Galaxy is to become the first, it will have to get by league rival Toronto in the two-match home-and-home series that comes to the Home Depot Center on March 14.
In between, the Galaxy will open its MLS schedule at home Saturday against Real Salt Lake, the runner-up in the last Champions League tournament.
“It’s certainly a big target,” Arena said of the regional championship. “But I think it’s a little premature right now to be thinking about making it to that final yet. We have six games to play to get there. So that’s a long way.
“And obviously, our focus is first on trying to get through the series with Toronto.”
The winner of the Galaxy-Toronto series, which will be determined on aggregate goals, will advance to face the winner of the two-match series between the Seattle Sounders of the MLS and Mexico’s Santos Laguna in the semifinal round later this month.
“It’s a special competition,” said midfielder David Beckham, who won a UEFA Champions League title 13 years ago with Manchester United. “It’s great that we’ve gotten so far already. But we want to go all the way. Because it creates a lot of interest in the U.S. And it creates interest [for] the MLS around the world as well.
“So it’s important that we do well.”
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