The LA Galaxy stood 10 minutes from taking an advantage to Mexico for the finale in their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series, but Monterrey demonstrated at the finish why it has won the region’s club championship the past two years.
Humberto Suazo scored an 82nd-minute equalizer and Aldo de Nigris netted the winner in stoppage to lift Monterrey to a 2-1 triumph in Wednesday night’s first leg at The Home Depot Center.
A.J. DeLaGarza provided a first-half lead for the Galaxy, who had more of the game and were unfortunate not to score several goals before an injury to Juninho gave Monterrey control in the final half-hour.
De Nigris tallied in the first minute of stoppage, gaining position inside Omar Gonzalez to knock the ball past goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini and inside the right post. Guillermo Madrigal provided the service, heading a chipped ball from Jose Maria Basanta onto de Nigris’ path.
Suazo scored on a rebound after Cudicini had dived to make a reaction save on de Nigris’ powerful header off a Cesar Delgado cross.
The Galaxy, which appeared on track to hand Monterrey just its fourth defeat in 31 CCL matches since 2010, had led 1-0 for much of the game thanks in large part to DeLaGarza. The veteran defender started the sequence leading to his goal with a quick throw-in on the right wing. LA strung together six quick passes, finishing with a Mike Magee header against the grain for DeLaGarza to flick past goalkeeper Juan de Dios Ibarra.
The Galaxy nearly went ahead in the 17th minute, when Magee forced Ibarra down to make a stop, and almost added to the lead three times, through Sean Franklin in the 42nd minute, Landon Donovan in the 65th and Robbie Keane in the 67th. Keane came closest, from a Donovan pass to the top of the 6-yard box, but Ibarra leaped forward to parry the Irishman’s point-blank shot wide of the net.
Juninho departed in the 61st minute after twisting his right ankle when he stepped on an opponent’s foot outside the Galaxy box, and LA lost control of midfield soon after. Until then, they had ample possession and had prevented Monterrey from meaningful penetration, keeping de Nigris and Suazo wrapped up much of the match.
Monterrey, which had never lost a first-leg game in the CCL’s knockout stage, have lost just once in 15 home games in the tournament, a 1-0 Seattle Sounders victory in August 2011.
The Galaxy must overcome the deficit, and the Rayados’ two away goals, next Wednesday in Monterrey toadvance to the championship home-and-home against Santos Laguna or the Sounders. Santos won the first leg of that series, 1-0, Tuesday night in Seattle.