CCL Semifinal Team Profile: Los Angeles Galaxy

The other Major League Soccer team remaining in the tournament is previewed ahead of their semifinal with Monterrey.

Nicknames: The Galaxy are affectionately known as “Los Galácticos” to their supporters. The nickname is both a nod to the high-priced, superstar laden nature of the team (similar to the “Galácticos” squads of Real Madrid in the early to mid 2000’s) and the team’s oldest supporters group, the “Galaxians.”

Home Stadium: The Galaxy play their home matches at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California, a venue which they share with fellow Los Angelinos Chivas USA. Part of a larger complex featuring a velodrome, tennis center and track and field facility, HDC is frequently used by both the US Men’s and Women’s national teams as a training facility and game venue. Prior to the center’s completion in 2003, the Galaxy played their matches at the Rose Bowl.

Don’t get too used to the name, though. “The Home Depot Center,” will become “StubHub Center” on June 1st.

History: You could certainly make an argument that the Galaxy are the most successful franchise in MLS History, and as of late it’s hard to find a club with a higher global profile. Los Galácticos were one of Major League Soccer’s 10 original franchises, and though they waited six years to hoist their first MLS Cup, they were competitive from the get-go.

The Galaxy have won four MLS Cup championships (2002, 2005, 2011 and 2012) and four Supporters’ Shield titles (1998, 2002, 2010 and 2011), all-time records matched only by Eastern Conference foes D.C. United. They’ve also won the U.S. Open Cup on two occasions and in 2000 became one of only two MLS sides to ever hoist a CONCACAF Champions’ Cup title (United being the other one).

INFOGRAPHIC: Los Angeles Galaxy Team Profile

Aside from their success on the pitch, the Galaxy have also done quite a bit to raise the profile of Major League Soccer both in the US and out of it. The signing of English superstar David Beckham in 2007 was a bellwether event in the league’s history and almost instantly gave the Galaxy and MLS global name recognition. Though his signing didn’t immediately translate to on-field success –the Galaxy missed out on the MLS playoffs in his first two campaigns - Los Galácticos eventually righted the ship and became one of three teams in league history to win back-to-back MLS Cup championships.

In CONCACAF Champions League play, the Galaxy have represented MLS on two occasions. After an embarrassing 2010-2011 CCL that saw them crash out in the preliminary round to lower-tier competitors the Puerto Rico Islanders, Los Angeles advanced to the competition’s Quarterfinal Round last year before being eliminated by fellow MLS side Toronto FC. They’ve also already qualified for 2013-14 Champions League play as winners of both the 2012 MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield.

How They Got Here: The Galaxy qualified for the 2012-2013 CONCACAF Champions League via their victory in the 2011 MLS Cup. They also could’ve qualified via their 2011 Supporters’ Shield title, but that spot instead ended up being allotted to Real Salt Lake as the third place Supporters’ Shield team (Seattle had also already qualified via their Open Cup victory and was also the Supporters’ Shield runner-up.)

Drawn into Group 5 alongside the aforementioned Islanders and Salvadoran side Isidro Metapán, the Galaxy cruised through group play. Unbeaten through four games, the Galaxy outscored their opponents 12-4 and suffered only a draw to Puerto Rico.

Entering the knockout phase of CCL play as a four seed, they found themselves matched up against Costa Rican side Herediano, who advanced out of group two while eliminating 2010-11 CCL runner-up Real Salt Lake. After a wild scoreless draw in Costa Rica that saw both sides hit the woodwork and Herediano miss an 87th minute penalty kick, the Galaxy returned to The Home Depot Center and took care of business.

Relying on a quartet of goal-scorers, Los Galácticos eliminated the Costa Ricans and booked their spot in the CCL Semis, where they’ll face defending champions Monterrey.

Current Form: The Galaxy will enter Wednesday’s match with Monterrey in very good form, as they’ve opened 2013 MLS play with a four-game unbeaten streak. Though David Beckham left after the club’s 2012 MLS Cup-winning campaign, the Galaxy have relied on other contributors this year to maintain their form.

Offensively, the Galaxy are spoiled for choice. Alongside prolific goal-scorers like Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, the Galaxy have a new(ish) weapon in 2013: Mike Magee. The forward leads the league in goals scored, with five in four games – including a hat trick in the Galaxy’s season opening 4-0 win over the Chicago Fire.

In Jose Villareal, LA possess one of the most exciting homegrown talents in MLS, as witnessed by the 19-year-old’s stoppage time scissor-kick goal this past weekend.

The Galaxy aren’t lacking defensively, either, with US National Team starter Omar Gonzalez in central defense and newly acquired designated player and former English Premier League keeper Carlo Cudicini in goal.

Though the Galaxy’s performances this year have been fairly impressive, they also find themselves facing a bit of a hurdle heading into Wednesday’s semifinal opener against Monterrey. Robbie Keane is questionable for the team’s CCL matchup with a calf injury picked up while on World Cup qualifying duty with Ireland, and Landon Donovan is a bit of an unknown variable after his extended absence. While Donovan has stated that he hopes to play a role in the Galaxy’s upcoming CCL series, it remains to be seen just exactly what that role will be – and how effective he’ll be in it.

While Monterrey has its own set of issues – their performance in Liga MX play this year has been lukewarm at best – let’s not forget that they’re the two-time defending CCL champions and have been dominant throughout this year’s competition. LA will need two truly special performances to advance to the Champions League finals.