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Los Angeles Galaxy vs. CD Motagua: Back to CONCACAF Champions League Action

Jo-Ryan SalazarSenior Analyst IAugust 10, 2011

CARSON, CA - AUGUST 06:  Juninho #19 of the Los Angeles Galaxy celebrates his goal against FC Dallas at The Home Depot Center on August 6, 2011 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)
Jeff Golden/Getty Images


The Los Angeles Galaxy ended their 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League run on a winning note with a 2-1 victory over the Puerto Rico Islanders.

However, the victory came off the heels of a 4-1 shellacking in the first leg at the Home Depot Center.

This time around, there will be no preliminary round blowouts to agonize over. In fact, Bruce Arena's Galaxy get a free pass to the group stage by way of winning the 2010 Major League Soccer Supporters Shield.

Their group? A group that could arguably be called the "Group of Death": Group A, which includes L.D. Alajuelense, the 2010 Invierno and 2011 Verano champion from Costa Rica; Monarcas Morelia, the runner-up in the 2011 Primera Division de Mexico Clausura; and their first opponent, C.D. Motagua of Honduras's Liga Nacional.

Motagua are a team based out of the nation's capital, Tegucigalpa. They won the Copa Interclubes UNCAP in 2007 and had a third-place finish in 2002.

Last season in the 2010-11 Clausura, Los Aguilas Azules soared to the title on the wings of an 8-7-3 record (31 points) in the regular season, a 3-3 semifinal victory over C.D.S. Vida based on superior regular season performance and a 5-3 aggregate victory over city rival C.D. Olimpia.

Jerry Bengtson
Jerry BengtsonAl Bello/Getty Images

Currently, Motagua just began their 2011 Apertura campaign with a 1-0 defeat to C.D. Necaxa. (Yes, there is a team called Necaxa that isn't from Mexico, everyone.)

Motagua's key player to watch out for is Honduran international Jerry Bengtson. The forward blazed a trail for the Blue Eagles with a league-leading 15 goals in the Clausura and can finish when he has open space.

Former MLS standout Amado Guevara, who played for the New York Red Bulls, Chivas USA and Toronto FC, is another player that the Galaxy backline must pay attention to.

Guevara scored five goals in the Clausura for Motagua and is familiar with how teams like the Galaxy play their brand of football.

Perhaps even more familiar to the Galaxy is Guillermo "Pando" Ramirez, who was instrumental in the Galaxy's successful 2005 campaign, where they won the U.S. Open Cup and the MLS Cup.

Ramirez may only have had three goals to his credit in the 2011 Clausura, but he and Guevara direct traffic for Los Aguilas Azules and must be contained.

The Galaxy, meanwhile, lay claim as the league's best team at the moment, with a 13-3-9 record (48 points).

David Beckham
David BeckhamJeff Golden/Getty Images

And anyone who is familiar with the Galaxy (including this featured columnist on Bleacher Report and the View from Victoria Street) knows that Motagua must stop both Landon Donovan and David Beckham.

Donovan currently has 11 goals in MLS play, while Beckham now have 10 assists.

Beckham's set piece slot machine will be out in full force next Tuesday, and anyone in a white shirt could be a winner: from Juninho (four goals in league play), to the struggling Juan Pablo Angel (four goals), to even the versatile Mike Magee (two goals this season, including one against FC Dallas on Saturday).

Defensively, it will be up to Omar Gonzalez, Gregg Berhalter, Sean Franklin, A.J. DeLaGarza and Todd Dunivant to neutralize Bengtson, Guevara and Ramirez, Motagua's triple-threat. This means they must use their speed and accelerate the tempo by going direct.

Goalkeeper Josh Saunders is expected to start once again. No longer a backup, Donovan Ricketts's injury places the Puerto Rican international in the spotlight one more time.

Saunders has a 1.15 goals against average, a 7-2-3 record, and 72.3 percent save percentage and 34 saves.

One player that could be under the radar on Tuesday is forward Adam Cristman. He was able to fill in for Juan Pablo Angel and arguably did a better job winning the possession battle against a fellow Champions League participant.

Adam Cristman
Adam CristmanJeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Don't be surprised if the Galaxy throw a curveball against Motagua netminder Kerpo de Leon in the form of Cristman on Tuesday night at Victoria Street.

Prediction:
No doubt about this: it feels good to be back in regional play.

So now that the Galaxy are where they could have been last year had it not been for the mess at home against Puerto Rico, it's now back to business.

Bengtson may be the Chicken Thief on Tuesday, but Motagua may have an adventure trying to defuse the set piece deliveries Beckham will place. Look for the Galaxy to hit the ground running.

Los Angeles Galaxy 2, C.D. Motagua 1
Kickoff at Victoria Street is scheduled for 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Aug. 16.

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