This is the kind of match that only pro soccer can host.
A team representing one of the largest, most modern metro areas in the world, Los Angeles, takes on a team coming from a second-world country of a town of 19,000 people.
Metapan of El Salvador would seem like a huge underdog, but they’re not.
Metapan – located 30 miles outside of Santa Ana, which has a population of more than 200,000 and their own soccer team – would seem like a significant underdog, especially playing as a visiting team at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles on Thursday night, starting at 10pm Eastern on Fox Soccer. But Metapan has plenty of recent history in CONCACAF Champions League.
This is Metapan’s fifth entry overall in Champions, and they have gone as far as L.A. has gone under the newest format. Both reached the quarterfinals in last year’s tourney. (Click here for info on Cup history.)
The real thrill of this home and home series is when the Galaxy go on the road trip to Metapan. This is when pro soccer and its wonderful international tournaments are most appreciated. MLS stars David Beckham and Landon Donovan get the opportunity to intimately know El Salvadoran countryside as well as Peace Corps volunteers.
It’s an unusual battle with David versus Goliath back stories. But in terms of the matchup, there is only one way for how the Galaxy must play: balls out. This tournament is another chance for the Galaxy to beef up their reputation internationally.
Thursday night is the first match of the tournament for them. It is a tournament in which they are expected to contend. It has been expected for a few years now the Galaxy would contend and nothing good has come from their past tournament entries.
Don Garber, MLS Commish, says that an MLS team must win this tournament. He says it is a priority for MLS. Under the new format, only Mexican teams have won it. The winners get the privilege of playing another tournament, possibly against teams named Real Madrid, Manchester U., Chelsea, and Barcelona.
So far, only Mexican teams have played in the FIFA Club World Cup, representing CONCACAF-the Soccer Association of Caribbean, North American and Central American countries.
As the Galaxy prepare for their first game in the 2012-2013 Champions League, the pressure mounts for them to break through and become the first MLS team to win the tournament since it began in 2008-09. Their best way to start their campaign and build momentum is with a convincing win against Metapan, a team with practically nothing to lose.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com