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CONCACAF Champions League Preview: LA Galaxy - Tijuana

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Tijuana hopes its shortest road trip in years will end its long away drought when the club faces the LA Galaxy on Wednesday in the first leg of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal.

Xolos haven’t won away from Estadio Caliente in any competition since August of 2013, though the 3-2 win against Victoria wasn’t played at the hosts’ home stadium. In Liga MX, it’s been since January 20, 2013 when Tijuana beat Pumas.

But being located just minutes from Southern California and only a few hours drive from the StubHub Center might help Xolos, whose road trips usually involve much lengthier travel without crossing international borders.

Tijuana’s new manager, Cesar Farias, has found more success than his predecessor but still hasn’t been able to find the formula Antonio Mohamed did when he took the club to a Liga MX Apertura title and advanced deep into the Copa Libertadores. Farias has, however, returned the club to more of an attacking, free-flowing style - if only the forwards would take notice. Cristian Pellerano, a midfielder, leads the team in goals with five in the Clausura.

The Galaxy, for their part, are ready Xolos to bring that style.

“They’re a little difficult to pick up at times because in some instances they’re all over the field, some of their players when they’re attacking,” Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan said at a news conference Tuesday. “I think the key for us is that when we’re in possession, we take advantage of the spaces that are left open if they do that.”

Donovan and striker Robbie Keane, who had a late penalty saved in a 1-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake on Saturday, have the tools to trouble a Tijuana defense that has looked exploitable at times, though a clean sheet in Friday’s win against Chivas moved Xolos back into the Liguilla positions.

The Galaxy had a wealth of chances in their loss Saturday but couldn’t get any shots past Nick Rimando. New addition Samuel could be key if Donovan or Keane can’t get on the scoresheet, and a good performance from Juninho would also boost the MLS outfit.

Emotions should be high for the match and fans from both teams are expected to fill the stadium. Thanks to the close geography, there are fans of both teams in the region. Location is also why these teams are consistently battling each other for youth players with young forward Paul Arriola’s decision to sign with Xolos still a sore subject for some in LA.

The Galaxy went unbeaten in Group 8 to advance to the knockout stage, with Tijuana emerging from Group 7 with a 3-1-0 record.

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