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Galaxy defensive issues force team to shrug off CCL defeat

There was still some hope for the LA Galaxy after the first goal. Most of that was dashed when the second goal fell. The third and fourth? Eventually the team's colorful Twitter account was left to try and shrug it off.

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Perhaps that's the posture most MLS teams take when eliminated from the CONCACAF Champions League, a competition that has been dominated by Mexican sides since the confederation's club championship changed names and formats in 2008. The league has given lip service to prioritizing the tournament, but that hasn't come into action.

That said, Tuesday's defeat is much more of a referendum on the Galaxy's defense heading into the season than a reflection of MLS' general standing among the world's leagues. With Ashley Cole celebrating the birth of a child, Dave Romney started at left back. Tuesday's 4-0 defeat (on the night and on aggregate) wasn't all the newcomer's fault by any means, though. Center backs Jelle Van Damme and A.J. DeLaGarza had communication issues, with spacing poor throughout the contest, while goalkeeper Dan Kennedy was shaking off rust and the set-piece defending was nowhere near the level coach Bruce Arena demands.

So, Santos Laguna moves on thanks to both the visitor's defensive difficulties and the club's own offensive awakening. Martin Bravo scored more goals Tuesday (two) than he has so far in the Liga MX season (one). He also assisted Djaniny's goal.

The Santos players showed their skill and took advantage of a Galaxy side that looked very much like a team still in preseason. But for all the skill Santos has, the Galaxy still should be embarrassed by the defeat. The match was an opportunity for the club to get into a mouth-watering semifinal against the Seattle Sounders or Club America. The semifinal will be played later this month, when the Galaxy will have had more time to jell and should be back to full capacity at the back.

This quarterfinal was one in which the Galaxy should've performed better. Santos wouldn't be in this tournament if it hadn't won a championship in recent memory. And yet it followed up spring 2015's triumph with an abysmal Apertura that saw it go through two different managers. Luis Zubeldia took over in the winter and has improved results, but that's not saying much. Santos came into the match without a win in its last five games, including last week's 2-2 draw in Southern California. Are the Galaxy in any sort of form coming into the clash? No. Was Santos? Not particularly.

But Santos took advantage of the energy in Torreon, the occasion, a few standout showings from role players and a lack of crispness from the Galaxy to ease a step closer to another trophy.

The Galaxy can shrug it off and look to the MLS season, but if they choose to reflect, they'll see a run that could've been extended with more focus and fortune.