CARSON, Calif. (AP) – Juninho's game-winner in stoppage gave the Los Angeles Galaxy a thrilling 2-1 victory over Morelia on Wednesday night, keeping them alive in Champions League play.
In what was essentially a must-win game, the Galaxy managed some late magic.
''1-1 wasn't going to do us any good,'' Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. ''We had to win the game.''
While a loss would have left Los Angeles with an uphill battle of advancing to the next round, they now are one win away from doing just that.
The Galaxy moved into a three-way tie atop the Group A standings with Morelia and Alajuelense, which has played one less game. Los Angeles gets a three-week break from group stage action before a tough road test against Motagua on Nov. 20 in Honduras.
''We win and we're in,'' said defender Todd Dunivant, who assisted on Mike Magee's goal in the 21st minute. ''That's what you want.''
After surrendering a game-tying goal in the 61st minute, the Galaxy pushed forward with an all-out offensive attack. The ploy worked, with just enough time to spare.
''I wasn't expecting the ball, obviously,'' Juninho said. ''It was a lot of training on my part to get myself into the position to score.''
The tally avenged a heart-breaking 2-1 road loss in the first meeting between the teams in which the Galaxy were on the wrong side of a late winner.
''It felt like Poetic Justice,'' Dunivant said. ''It's ironic how it happened. This time it worked out for us and not them.''
Trailing by a goal Wednesday, Rafael Marquez Lugo equalized for Morelia courtesy of a Galaxy defensive letdown.
Defender Bryan Jordan attempted to slide the ball away, but it instead rolled to the center of the box. Josh Saunders was forced to come off his line and got a hand on the ball initially before Marquez Lugo prevailed amid a cluster of players.
Morelia, which had won its three previous group stage games before the setback, squandered two late opportunities at going ahead. Damian Manso's volley in the 80th minute banged off the crossbar and Aldo Ramirez's uncontested flick in the box five minutes later trickled wide.
''The game was there for the taking,'' Morelia coach Tomas Boy said.
The Galaxy played without their two international stars, David Beckham and Robbie Keane.
Beckham picked up a yellow card in last week's match against Alajuelense, his second in three games, resulting in the one-game ban. Keane was not in uniform because of a gluteus injury, which has hampered him for the past few games.
In the first meeting between the teams two weeks ago, the Galaxy surrendered a pair of late goals, the second of which came in stoppage time, to give Morelia the unlikely win. Minutes before the winner, Keane had scored what would have been the go-ahead goal, but it was waved off on a controversial offside call.
It worked out differently this time around.
''I think things may have balanced out tonight,'' Arena said.