LA Galaxy defeat Houston Dynamo On Donovan PK
Playing without their midfield maestro Beckham, who missed the match to play in friend Gary Neville's farewell game in England, the Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the Houston Dynamo 1-0 at home Wednesday night on the back of a penalty kick goal from captain Landon Donovan in first half stoppage time.
Donovan's goal raised his league-leading total to eight for the season and provided the Galaxy with all the cushion they would need. Los Angeles (7-2-5, 26 points) won its second 1-0 game in a row, a victory on Saturday over Chivas USA, to extend its lead atop the MLS Western Conference to eight points.
"I thought our back line played very well," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said about his team's performance. "It was a difficult game and it could have been a bit cleaner [offensively]."
The Galaxy's strong defensive effort held Houston (3-4-5, 14 points) to only one shot on goal before a half-filled Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
"We knew that if we stayed behind the ball and defended their set pieces, it was unlikely that they were going to score,” Donovan said.
The Galaxy outshot the Dynamo 17-7 on the match, although only three of those LA attempts were on target.
The Los Angeles midfield put its imprint on the game early on, controlling the possession and the pace of the game through their quick-footed Brazilian, Juninho.
Houston seemed resigned to pushing for corner kicks, of which they won five in the first half, and relying on captain Brad Davis to provide quality crosses into the box.
"Bruce's game plan was to stop Davis from getting on the ball," Galaxy midfielder Chris Birchall said. The Dynamo captain was harassed by the Los Angeles defense for most of the night and was substituted out in the 61st minute.
Galaxy forward Chad Barrett provided most of the offensive chance in the first period. The former UCLA star's slalom run through the Dynamo defense in the 27th minute left Todd Dunivant with an open shot, which he put wide of the far post.
In the 40th minute, Barrett worked his way to the end line and fired a skidding cross that nearly reached an open Donovan at the far post. Instead, Dynamo defender Hunter Freeman lunged in and cleared the ball away from the goal line.
Los Angeles's goal came with one of the final kicks of the first half. Houston midfielder Lovel Palmer’s ill-advised handball on a wayward Chris Birchall shot from outside the box left referee Chris Penso pointing to the penalty spot.
"Sometimes it’s better to be off target," Birchall joked about his shot that was headed for the opposite touchline.
After his usual ritual of hand taps, bumps, and fist-kisses, Donovan stepped up and sent Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall wrong-footed. Hall dived to his right as the ball sailed through on the opposite corner of the net.
"It’s not a 100-percent chance to score," Donovan said of his penalty kicks. "But it’s pretty close."
Los Angeles's Colombian forward Juan Pablo Angel was largely absent from the attack in the first half but came out stronger in the second period, putting several shots over the Dynamo goal.
The Galaxy continued attacking the Dynamo goal until the final whistle, trying to provided insurance for their lead. Birchall and substitutes Miguel Lopez and Mike Magee provided the most danger but none of them could provide the final touch in front of goal.
Los Angeles goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts went unchallenged for most of the night, most notably charging off of his line in the 82nd minute to clear away a Dynamo through-ball.
Houston’s final chance came in the 88th minute, when midfielder Geoff Cameron pulled a shot wide from the top of the penalty box.
"We had some poor decision-making in the attacking third," Houston coach Dominic Kinnear admitted. "We didn’t play well but we’re still in the game."
Los Angeles recorded its second straight shutout and hasn’t given up more than one goal in a match in its last five outings.
"It’s clicking right now," defender Sean Franklin said of his defensive unit. "Our whole team is playing well defensively."
News and Notes:
It suffices to say that Arena isn’t pleased with the schedule maker, citing the artificial turf at New England’s Gillette Stadium as a potential hazard to his team’s tired legs.
"This is not a good way to schedule," Arena said.
-- David Beckham will return to the Galaxy in time for their game in New England. Beckham played the full 90 minutes in Neville’s testimonial match in Manchester, England on Tuesday night. Beckham’s side, made up of current and former Manchester United greats, lost 2-1 to Italian team Juventus.
-- Los Angeles played before a season-low home crowd of 14,458 at the Home Depot Center. The weeknight date, rather than Beckham’s absence, was the likely reason for the small crowd.
-- The United States national team announced on Tuesday its squad for next month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, the biannual North America/Central America/Caribbean regional championship. Donovan, the all-time leading goal scorer in the nation’s history, was the only Galaxy player selected for the squad. Defender Omar Gonzalez had been thought to have been in contention for one of the final roster spots.
"We’re not jumping with joy because he didn’t get called up," Arena said of the national team's decision on Gonzalez. "He definitely has the attention of the national team staff and he is going to get his chances.” Galaxy goalkeeper Ricketts was selected to represent his native Jamaica at the event.
-- Los Angeles defender Todd Dunivant appeared in his 200th MLS game Wednesday night.
"It kind of crept up on me," Dunivant said about the milestone. Dunivant is the only player to have been on the field for every minute of the Galaxy season so far.
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