LA Galaxy Beat Motagua 2-0
Flash forward 13 months and the Galaxy are off to a much better start this time around.
Los Angeles opened its Group A campaign in the 2011-2012 edition of the competition Tuesday night with a 2-0 win over C.D. Motagua of Honduras at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., behind goals from Adam Cristman and Landon Donovan.
“We have to win our games at home,” Donovan said. “We wanted to get these two first games at home…and now it’s on us to perform. Tonight was the first step in the right direction.”
A sparse midweek crowd of 8,196 witnessed a fairly open match that the Galaxy controlled throughout, outshooting the Honduran champions 20-13, with Cristman especially dangerous all night.
“If there’s anything to be critical tonight of our team, it’s that there was another goal out there for us and we didn’t take it,” he said.
Motagua actually caused some problems for the Galaxy early, with Jerry Bengston and former MLS MVP Amado Guevara looking dangerous on half chances in the 7th and 11th minutes.
“[Motagua] came at us pretty hard—they played pretty well in the first 15 minutes,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said.
The Galaxy, though, were the first on the score sheet with Cristman’s 13th minute goal. Los Angeles picked its way through Motagua’s defense with quick passes. Juninho’s through ball freed up Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza down the right flank, and it was DeLaGarza’s low cross that a sliding Cristman redirected into goal.
“It’s been a long go for me with all the surgeries,” said Cristman, who has undergone six operations for various injuries over the past three years. “[Scoring goals] is what I’m here for.”
Los Angeles cranked up its attacking pressure around the 27th minute mark in pursuit of a second goal. Midfielder Mike Magee sent a shot from 25 yards out sizzling past the post in the 27th.
Three minutes later, Motagua goalkeeper Donaldo Morales came to big to keep the deficit at one. David Beckham floated a free kick to the far post that defender Omar Gonzalez ran under and headed toward goal. Morales punched the ball away but Cristman charged in, heading a shot that Morales deflected out for a goal kick.
On the ensuing corner kick, Gonzalez tried a back heel flick that went over the crossbar.
Cristman was back in the 32nd minute, when he shanked a wide open shot from near the penalty spot.
A deflection off of a 38th minute Donovan corner kick left Cristman with another good look at goal but the 26-year-old striker drove a low shot wide of the far post.
“[Cristman] is a guy that’s involved in a lot of plays,” Arena said. “He doesn’t always pull them off but he’s a factor for 90 minutes.”
All told, the Galaxy outshot Motagua 12-5 in the first half and went into the intermission with a 1-0 lead.
Motagua made a better start to the second period, with Guevara, Guillermo Ramirez and Carlos Discua firing shots wide or high of Josh Saunders’ net.
“It was a game of two halves—in the first half the Galaxy dominated and controlled every aspect of the game,” Motagua manager Ramon Maradiaga said through a translator. “The second half we were a little bit more successful.”
It was the Galaxy, however, that scored the game’s next goal in the 60th minute. David Beckham had enough time in possession on the play to protest a non-call on a challenge to teammate Mike Magee, juke past a Motagua defender and send in a bouncing cross from the right flank. Donovan popped the ball into the air off his chest and smashed home a volleyed shot to give Los Angeles a 2-0 lead.
Motagua responded almost immediately, coming up with two good goal-scoring chances in the 63rd minute.
Guevara put in a bending free kick that Saunders could only tip over the crossbar. Off the ensuing corner kick, Motagua’s Arriola Aly headed the ball across the goal mouth but Bengston’s leaping attempt left him, rather than the ball, tangled up in the back of the net.
The Honduran club’s task became even harder in the 70th minute, when Ivan Guerrero was red carded for a reckless tackle on Galaxy midfielder Sean Franklin.
“It was the correct call,” Maradiaga said. “[Guerrero] clearly put his foot on the Galaxy player.”
Still, Motagua continued attacking and brought out the best in Saunders in the 74th minute. Ramirez cut inside on his defender and hit a driven shot from 8 yards out that Saunders kicked away with his trailing leg. The ball was momentarily cleared but another low shot forced the Galaxy goalkeeper to come up with his second kick save on the play, maintaining the two-goal lead.
Morales responded with a kick save of his own in the 82nd minute, off of a good Mike Magee effort from 10 yards out.
News and Notes
The Galaxy made a big splash in the transfer market Monday, signing 31-year-old Robbie Keane from across the pond. Los Angeles bought Keane, the captain of the Irish national team, from England’s Tottenham Hotspur to boost an underwhelming forward line. Keane played eight seasons for Tottenham during two different stints with the club and also spent time with Inter Milan, Liverpool and Celtic during his 14-year professional career. With 51 goals in 109 career appearances for his country, Keane is Ireland’s all-time leading goal scorer. Terms of the deal were not announced but the Galaxy was rumored to have paid a transfer fee in the neighborhood of $5 million for Keane. Arena said the team was just waiting on a visa for Keane and that the striker could join the team later this week. “I think he’s going to be a quality player in this league and I think he’s going to add a lot to this team,” Arena said. “To have a player with that experience and that kind of goal scoring record is going to be great for our team.”
The Irish striker’s arrival means the end of Colombian forward Juan Pablo Angel’s time with the Galaxy. Angel trained Tuesday with Chivas USA and is expected to sign with the club on Wednesday. Though Angel scored 58 league goals in four seasons with the New York Red Bulls, he was disappointing with the Galaxy, managing only three goals in 22 MLS games this season. “He made us a better team, he really did,” Arena said after the match about Angel. “I love him as a person and a player—he’s a first class individual.”
Galaxy captain Donovan spoke after the game about Keane’s arrival and Angel’s departure. About Keane, Donovan said: “His resume speaks for itself. We’ve all watched him throughout our career. I can remember turning on the TV on Saturday morning and seeing him play and score bunches of goals…every Irish player I’ve ever known has the same mentality: they run hard, they work hard and they want to win.
About Angel, Donovan said: “Everyone knows his capabilities and for whatever reason it wasn’t working out the way he wanted. Perhaps it was the style of play but I have no doubt that he’s going to succeed [with Chivas USA].” Donovan also noted Angel’s impact on the team’s younger players and praised his professionalism.
In the group’s other Tuesday night match, L.D. Alajuelense of Costa Rica beat Mexico’s Monarcas Morelia 1-0 at home. “This competition is going to be difficult—there are five more tough games in group play,” Arena said. “Every game, every goal, every minute is competition.” L.D. Alajuelense will visit the Home Depot Center next Thursday, August 25th for both clubs’ second group stage match. Morelia will host Motagua that same night.
Los Angeles will return to the Home Depot Center pitch on Saturday to face old rivals San Jose. The Earthquakes haven’t won an MLS game since June 11th, an 11-match league winless streak. San Jose sits in eighth place in MLS’s Western Conference, 23 points behind the Galaxy. The teams drew 0-0 on a June 25th in a game in which Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee played the entire second half in goal following an injury to starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and a red card to backup Josh Saunders.