LA Galaxy Stays On Top of Western Conference with Win Over Dallas
On a chilly night more reminiscent of November than early August at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., the Galaxy (13-3-9, 48 points) extended its lead in the MLS standings to six points over FC Dallas (12-6-6, 42 points) with a feisty, 3-1 comeback victory in a battle of the league's top two sides.
Last November was the last time the Galaxy hosted FC Dallas, when the Texas club unceremoniously dumped top-seeded Los Angeles from the playoffs with a 3-0 road victory. A controversial, weather-delayed 2-1 Dallas win this May in Texas added to the burgeoning rivalry.
"I don't think I need to tell our players that—-I think they're well aware of that," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said about the teams' recent history. "What they do see is a Dallas team that is very good and was threatening to take our position in the table. so I think that certainly got our attention."
Los Angeles fell behind early to a 9th-minute goal from Dallas' Marvin Chavez, but rallied behind strong play from midfielder David Beckham, who was dangerous throughout on corners and free kicks.
"I felt like I was striking the ball well tonight," Beckham said. "Every ball that I was putting in, I was putting in the right place."
Omar Gonzalez (32nd minute), Juninho (62nd) and Mike Magee (81st) scored for Los Angeles, with Beckham notching assists on two of the goals and indirectly setting up the other.
The match had a playoff-like intensity too, turning into a chippy contest that featured six yellow cards and a combined 34 fouls.
"It was bad," Galaxy midfielder Sean Franklin said. "They were hitting us and we were hitting them back. They were talking trash to us and we were talking trash to them."
The visitors made the brighter start to the match and took the lead in the 9th minute.
Dallas forward Maicon Santos got open on the right flank and laid a pass back for Chavez, who tattooed a left-footed shot from the top of the box off the underside of the crossbar and into the net for the game's first goal. Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders had no hope to save the strike, which was Chavez's fifth league goal of the season.
In the following minutes, the mood of the match turned feisty and referee Michael Kennedy handed out four first-half yellow cards—-two to each club.
David Beckham looked particularly hot under the collar, receiving his league-leading ninth yellow card for dissent in the 25th minute, but soon got his revenge. The English star's 32nd minute free kick from near the midfield line caused havoc in the FC Dallas penalty area. Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, who played for the Galaxy for ten years, misjudged the ball's flight, crashing into his own player and falling down. The ball bounced to L.A. defender Omar Gonzalez, who was wide open at the far post, and the masked big man (recovering from a nose fracture) headed the ball into the empty net to level the score.
"If you put enough whip on it, there's always going to be a chance that there's going to be a clash of bodies… or the goalkeeper is going to think it's coming toward him and it doesn't," Beckham said.
The goal was the Galaxy's only shot on frame in the first half, as the L.A. club struggled to create chances.
Brek Shea, Dallas' 21-year-old star midfielder whose nine goals are third in MLS this season, looked dangerous down the left flank, providing searching crosses throughout the first half.
The start to the second half featured more scoring chances, with Beckham and Santos as the chief protagonists. Santos sent a header wide of the near post in the 52nd minute for Dallas. Beckham responded with a 58th-minute free kick that Gonzalez headed straight at Hartman and a 59th-minute cross that resulted in Hartman saving a weak shot from defender Todd Dunivant.
"It definitely was a very big goal," Juninho said through an interpreter, crediting his skill on the volleyed shot to "lots of practice."
Santos nearly grabbed an immediate equalizer, beating Saunders putting his flicked shot wide of the near post in the 63rd minute. Shea played a good low cross to Santos' feet in the 71st, but the Brazilian turned his shot from five yards out wide of the post.
Dunivant had a good look at goal in the 75th minute off of a Beckham free kick, but Hartman charged off his line to clear the ball off of Dunivant's foot.
Beckham had a shot of his own in the 79th minute, hitting a free kick from the top of the box that cleared the Dallas wall and dipped toward the post, ultimately going wide.
"I thought I'd scored from the free kick as well," Beckham said, smiling about his productive night.
The Galaxy clinched the three points in the 81st minute via another dead ball masterpiece from its English midfielder. Beckham's corner kick found the head of Mike Magee, who out-jumped two Dallas defenders and put a low header under the arm of a diving Hartman, finalizing the 3-1 score line.
The assist was the 10th of the season for Beckham, which tied him with Houston's Brad Davis for most in MLS.
"He's made quite a reputation for himself over the years on dead balls," Arena said about Beckham.
News and Notes
-- The Galaxy's recent road trip to the Pacific Northwest showed the team at both its very best and its very worst. Los Angeles posted its largest margin of victory of the season in last Saturday's 4-0 beat-down of the Vancouver Whitecaps, then tied its largest margin of defeat in Wednesday's 3-0 rout at the hands of the Portland Timbers. Donovan scored two goals and added an assist on Saturday as the Galaxy scored all four goals in the second half. Sean Franklin and Adam Cristman also scored in what was the Galaxy's first ever MLS game in Vancouver.
Wednesday's result was much different. The Timbers scored twice in the first half through Mike Chabala and Jorge Perlaza before Eric Brunner added a third in the 68th minute. The loss snapped the Galaxy's league-high 14-game unbeaten streak.
-- The schedule finally has good news for Arena (pictured right) and his weary squad. The Galaxy don't play again until August 16th; the eight days without a game is the team's longest break since the season began in March. "We need it," Arena said. "We're a team that needs a couple days off, get a little rest…and get ready for what's going to be a real difficult August, September and October. Players like Juninho and Dunivant and others who have played a lot this year need a little time off."
Asked if the break would help his ailing back, Beckham replied: "It's going to help everyone's back, eight days off.
-- While his teammates will get some time off this week, Donovan will join the United States national team for new coach Jurgen Klinsmann's debut in a Wednesday Night friendly against Mexico. Bob Bradley was fired following the Americans' 4-2 loss to Mexico in the final of this year's CONCACAF Gold Cup and replaced by Klinsmann, who had a distinguished playing career before coaching his native Germany to third place at the 2006 World Cup. Klinsmann has been very complimentary of Donovan in recent interviews, saying the U.S. could possibly win a World Cup if it had "maybe ten Landon Donovans at different positions with different characteristics." Wednesday's match in Philadelphia, the Americans' first since the Gold Cup Final loss, kicks off at 6 p.m. PT on ESPN2.
-- The Galaxy return to action Tuesday, August 16th in the team's first game of the 2011-2012 CONCACAF Champions League, featuring the top clubs from North and Central America and the Caribbean. Los Angeles will host C.D. Motagua, the 12-time Honduran champions, in the opener at the Home Depot Center. Motagua's roster includes 2004 MLS MVP Amado Guevara and former Galaxy midfielder Guillermo Ramirez. The Galaxy's group also includes sides Monarcas Morelia of Mexico and L.D. Alajuelense of Costa Rica, whom Los Angeles will host Thursday, August 25th. The remaining four group games, for which specific dates have yet to be announced, will be played in September and October. The top two teams from each group will advance to the competition’s quarterfinal stage.
-- During his post-match press conference, Arena updated the status of starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who has been out six weeks since breaking his arm on June 25th in a game against San Jose. "If he was a field player, he would be playing now," Arena said. "He's going to have to get his strength back in his arm and start getting the confidence that he can deal with contact. We think that in the next week or two he'll start getting in the goal a little bit more. It's been a little bit slower than we thought. I think that when they did the surgery, the doctor wasn't aware that he was a goalkeeper. He told us he'd be out maybe three weeks...I'm hopeful that in the next month we can get him back out on the field."