Galaxy Super Subs Save A Point Late, L.A. Draws With FC Dallas 1-1
So it was more than a little surprising that the star-laden Galaxy were saved from a third defeat in five home matches by a significantly less famous (and lower-paid) threesome.
Galaxy substitutes Pat Noonan, Chad Barrett and Adam Cristman combined to score a 92nd-minute goal to rescue a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas before 23,249 fans at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night.
"Not a whole lot of science to that," Galaxy manager Bruce Arena said, refusing to take too much credit for the substitutes' success. "We had to get the ball in front of the goal and make something happen."
Noonan's was a clinical finish on a night in which the Galaxy's other attackers struggled in front of goal. L.A. had 16 shots in the match to Dallas' 14, but forced goalkeeper Chris Seitz to make only two saves.
"We could use some more goals," said Noonan, whose goal was his first for L.A. "The chances were there."
Keane missed an earlier penalty that would have given the Galaxy the lead and the reigning MLS Cup champions fell behind to a successful 61st-minute penalty kick goal from Dallas' Brek Shea.
The draw was the Galaxy's (3-3-1, 10 points) first in seven games so far this season, leaving them in seventh place in the Western Conference, nine points behind joint leaders San Jose and Real Salt Lake. Dallas (3-3-3, 12 points) is in sixth.
"It happens in soccer," Beckham said about the team's finishing woes. "We'll get it right. We'll score the goals when we really need to, I’m sure. But we need to pretty soon. Overall we’ve earned the point tonight at least."
Donovan had the game's first real chance in the 11th minute, taking advantage on a failed clearance by Dallas defender Jair Benitez, winning the ball and running one-on-one against goalkeeper Chris Seitz. Seitz charged off his line and Donovan touched the ball around the keeper's diving arms but hit his low shot off of the near post and out of play.
"It got away from me a little bit," Donovan said. "It was between steps but I should have done better. I was frustrated that I missed that."
Backup L.A. goalkeeper Bill Gaudette was forced into the starting lineup when regular starter Josh Saunders was ruled out for what the club deemed "personal reasons." Making his first MLS start since 2006, Gaudette was tested by the Dallas attack early and often, finishing the game with four saves.
In the 19th minute, Dallas defender George John deflected Daniel Hernandez's free kick on goal, demanding Gaudette to make a diving save. Two minutes later, Shea hitting a curling shot from distance that Gaudette dove to push wide of the near post.
The game went on without major incident until the Galaxy laid siege to Dallas’ goal in the final minutes of the first half.
In the 42nd minute, Keane got open in the box, taking one touch to beat his defender before hitting a low shot directly at Seitz. One minute later, the Galaxy had several looks at goal during a free-for-all in the box. Edson Buddle's shot was blocked by a Dallas defender before Donovan toe poked a shot that Seitz saved inches from the goal line.
Los Angeles made the much brighter start to the second half and earned a penalty kick only two minutes into the period. Donovan beat Benitez down the right flank, as he did multiple times in the game, and went down in the box after the defender made significant contact.
Donovan, the team's usual penalty kick taker, instructed Keane to take the spot kick.
"There was no conversation. I just told Robbie I wanted him to take it," Donovan said. "He did everything right except he just mis-hit it a little bit. He's a guy that's taken many penalties and made many penalties so I'm sure next time he takes one it will go in."
Keane failed to even put his attempt on target, sending the shot several feet wide of the right post.
Donovan had taken the last 20 penalty kicks for the Galaxy in MLS matches, dating back to 2007. He converted 18 of those for a strong 90-percent success rate. So why defer to Keane?
"Just to get [the team's strikers] going," Galaxy captain Donovan said. "It's been a little while since they have hit the net. We're trying to get them more chances. We're not doing a good enough job getting them chances in front of the goal so I thought [giving Keane the penalty kick shot] would help a little bit."
Keane, the team's leading scorer on the year with three goals, left the stadium before talking to reporters.
Ten minutes later it was Dallas' turn to earn a penalty kick. Benitez played a ball into the center of the box that recently acquired Galaxy defender David Junior Lopes tried to play off of his chest. He lost control of the ball, though, and left it to Dallas' Blas Perez, causing Gaudette to charge off of his line and foul the striker in the box.
"We didn't do the best possible that we could have done as a group," Gaudette said about the play. "Not just David, but myself also. It's not a thing where I'm going to call my teammate out... It was a mistake by the group back there."
Arena wasn't as diplomatic when asked about Lopes' performance on the night.
Shea made no mistake with the penalty kick, putting it into the left side of the net as Gaudette was left rooted to his spot in the center of the goal.
The Galaxy had all of the game's chances in the final half-hour, throwing more and more bodies forward as the game went on, in search of an equalizing goal. Buddle had one disallowed in the 62nd minute for a handball and he, Juninho and Beckham all put shots over the crossbar in the late-going.
The equalizer finally arrived in the form of Noonan's stoppage-time strike. Cristman won the ball in the box and knocked it ahead to Barrett, who slid a pass over to Noonan. The 31-year-old forward, who had played just 22 minutes this season coming into the match, made no mistake with the finish, burying it high into the back of the net.
"We're creating chances—that's the positive," Noonan said. "If we weren't, then you'd kind of worry. But we're creating chances and sooner or later they're going to go [in]. When they go, the floodgates are going to open."
-- L.A. faces a quick turnaround, with their next match scheduled for Wednesday in Seattle. The Sounders were considered one of the foremost challengers to the Galaxy's throne before the season began and they now sit in fourth place in the West on 13 points following a 2-1 road victory over the Chicago Fire on Saturday night.
With three games in eight days and Seattle's artificial turf field notoriously hard on players' legs, Arena said he will look to make some changes in his starting lineup for Wednesday’s match. "There's travel, there's the field in Seattle which is not favorable on players," Arena said. "And then to have to turn around quickly and play on Saturday—the scheduling is awkward I think with that. But it is what it is. We're not the only team playing three games in seven or eight days. It's all part of it."
-- Arena said he didn’t know when Saunders would be available again for the Galaxy but did not rule out the chance of him traveling with the team to Seattle.
-- The Galaxy's busy week concludes with a home date against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center. New York is third in the East on 13 points and leads the league with 18 goals scored. The game may have lost some of its luster on Saturday, though, when former French World Cup champion and MLS leading scorer Thierry Henry left his team’s match against New England with a hamstring injury.
"That was hard to watch today," Donovan said about Henry’s injury. "You don't want to speculate, but when you see a guy not only go down in that way but also not be able to walk off on his own power when usually when you have a muscle strain, you can walk pretty okay, that was hard to watch. We're all kind of hoping for the best."