By: Alex Baker
Carson, CA – Los Angeles Galaxy clinched the MLS Supporters Shield and firmed up their standing in the play-offs with a hard fought 2-1 win over FC Dallas on Sunday evening in front of nearly 25,000 appreciative home fans. Landon Donovan put on the kind of heroic individual performance we’ve seen too few of since the World Cup, drawing his the team level after an early goal from Dallas’ Atiba Harris. A second half goal from Brazilian Juninho gave the home side the lead and despite a dogged effort from the visitors the Galaxy emerged as the 2-1 victors.
Dallas grabbed the lead suddenly in the 21st minute courtesy of a spectacular close range volley from Harris who received the ball from Eric Alexander.
So many times this season we’ve seen the Galaxy giving up the first goal as a sure sign that the game was lost. However tonight this was not to be. Donovan, in what Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena called “a terrific individual effort,” took the game onto his shoulders and dragged his team back into the match.
Just after the half hour mark the Team USA midfielder broke down the left side, took on three defenders and was brought down outside the 18. No foul was called and Donovan didn’t wait around for it. Instead he regained possession and laid it back for David Beckham who slotted the ball home from outside the 18 leveling the score at 1-1.
Reflecting about the play afterwards Donovan said, “When I won the ball my first thought was to put it across goal but there was nothing there and David was calling for it . . . fantastic finish by him.”
When asked about the importance of making such plays, Donovan replied, “All that starts with me and I know that. If I’m taking plays off then that’s a bad example. The last five or six games I’ve had a few games where I haven’t put that effort in and we’ve not played well because of it. So those are plays I need to make and I’m going to make.”
Speaking about his equalizing goal, Beckham said, “Everyone was on it and Landon won the ball back and he’s a player that knows how to set other players up and he got the ball to me perfect and I knew that if I hit the target there’s a chance it would go in obviously. “
The Galaxy very nearly scored again in the 40th minute when Todd Dunivant broke down the left and flashed the ball across goal for Buddle who only just failed to connect with it. Three minutes later Donovan laid one back for MaGee whose shot was on target but saved by Dallas keeper Dario Sala. As the first half went in to extra time the Galaxy looked to be firing on all cylinders as Beckham passed to MaGee who passed to Donovan who shot on goal only to have his effort blocked.
The second half got underway with mist that would soon be rain beginning to fall. The Galaxy, who as stated earlier, do not come from behind well, did just that less than one minute in, courtesy of a stunning unassisted shot by Juninho from inside the 18.
Dallas might have drawn level ten minutes later when Dax McCarty shot from distance however his effort was pushed wide by Rickets. The visitors came close to scoring again in the 82nd minute through captain David Ferreira who shot on target from outside the 18 and had his effort punched away by Rickets.
With only seconds of regulation time left on the clock, Galaxy made a double substitution taking off Beckham and Buddle for Chris Klein and Eddie Lewis who would both be retiring after the match.
Dallas won a free kick in injury time, which was taken from 30 yards out, played in and cleared brilliantly by Klein for a Dallas corner, which was taken by Ferreira and sent into the side netting for a Galaxy goal kick. Moments later the whistle was blown with the score line remaining at 2-1 in the Galaxy’s favor.
Lewis and Klein were honored in a ceremony after the match and awards were handed out to players including Buddle, who while he’d lost out of the MLS Golden Boot, still won three awards. Omar Gonzalez also received an award.
Buddle’s teammates were sympathetic to the striker who’d lost out to San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski. In his own words, Landon Donovan was, “bummed for him,” explaining that, “Awards like that are always disappointing because in the end Edson gets punished for making the World Cup team. Wondolowski was there all year and had opportunity to play more games. “
Buddle, speaking to the press afterwards said, “Unfortunately I didn’t get the golden boot and you take the bitter with the sweet. The finals are what my main focus is. “
Coach Arena, whose been at a loss for words lately in light of Galaxy’s inconsistent form was more positive than he’d been in weeks saying that, “It was a great win. It’s a great accomplishment for this team to win the western conference, a Supporters Shield that hasn’t happened around here for a while, an automatic berth in the CONCOCAF Champions League, so there’s a lot of positives.[picappgallerysingle id=”10055732″]
Beckham perhaps summed up the significance of the win best saying that; “We needed a performance like this tonight because last week was disappointing. Everyone was looking at our character after that game so it’s important that we had a game like this tonight. You know going one nil down and bringing it back shows that the team has got character.”
Galaxy travel to Seattle next week to face the Sounders at Quest Field in the first of a two-match playoff tie.