Carson, CA – LA Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant notched the winning goal by banking a shot off RSL captain Nat Borchers past keeper Nick Rimando in the 73rd minute. While the shot was officially tallied as an own goal, the Galaxy defender had certainly been in the right place at the right time to play the ball that gave his side the lead.
“It was clean, didn’t hit anyone, just went straight in,” joked Dunivant. “I think it hit off Borchers in the end. Doesn’t matter to me, as long as it goes in.”
On the night, the Galaxy succeeded in doing something that had proved difficult for them at this point in the season last year: They came from behind to win.
“Today was a tough game,” reflected LA midfielder David Beckham. “Our character showed through today and it was an important win.”
“We were aggressive, we kept our composure and we did what we had to do,” explained Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “I think once we got the first goal I felt pretty confident we’d somehow manage to get a second.”
The Galaxy had conceded on a set piece in the dying seconds of the first half courtesy of Fabian Espindola who connected a header to Javier Morales‘ well placed corner kick to make it 1-0 RSL.
Giving up a goal just before the halftime whistle has been the death knell of many a team in MLS and elsewhere, the Galaxy included. However with news trickling in that Seattle had beat New England, the Galaxy were in no mood to give up ground in their seven point lead atop the table.
They struck back in the 59th minute through striker Chad Barrett who latched onto a curling cross from Beckham and ran the ball in between the keeper and the near post despite heavy pressure from RSL defender Jamison Olave.
“I kind of surprised Olave,” explained Barrett. “But he did well to get his body in front of me, it was just a miscommunication between him and Rimando and I saw the opportunity to put my toe in there and his hands were down and I just lifted up over him.”
Real Salt Lake‘s defense might not have been up to its usual standard, with dreadlocked central defender Kyle Beckerman out due to a red card suspension. However RSL were bolstered by the return of Javier Morales from injury.
But after giving up the lead right at the hour mark, RSL were able to create little in the way of scoring opportunities in the final third of the encounter. Their best chance to level came in the 84th when second half substitute Collen Warner got off a shot from the edge of the 18 that was caught by Saunders.
The Galaxy on the other hand, continued to press even after taking the lead and might have added to their tally in stoppage time through Juninho who blasted a shot from the edge of the 18 that forced Rimando to make a save.
When the final whistle was blown the 27,000 Galaxy fans in attendance went home happy in the knowledge that their side had consolidated its position atop the Western Conference standings and edged itself one game closer to winning its second MLS Supporters Shield in a row.
The Galaxy will have a chance to clinch that Shield when they travel away to face New York Red Bulls this Tuesday.