By Alex Baker
(Carson, CA) – Landon Donovan created a little breathing room for himself at the top of the Major League Soccer top scorer table. The Galaxy captain’s coolly converted penalty kick was the only goal scored in a somewhat drudgerous midweek encounter between the LA Galaxy (7-2-5) and the Houston Dynamo. The 46th goal brought Donovan’s season tally to eight, which puts him two above DC United’s Charlie Davies and one above his own tally from last season.
However with David Beckham on his way back from playing in best mate Gary Neville’s testimonial match in Manchester, the Galaxy seemed to lack a cutting edge in the final third. While they were credited with three shots on goal the truth is Wednesday night’s match was one in which neither side created anything much in the way of goal threat.
“I thought our team for the most part played pretty well,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “Could have been a bit cleaner in trying to get another goal in the game but I think overall we had a good night.”
Houston (3-4-5), who have yet to win an away match this season, were credited with one shot on goal and that might be a generous accounting of their efforts. However the visitors did perform well on the defensive front and their dogged defending coupled with Beckham’s absence and the inability of the Galaxy strike force to close the deal, kept the Dynamo in contention until the end.
The Galaxy took the lead right before the halftime whistle. They were awarded a penalty kick when Houston defender Lovel Palmer handled the ball inside the penalty area. Donovan stepped up to the mark and sent Houston keeper Tally Hall the wrong was as he drove the ball just right of center into the back of the net making it 1-0 Galaxy.
Prior to that the 14,458 spectators at the Home Depot Center had been treated to a first half that while frenetic, had offered little in the way of actual goal scoring opportunities from either side. The Galaxy looked largely the better side throughout the encounter however and defended well enough to deny Houston much of a chance of anything.
The Galaxy might have scored in the 25th minute when Chad Barrett managed an on target shot from the edge of the 18. However the striker’s effort was deflected away by Hall. Two minutes later Barrett wove his way through several defenders and played an in the box pass to Todd Dunivant who got a shot off that went wide of the far post.
“I had maybe my first career shot with my right foot,” remarked Dunivant. “And it almost went in.”
Galaxy keeper Donovan Ricketts greatest level of involvement came in the 33rd when Geoff Cameron shot from midfield. Although his effort seemed to be heading wide of the near post it took a minor deflection of the Jamaican keeper who was recently called up by his country for the Gold Cup.
“I like these nights” said the goalkeeper. “Easy work, easy money.”
Galaxy striker Juan Pablo Angel had an off night blasting a shot from the edge of the 18 over the top in the 56th minute and going high with a header two minutes later. Bruce Arena subbed the ex-Red Bulls man out for Mike Magee just after the hour mark.
Magee and fellow second half sub, Miguel Lopez, both made a decent game of harassing the Houston defenses late in the proceedings. However neither could find the back of the net. With just seconds remaining in regulation time it looked for a moment as if the Galaxy would be punished for not capitalizing on their chances when Geoff Cameron managed a shot from the edge of the 18 that went just wide of the near post.
Moments later the final whistle was blown and the Galaxy had duly collected three more points to take with them on their trip east to face the New England Revolution (3-4-4) this Saturday.