By: Alex Baker
(Carson, CA) After an early season that has seemed to sputter at times, the Los Angeles Galaxy returned from three weeks on the road to claim a decisive home victory over the Portland Timbers. Galaxy forward Chad Barrett opened the scoring and Landon Donovan came roaring back from a three game injury-induced absence to net a goal in each half, making it 3-0 Galaxy.
Barrett nabbed the opener in the fourth minute of play when he received a pass from Donovan and slotted it home from the edge of the 18. Three minutes later LA were awarded a penalty kick when Rodney Wallace fouled Donovan on the edge of the box.
The LA captain stepped up himself and duly converted his spot kick to make it 2-0, Galaxy in the eighth minute. Donovan went on to score again in the second half to close out a game that, despite looking menacing at times, the visiting side were never really able to get into.
“The guys did a good job getting me involved early,” explained Donovan. “When you score early it helps everyone’s confidence it takes some pressure off. Adrenalin gets going a little more. It all played out well tonight.”
The Galaxy had managed an away win last week against the Chicago Fire despite missing key players like Donovan, David Beckham and the Brazilian Juninho. This represented an improvement over their last two away results, which were a pair of draws against Toronto FC and DC United respectively.
However Saturday’s win against Portland saw the Galaxy showing glimpses of their best form yet this season. Striker Juan Pablo Angel, who came on at the start of the second half and set up Donovan’s second goal, seemed pleased with the team’s progress.
“I think today in terms of passing it could actually be our best game of the year,” said the former Aston Villa man. “We managed to score two early goals and that obviously made our life a lot easier and then we managed to keep possession and keep a clean sheet, which is always important, and win the game. It’s always important to win games at home.”
Angel set up Donovan with a 67th minute cross inside the box. The team USA midfielder connected to it with a header, driving the ball between Portland keeper Troy Perkins and the near post to make it 3-0, effectively taking the game out of Portland’s reach.
“It was good,” said Angel. “That was pretty much to kill off the game and Landon had a great finish and I’m happy that I was the provider.”
“It was fantastic,” recalled Donovan. “He did a good job getting in a good spot. Initially as he was dribbling towards the end line I didn’t now if he was gonna cut back or give it to Chad and I just decided to take a chance and run into the box and its something I haven’t done enough of lately is really committing to get into the box so I wanted to do that and it paid off. When you’re aggressive you get rewarded.”
Perhaps it was the early goals, but Portland appeared shell-shocked for much of the encounter. The expansion outfit only seemed to come back into the game late forcing Galaxy keeper Donovan Ricketts to make a number of saves, particularly in the 80th minute when the Jamaican national came up big against a point blank strike from Portland forward Kenny Cooper.
“The majority of the game we were in control,” explained Landon Donovan. “But in the moments where we lacked some concentration (Ricketts) came through big for us and made a few big saves. Maybe one of those you expect from him, you certainly don’t expect two or three. He was great tonight.”
“It was a good win for our team,” recalled Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “The storyline is the two early goals. To be up in the first ten minutes of the game is important and I think at times tonight we played quite well. We’re passing the ball better we’re getting a little bit better as a team.”
With a side that on paper look like legitimate contenders for the MLS Cup, the Galaxy have been somewhat underwhelming in their previous outings this season. However Saturday night’s win against Portland seems like a step forward for the LA side. In action against the Timbers in front of a supportive home crowd at the Home Depot Center, the Galaxy demonstrated a killer instinct that will suit them well heading deeper into the season as they go toe-to-toe against the likes of Real Salt Lake and the New York Red Bulls in challenging for the title.
Galaxy’s next outing will be away against FC Dallas on May 1st.