By Alex Baker
(Carson, CA) – For a guy who a couple weeks ago said he no longer considers himself a goal-scorer, Landon Donovan sure seems to be finding the back of the net a lot these days.
After Sporting Kansas City took the lead through an own goal gifted by the Galaxy’s own Omar Gonzalez, the team USA midfielder netted once in the first half to level the score and again at the start of the second to give his side the lead. In the process he first tied then surpassed DC United’s Charlie Davies to become the league’s leading scorer.
“It’s always nice to score it’s always good to hit the net,” said Donovan. “When you put yourself in good spots and you’re aggressive the chances come and sometimes they go in and sometime they don’t and right now they’re going in.”
Subsequent goals from Juan Pablo Angel and David Beckham served to take the game beyond Kansas City’s reach while also demonstrating that when on form, Los Angeles are a side that bristles with goal threat.
The Galaxy dominated proceedings from the outset in front of a home crowd of just under 20 thousand. With Miguel Lopez probing the Sporting defenses early on, they had several chances go begging and were unlucky to give up the own goal in the 39th minute. Gonzalez stuck a leg out to try and cut out a ball in from Milos Stojcev but instead drove it into the corner of his own net, past a helpless Josh Saunders who was filling in for Donovan Ricketts.
“It was a bit unlucky,” said Gonzalez. “But I wasn’t too worried about it because we were dominating the game and I knew we were gonna get our chances and we did.”
Sporting’s lead was short-lived as just four minutes later David Beckham was brought down in the penalty area by Roger Espinoza and the Galaxy were awarded a penalty kick.
Landon Donovan stepped up to the spot and drove the ball into the far corner beating keeper Eric Kronberg and leveling the score just before halftime.
The team USA midfielder netted again just 30 seconds into the second half when he broke inside and blasted another one past Kronberg to make it 2-1 Galaxy.
“I think in the second half we came out with a really good mentality,” said Donovan. “Obviously scoring 30 seconds in helps but we put them under a lot of pressure and the goals came.”
And come they did. The next was courtesy of Juan Pablo Angel who was introduced for Lopez right on the hour-mark. The former Red Bulls and Aston Villa man netted his first Galaxy goal when he was played in by Chad Barrett and coolly slid a shot past Kronberg to make it 3-1 in the 65th.
“I knew that it was just a matter of time,” said Angel. “Today I think it was the perfect game for us. We played well and our passing was good. We scored the chances.“
With just three minutes remaining in regulation, Beckham laid the icing on the cake when he was fouled and awarded an indirect free kick from 25 yards out. The veteran England midfielder demonstrated that he is still amongst the top dead ball specialists in the world with a curling blast of a shot that wound its way around the wall and into the back of the net making it 4-1 Galaxy.
“About one person in the world who can do that and did it tonight,” said Donovan speaking on Beckham’s goal.
But while Beckham, Donovan and Angel will grab the headlines it was Galaxy midfielder Juninho who was the match’s unsung hero. The Brazilian pulled the strings behind the attack, winning possession and setting up attacks with clever passes and penetrating movements. He also took some knocks for his efforts and was also shown the match’s sole yellow card in the 80th minute.
“I think Juninho was brilliant tonight,” said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. “I thought we played well it was a fabulous result and I’ll tell ya I can’t be more proud of our team. I think we scored some real good goals tonight and created some good chances.”
Sporting’s best chances to score came late in each half, the first from Teal Bunbury who managed a shot from the edge of the 18 that forced Saunders into a save. The second came courtesy of Ryan Smith who had been introduced for Stojcev in the 65th. The midfielder wove his way into the box and shot from point blank forcing another save from Saunders with just two minutes remaining in the match.
Galaxy are now three points clear at the top of the Western Conference standings and will face Chivas away next week at the Home Depot Center.