By: Alex Baker
(Carson, CA) – Despite playing most of the second half a man down the Los Angeles Galaxy managed to hold onto a one goal lead and register their second win of the season at home against the Philadelphia Union Saturday night.
A 33rd minute header from the Galaxy’s Leonardo proved the encounter’s loan goal.
After a first half hour in which neither side was able to create any clear scoring opportunities, the Galaxy were awarded a free kick from 25 yards out. Midfielder David Beckham stepped up and curled the ball in for the Brazilian defender who headed it past Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon to make it 1-0 Galaxy.
“I just put it in the right area,” recalled Beckham. “Obviously when I put in the right areas we can score and we did tonight. If I put it in the right area I know that we’ve got either Omar (Gonzalez) or Leonardo, they’re brave players they stick their head on it.”
Beckham, who was deployed in a central midfield role on Saturday, looked much more lively than he had in previous games this season. Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena praised the midfielder’s performance.
“I think David played well tonight. Much improved from the first three games. I think we’re getting him back in the kind of form he needs to be in terms of his fitness. We played him centrally tonight he did a good job. He helps our passing.”
The Union, who had few chances to score in the first half, started the second half brightly and in the 47th minute, French midfielder Sebastien Le Toux burst through on goal. However Galaxy keeper Donovan Rickets, making his first appearance of the season, was quick to snuff out the danger.
The Galaxy came close to doubling their tally in the 52nd minute when Brazilian midfielder Juninho blasted a shot from distance that hit the crossbar.
A minute later the Galaxy went down to ten men when midfielder Chris Birchall was shown a yellow card after a clash with the Union’s Carlos Ruiz, who was shown a yellow card. The exact reasons for the sending off remained unclear and Birchall seemed as mystified as anyone.
“All I can remember is he’s took a touch in the midfield, I’ve tackled him and as he’s fallen over I’ve stumbled into him and he’s obviously thought it was on purpose. It wasn’t intentional. I just couldn’t get out of the way. When I turned round he’s in my face pushing, it’s gone head to head and he’s just fell on the floor and calling the referee.”
Despite going down a man the Galaxy retained their composure and continued to press the attack. Coach Arena, who made a strategic substitution in the 57th minute, bringing forward Miguel Lopez off for holding midfielder Bryan Jordan, praised the way his team responded to going down a man.
“I think our experienced guys did a good job in the second half of understanding what needed to be done to get the three points. Landon I thought played very well. Landon’s experience and David’s and Juan’s, I think were big factors in the game.
As they had been in their home opener against the New England Revolution two weeks earlier, the Galaxy were on the wrong end of some questionable refereeing decisions and right on the hour mark keeper, Rickets was shown a yellow card for time wasting.
“He said I was wasting time,” said the Jamaican keeper. “We can’t play without the ball so I was getting the ball and he said I was wasting time. It’s one of those things. It’s alright.”
With just 15 minutes remaining, the Galaxy had one final near opportunity to score when Angel received a cross from Donovan and headed it just wide of the near post.
As the match ticked into its final minutes Coach Arena made a pair of substitution in an effort to kill the clock, bringing on Jovan Kirovski for Beckham in the 89th and introducing Chad Barrett for Angel in stoppage time.
The already contentious match boiled over in stoppage time as a scuffle erupted in midfield. The referee intervened and Union substitute Jack McInery was shown red.
The Galaxy were awarded a free kick from 30 yards that Donovan attempted to play in for Barrett. However the team USA midfielder’s effort went long and when the final whistle was blown seconds later the score remained at 1-0.
Following last week’s humiliating 4-1 defeat at the hands of Real Salt Lake, Galaxy players and coach alike seemed pleased with Saturday’s result.
“I think after the embarrassment of last week the performance was the important thing and the character we showed,” said Beckham. “I think we came out at the start of the game better than we did the last game. We started with a high tempo and continued that even when we went down to ten men. We needed to show character and I think we did that. “
The Galaxy will travel east to face DC United next Saturday.