The LA supporter squads have a tradition. In the 16th and 60th minutes of the match, they start a chant across the stadium. From the north end: “LA!” From the south: “GALAXY!” Tonight both those attempts were diffused, drowned out by the multitude of Club Tijuana fans. But the supporters did manage to get one round off — it was scrappy, improvised, and not as loud as it could’ve been. But they got one. And it counted.
I bring it up because the performance on the field was exactly that. The Galaxy’s go-to scorers were stymied by a Xolos defense who’d seen this tape before. Keane kept getting stopped in his tracks. Donovan’s crosses were intercepted again and again. But LA did manage to get one — it was scrappy, improvised, an errant ball that landed at the feet of an oncoming Samuel. It was ugly, but they got one. And that counts.
TOEING THE LINE
Jaime Penedo made a statement tonight. LA’s back line was good about keeping Tijuana under control — but what chances the Xolos did get, they made the most of. Penedo made three stops in four minutes in the second half. And that was before his biggest play of the night: when a poorly deflected ball bounced off Omar Gonzalez’s foot and toward LA’s goal, Penedo dove backward to sweep it aside just before it crossed the goal line.
“The fact that he made those saves and he let them know: ‘you’re not getting in my net’ was amazing. I think we’re going to need an even better game from him next week, if that’s even possible.”
Marcelo Sarvas also deserves credit for the shutout. In the 68th minute, a Club Tijuana corner kick — where they’d been dangerous all night — found the head of Gandolfi, who sent it rocketing toward goal. Luckily Sarvas was planted firmly on the post and deflected it off the line.
“Marcelo got a lot of crap last year for letting some goals in while he was supposed to be on the post. So I think the fact that he saved that one — I’m sure that he’ll let Bruce know: ‘Hey, look what I did.’”
I’ve complained plenty about the back line this year. Credit where it’s due: both center backs looked great tonight, keeping pace with Tijuana’s strikers and effectively neutralizing them for much of the game.
FLASH IN THE PAN
It’d be easy to chalk LA’s single goal up to just being in the right place at the right time. And to be fair, that’s exactly where Samuel was: when a ball from Sarvas bounced awkwardly off Keane’s thigh, Samuel was sprinting onto it. It looked lucky and it was a little lucky. But we saw Samuel’s smart positioning pay off in the preseason — it’s good to see him make it work against much tougher competition. That trailing run on a breakaway is so important for moments just like this. Kudos to Samuel for being there.
“Whatever goes in, goes in. We’ll take it — he’ll take it, I’m sure. It’s important for him to get on the scoresheet and get his confidence up early in the year.”
Unfortunately that goal was in the 11th minute, at just about the peak of Samuel’s stamina for the night. By the end of the first half he looked exhausted. I saw a frustrated Gyasi Zardes shouting at him to get back to the center. A sub finally came, later than I would’ve liked — it was past 60’ when Bruce Arena finally sent in Ishizaki and moved Donovan up top. But more concerning than the late sub is Samuel’s fitness. He’s too good not to go 90 minutes.
HALF TO GO
Celebrate tonight — go ahead, you deserve it — but remember LA still has 90 to play. We’ve talked about how important scoring in this home game was. The Galaxy certainly would love to be leaving town with a couple more goals. But they only got one, and now they’ll have to hold onto that lead in Tijuana on Tuesday. I think Donovan puts it best:
“We wanted 1-0, 2-0, 3-0. Two or three-zero would be ideal. We wanted to win the game first and foremost and not concede goals. …All in all it was probably a justified result, I don’t think we created enough chances to score a second.”
It was a result the Galaxy had to fight for, a win they had to earn. On Tuesday we’ll see if it was enough.
LA GALAXY VS XOLOS HIGHLIGHTS (CONCACAF VIDEO)