There was a noticeably English atmosphere at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA tonight as the Galaxy beat the San Jose Earthquakes with a 5-2 score. The exciting news, of course, is that the Galaxy’s newest DP on the pitch, midfielder Steven Gerrard, debuted in his first MLS match, scoring his first MLS goal and assisting Keane twice. The 27,000 fans in the sold-out stadium watched as the Galaxy equalized in the the 37th minute, followed by a strategic and well-placed free kick in the 64th minute.
The Earthquakes were first to score and then take the lead but the Galaxy caught up, making this the first match this season which they’ve won after conceding the first goal. Galaxy forward Robbie Keane had a spectacular night, scoring the fourth hat trick of his MLS career and topping off his night with two penalty kicks.
The Galaxy were slow on the up-take for the first twenty minutes, says head coach Bruce Arena, “Our first 20 minutes of the game [were] not good, it was sloppy.” Even though the Galaxy dominated possession, San Jose forward, Quincy Amarikwa, found himself scoring in the 22nd and 25th minute. Amarikwa didn’t enjoy his goals however, as he says it doesn’t help the team in the grand scheme. “You’re coming on the road trying and get points and unfortunately we were unable to do that tonight,” he admitted at the end of the night.
Gerrard’s goal came at the 37th minute to equalize the match. Gerrard’s overall performance seemed to fit his situation as the new player. He has good chemistry with Keane, whom he played with for Liverpool in the Premier League. Keane says they only get stronger and more cohesive:
“You can see the combination, the one-two combinations that we are playing, and the way that we played with each other was very good. As the game went on we got better and better. We were finding Stevie more through the gaps. We had a few good combinations, and for the second goal as well. For my second goal, we whispered to each other before we went over, and we had a plan. It was all about the ball and managing it.”
And what did Stevie G have to say about the match?
“I think as a team we started the game quite slowly. Credit to the opposition, they waited for the counter attack and they punished us on a couple of occasions. But I thought as the game went on as a team, we grew and got stronger, and we got more confidence and belief and we started passing the ball forward. I think the key to our team is if we can get the ball into the forward areas, we’ve got players that are very dangerous, and I think it was shown tonight.”
Sebastian Lletget, who appeared to maintain good possession through out the game, scored the final goal of the night in the 92nd minute. Lletget has 5 goals in eight appearances. So, while it looked as though San Jose had the lead at first, the Galaxy quickly turned the match around into their favor. Coach Arena said the team’s response was slow at first but ended well:
“The last 20-25 minutes of the first half got better, and the second half was a pretty solid half. I thought our guys responded real well. I think we were fortunate to get that penalty, and the second goal was important for us to get us back in the game, and I think we played well in the second half. Robbie and Stevie looked like they’ve played together before. Obviously two very good players and this is why we have Stevie Gerrard here. We think he is going to make our team better.”
This match puts the Galaxy at 9-6-7 this season with 34 points. In the Galaxy’s last four home matches at the StubHub Center, the team has scored 19 goals and allowed just three. The game was very physical according to Amarikwa, “I think they were letting them play a little bit rough and calling it really tight on our part but that is expected on the road against the Galaxy. You have Gerrard, a big signing, so there is a lot of excitement around that and it is something that you expect and it is frustrating but there is nothing we can do about that.” From where this fan was sitting, there were dodgy calls on both sides, but the better team won, 5-2.
Seeing the stadium crowded with smiling faces and even a giant Steven Gerrard cardboard head, it is the hope that this excitement over Gerrard translates into a long-lasting enthusiasm over the Galaxy, and eventually support for MLS. More fans to come, as we have seen the reactions over the latest DP to sign, Giovanni Dos Santos. Up next the Galaxy will face F.C. Barcelona on Tuesday at the Rose Bowl for an International Champions Cup friendly. Then, they travel to Houston on Saturday.