Fresh off a big win in Seattle, the LA Galaxy woke up early for a brunch-time bout with the Portland Timbers.
Despite the saber-rattling from LA about switching their lineup to best match their opponents, LA came out with the same 11 guys that started against Seattle. And why not? When you make the league leaders look that bad on their home turf, nobody’s going to blame you for sticking with what works. His roster healthy, head coach Bruce Arena finally has (more-or-less) the pick of the crop. This is the LA team he’d like to have been fielding all year.
They’re the A-team; they’re the cream-of-the-crop — and they quickly dug themselves a hole. In the 14th minute Portland was awarded a dangerous free kick just outside LA’s box. A quiet sense of inevitability descended on StubHub Center as Diego Valeri gingerly set the ball and lined up to take it.
Without any fuss, Portland’s star midfielder casually arced the ball into the top right corner of the goal. Fourteen minutes in, the visitors were up 1-nil.
Things were looking grim. Despite dominating the first half, LA couldn’t seem to find a goal. And the home side has a terrible record when they give up the first goal — at 0–4–3, they hadn’t won one of those games all year.
But something’s changed around the Galaxy camp. And when I say something, I mean somebody.
You may have heard of Gyasi Zardes. You may have heard that he’s on a bit of a streak lately. He’s hot. He’s having a moment. And in stoppage time of the first half, he showed us why. Off a sharp cross from Robbie Rogers, Zardes headed home a a rocket to tie the two sides up.
“Couple of plays ahead of that, I had a header and I hit off the post, so I realized that the defender was a little bit shorter, and he usually jumps early. So, I just try to beat him on the jump.” —Gyasi Zardes
That’s 7 goals in 8 games for the homegrown striker. It looks to me like LA have finally found their third man — Zardes is dangerous enough that he’ll pull defenders away from Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane. Or, if he doesn’t, he’ll at least make them pay.
”He has worked at it. Success is not an accident. He came in last year and he was still raw. There were number of chances that he didn’t score. Every day after the training he is working with the coaches, just finishing. Simple finishing; getting in front of the goal and hitting the target.” —Landon Donovan
So the second half started with some urgency. Tied at 1–1, the game was wide open — and Portland was eager to put it away. But in the 73rd minute it was LA who took the lead. Landon Donovan took his time setting up a cross that sailed to the far post — where Robbie Keane snuck in and knocked it past a helpless Donovan Ricketts.
A penalty kick in the 85th minute gave LA the chance to seal this one up. I say a chance — because PKs are far from a sure thing for this team. The Galaxy were zero for three on PKs coming into this game. As Robbie Keane lined up to take it, I wasn’t holding my breath.
But the captain broke the curse. Keane took it quick – probably so he wouldn’t overthink it – and Ricketts couldn’t get a hand on it. Robbie got himself a brace and gave us the final tally: 3–1, and LA takes a full three points.
“It just shows the character we have, and the belief we have at this moment of time. The players at this moment are certainly looking strong, we’re dominating in the way we’re playing, so it’s important we continue this through the end of the season.”