For LA against New York, I ditched the press box and headed for the nosebleeds. Amongst the people, if you will, to see what I could learn.
Here’s something: kids know Gyasi Zardes. Even before Zardes scored, the row of children behind me were chanting his name. Right alongside chants of “Donovan!” and “Keane-o,” they stood in unison: “Zar-des! Zar-des!”
How does that feel, for a young striker in the midst of a standout year?
“I never really thought about that,” said Gyasi. “Y’know, I never really thought about that. You’re putting the thought in my head, and it’s crazy” – and here, he broke out laughing – “I look up to players, but I’ve never seen little kids looking up to me!”
“I look up to players, but I’ve never seen little kids looking up to me.”
Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Gyasi Zardes — those three came up big for LA. But to single out any three names does the rest of this team a disservice. Here’s a defense that won’t allow any breathing room. Here’s a midfield, rocketing the ball upfield in seconds, flat. Here’s a keeper uninterested in anything less than a shutout.
It was a team effort that toppled the Red Bulls, four-to-nil, on a perfect Sunday night in Carson.
“It’s best team that we faced all year, by a long shot.” —Mike Petke, Head Coach, New York Red Bulls
If you’re the LA Galaxy, there’s one team in your sights: the Seattle Sounders, sitting atop the league all summer, the favorites for the Cup and the squad you’re going to play back-to-back to close out the regular season.
If you’re LA, you’ve got your eyes on Seattle. But the New York Red Bulls humbled Seattle, 4–1, just a week ago. And so if you’re LA, you’ve got eyes on them, too.
The Galaxy came out quick. In the 8th minute, Robbie Keane found himself holding the ball in the Red Bulls’ box, at an impossible angle. He could try to pass it. He could try to drop it back. He was heavily marked and had seconds to decide.
So he chipped it. Over the head of Luis Robles, New York’s keeper. Into the far side of the goal.
“Obviously, the first one was a classic Keane goal,” said head coach Bruce Arena after the game. Keane was more pragmatic: “The only thing I really had was the chip, and as soon as I get an angle like that, I’m always going to do that.”
“Obviously, the first one was a classic Keane goal.” —Bruce Arena
But what followed was a nervy forty minutes. For the remainder of the first half, New York rose to the challenge — and were it not for a few key saves from LA keeper Jaime Penedo, the Red Bulls could have easily evened it up.
“Halftime was good for us, we were able to regroup and figure out what we needed to do,” said Landon Donovan. Team captain Robbie Keane agreed. “I said to the lads in the huddle that it’s important we get that second goal, because you have good players on their team that can change the game.”
That second goal came quick. In the 50th minute, rookie right back Chris Duvall spent just a second too long holding the ball. Landon Donovan was on him in an instant, snatching it away and ducking around the hapless defender to notch one of his own.
“I think our energy and the way we pressed really wore them down,” was Landon’s postgame synopsis, and then he really let loose his SoCal slang: “They couldn’t hang.”
The home side scored again, in the 69th minute. Gyasi Zardes ran off Stefan Ishizaki, sent a nice one-two to Donovan and back, and kept his shot low. Then came Robbie Keane, again, in the 82nd minute — and that fourth goal is where the Galaxy called it a night.
“We just wanted to keep on pressing them, and that’s exactly what we did.” —Omar Gonzalez
The win came complete with a cherry on top: after some contention, Landon Donovan was granted an assist on that final goal — and at 135 assists, he’s now tied the record for all-time most assists in MLS.
“I’ve always tried to be a guy who makes the right play in front of the goal,” said Donovan, who assisted every goal on the night but the one he scored. “I didn’t want to be one dimensional; I wanted to have all sorts of different parts to my game and I hope that showed.”
As for any controversy over the final assist, Robbie Keane laughed it off. When told the goal was originally deemed ‘unassisted,’ the Irishman snarkily replied “What’s that?”
And pressed further: “Clearly, whoever made the decision must’ve got a phone call from someone who’s actually played the game.”
“I didn’t want to be one dimensional; I wanted to have all sorts of different parts to my game and I hope that showed.” —Landon Donovan, tying the record for all-time assists
With four games to go in their regular season, the Galaxy are already looking ahead to their next match, against Toronto FC. Keane, again, put it best:
“It was a good performance tonight. Great. But as soon as I leave the stadium, it’s finished. That’s how I look at games. Can’t celebrate too much about a victory, because it’s gone next week.”