Thanks to an energetic minute from Landon Donovan, the LA Galaxy were able to salvage a point in Kansas City on Sunday afternoon, in a game they probably shouldn’t have survived.
Absent their hottest player, Giovani dos Santos, who was on the bench with left hip flexor tightness, the LA Galaxy struggled to match the energy and intensity of Sporting KC. And if you just took a glance at the numbers, and you didn’t watch the game, you would see that KC dominated in almost every aspect of the match. Even if you did watch the game, it would be hard to argue with any other assessment.
Alan Gordon and Robbie Keane paired together in the attack with Sebastian Lletget, Jeff Larentowicz, Raul Mendiola and Emmanuel Boateng patrolling the midfield. Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damme, Daniel Steres, and Robbie Rogers defended in front of, goalkeeper, Brian Rowe.
With KC demanding most of the possession throughout the match, LA was forced to chase the ball in a mostly defensive and porous shell. Despite Sporting having all the chances, it was the Galaxy who tallied first — against the run of play and with startling precision from Boateng and Alan Gordon.
In the 7th minute, Lletget gathered the ball in the middle of the attacking third and hit a ball with the outside of his right foot, bending it toward the corner flag and a forward-running Boateng. Boateng gathered on his preferred left foot, looked up, and hit a floated cross toward Alan Gordon who had found a small pocket of space towards the back post. His header was low but powerful enough to glide past the outstretched arms of Tim Melia.
“Just getting the opportunity. Playing time has been very limited this year, but my role going into this season was very clear. When guys are out I need to be ready to go and so Keane was out last game and Gio this game. I was very happy to get the opportunity to play and help the team and that’s what I have been able to do and I am quit happy with that.” Alan Gordon, LA Galaxy Striker
But the rest of the half would see several good chances from Kansas City that just couldn’t find the back of the net. They outhustled the LA Galaxy, won almost every second ball, and generally, had an uncontested area to control the ball deep into their attacking zone. The LA Galaxy, because of the heat (water breaks provided in each half), the travel, the time of day, or anything else just couldn’t match Sporting’s energy or enthusiasm for the game.
The second half continued where the first left off except for the fact that Kansas City actually found the back of the net — twice.
In the 50th minute, behind suffocating possession, the ball found Dom Dwyer on the right side of the box. Cole and Van Damme both shaded him away from goal but allowed him space to cross. And with a substantial hit toward the back post, Dwyer found the run of Jacob Peterson who had somehow evaded a flat-footed Robbie Rogers.
But KC wasn’t done. They scored again in the 69th minute when a Jeff Larentowicz foul turned into a quickly taken free kick from Benny Feilhaber which caught the Galaxy’s Emmanuel Boateng completely asleep. The ball found Saad Abdul-Salaam who quickly squared the ball into the box for Dom Dwyer to run onto and beat the entirety of the back line to the ball. It was a lapse in focus that probably cost the LA Galaxy three points, but it also wasn’t the reason the Galaxy were losing at that point.
Landon Donovan made his second appearance for the LA Galaxy in the 74th minute replacing Raul Mendiola in the midfield during the water break. The Galaxy, up to this point had registered very few attacking chances, and their possession had consisted mostly of clearances out of the ever increasing pressure.
But for a little more than 60 seconds, and down a goal, Donovan provided all the spark the Galaxy needed to escape with a point in a pretty horrendous showing.
A ball along the sideline was kept in by Sebastian Lletget who moved the ball forward to Jeff Larentowicz. Larentowicz passed forward and back toward the sideline to Donovan who was being closed down by defenders. With one touch on the ball, Donovan tapped it to Rogers who was now clear and moving down the right sideline. Rogers was able to get into the box, and with Sporting defenders facing their own goal anticipating the cross, cut the ball back toward an open area about 10 yards from goal and toward the top of the box. Donovan ran onto the ball and calmly finished with his left foot toward the far post for the goal.
“Ten years ago, I would have been really excited for me. I told you guys and my family when I came back that I want to help this team. And I felt like last week I was useless on the field and I don’t like that feeling and this was a game that needed a play and when I talked to Bruce weeks ago, he said we need you to come in and make a few plays that count. So I was happy after the effort that they all put in that I was able to help them get something out of it.” Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy Striker
In the span of 60 seconds, from entering the game to scoring, Donovan had helped to orchestrate some of the best offense on the night.
And while the remainder of the time was spent absorbing pressure and clearing their lines, the LA Galaxy survived the dominating performance by Sporting KC, to leave with a single point and to remain in 2nd place in the Western Conference.
“Sporting looked like a team that needed to get three points today. They were all over us. Put a lot of pressure. We didn’t deal real well with the heat and we’re fortunate to get a point.” Bruce Arena, LA Galaxy Head Coach
The LA Galaxy will head home for the week where they will host the Seattle Sounders on Sunday at 1PM PT at StubHub Center.
MAN OF THE MATCH
You want it to be Landon Donovan. I get it. But Jelle Van Damme probably kept this game much closer than it was supposed to be. Despite having to track Dom Dwyer all over the defensive zone, Van Damme made several clutch blocks and defending moves to keep this game close. The Defense was under constant pressure due to the fact that the midfield did little to pressure Sporting off the ball and Alan Gordon and Robbie Keane were virtually invisible and unable to hold possession for LA. Van Damme was decisive when he needed to be and smart when time afforded.
QUOTE OF THE MATCH
“Listen, I have an eight month old at home. Diapers are expensive. I wish I was getting the benefits of AARP right now, but I think they probably realized I might have a little more time left in me, this old guy.” Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy
LA – Alan Gordon (Assisted by Emmanuel Boateng, Sebastian Lletget) 7’
SKC – Jacob Peterson (Assisted by Dominic Dwyer) 50’