Carson City, California- The StubHub! Center, July 4, 2013 (Photos: Samuel Coronado)
The Los Angeles Galaxy had just had a disastrous weekend. They had not only lost in the California Classico against their hated rivals, the San Jose Earthquakes, but they allowed two late goals in the game. Luckily for them, they had to forget about that game quickly because they had a short week. They were going to play against the Columbus Crew the following Thursday.
The game started off slow for both teams. They both couldn’t find the precision in their passing and were turning the ball over with errant passing. Both teams were trying different ways of going forward, using both long and short passes to move the ball forward, but their imprecision didn’t let them get any real attack started. The Galaxy had the opportunity to score the goal when Robbie Keane gave Juninho a perfect through ball pass but Juninho’s shot went wide right. The Galaxy began to look more dangerous as the time ticked on. They kept shooting at goal but the ball was blocked by either the Crew’s backline or by their goalkeeper, Andy Gruenebaum. The Crew’s first shot came at the feet of their forward, Dominic Oduro, but his shot flew over the crossbar.
The game also began to get more physical as the game ticked on. Both teams were sliding hard and kicking even harder. It seemed they were playing on the edge of the rule book. They also started to commit more fouls which slowed down the rhythm of the game.
In the second half, Galaxy was more aggressive. They began committing more men to the attack and it showed in how many more dangerous opportunities they were able to create. The only problem is that Galaxy couldn’t find that finishing touch to finally put one in the net. This final lack of precision was best seen in a play where Omar Gonzalez gave a perfect pass to Robbie Keane, who was alone in the box. He received it cleanly, got away from his defender, and instead of burying the ball in the back of the net like most fans are accustomed to seeing, his shot went too high over the cross bar. Even though they lacked that final touch, Galaxy didn’t seem lose motivation or confidence in their attack. They kept attacking and looking for the first goal of the game. They even began to create dangerous plays in set pieces. They had a free kick in the 66th minute of the match. Juninho crossed the ball to the far post where Gonzalez and Gyasi Zardes were waiting for the cross. As the ball approached, Gonzalez went for the ball first and pulled two defenders leaving Zardes open to head the ball cleanly. Zardes headed the ball down, but his shot hit the side of the net.
Sadly for Galaxy, soccer isn’t always the fairest sport. It looked like the LA Galaxy were going to score any minute, the Columbus Crew opened up the scoreboard with a goal of their own in the 78th minute. They earned a free kick in a very dangerous area. Federico Higuain crossed the ball to the middle of the box. Bernardo Anor made his run to where the ball was going to. He jumped up and headed the ball towards goal before anyone could get to Anor. Carlos Cudicini jumped to try to block the ball but the header was hit to a perfect location, the top right corner of the net. Cudicini couldn’t have done anything to save that shot. The Galaxy stood their stunned as the Crew celebrated their goal.
That goal took away all the momentum Galaxy had created since the beginning of the second half. They were down at home once again. They were losing at a place they use to be unbeatable. It seemed like they couldn’t come to grips that they were losing again. They finally got their head together and were able to earn a penalty in the 85th minute. Marcelo Sarvas had the ball in the middle of the field. He passed the ball to Keane who was on outside the box. He acted as if he was going to run to the middle of the box, but quickly passed it to Sarvas. He received the ball and passed it to Jose Villarreal who was crossing the box. Marcelo got run over by a Crew player right when he passed it to Villarreal. Gruenebaum ran out to try to get to the ball before Villarreal, but Villarreal beat Gruenebaum to the ball. Villarreal smartly moved the ball out of the way and was taken down by Gruenebaum. The referee signaled for the penalty without any hesitation. Gruenebaum stood up immediately and tried pleading his case but the referee didn’t change his mind. Keane grabbed the ball and set it up to take the penalty. He made his run and stuttered right before he reached the ball. He kicked the ball low and to the right fooling Gruenebaum who dived left. Robbie scored but he knew that it wasn’t time to celebrate. He grabbed the ball and took it to the middle of the pitch start the game quickly.
The goal gave the Galaxy new life. They didn’t want to lose or even tie at home. They wanted to win the game because they really needed that win. There wasn’t a lot of time left in the game so they began committing more men on their attack but that left their defense vulnerable. The Columbus Crew almost made them pay just three minutes after the Galaxy scored the ball. Chad Barson took the throw in and he threw it to the middle of the box where Oduro jumped and headed the ball over Cudicini. It seemed like the ball was going to roll pass the goal line but Todd Dunivant reacted quickly enough to clear the ball right before the ball crossed the goal line. This didn’t stop the Galaxy from staying aggressive in their attack. They almost scored a goal but Keane’s shot hit the crossbar.
Galaxy were able to get another penalty in the 91st minute. Jack McBean had the ball close to the outside of the box. He passed the ball to Colin Clark who was out wide. He saw Keane standing in the middle of the box alone. Clark crossed the ball to Keane but Anor ran him over right before the ball got there. The referee signaled for a penalty without any hesitation. Anor ran to the referee to try to plead his case but that didn’t change the referee’s mind. Keane stepped up to shot the penalty shot and did the same thing he did in the first penalty. He shot low and to the right. Gruenebaum guessed correctly but Keane placed the shot perfectly that Gruenebaum couldn’t block it.
The game ended with Galaxy winning the game 2-1. Even though they scored the two goals at the end of the game, Galaxy did deserve to win. They won in every statistical category and were the more aggressive team. Even though they won, there were still many questions that needed to be answered. The most important one was why couldn’t they score. They had created many opportunities to score, but they couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. What they did learn in the game was that the partnership between Robbie Rodgers and Keane was developing very well. They had created many dangerous plays that resulted in either a good shot or a dangerous cross.
The Galaxy have a short week and will play FC Dallas on Sunday July 7 at the StubHub! Center.