Forward Gyasi Zardes, making the Galaxy's third goal last night, is having a breakout season. (Instagram)
With the Supporters’ Shield well within reach, the Los Angeles Galaxy hosted the Colorado Rapids two weeks after coming back from 3-0 down at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Colorado to beat the Rapids. A trio of braces from Baggio Husidic, Gyasi Zardes and Landon Donovan obliterated the Rapids 6-0 in front of 18,145 in a rare Friday night game at StubHub Center.
Although getting on the scoresheet early has not been one of the Galaxy’s strongpoints this season, Donovan converted from the spot five minutes in after Rapids goalkeeper Joe Nasco tripped Alan Gordon inside the box just 30 seconds into the game.
“I’m not sure we planned it that way,” said Donovan of the early goal. “But when you put teams under pressure they make mistakes, and we’ve been talking all year about getting good crosses in front of the goal and making good runs in front of the goal.”
Nasco was sent-off by referee Baldomero Toledo, and Clint Irwin came on as a substitute.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was forced to make a substitution in the 26th minute when defender Todd Dunivant was injured and could no longer continue. Stefan Ishizaki came on for Dunivant.
The red card clearly hurt the Rapids, who rarely saw the offensive side of the field in the first 25 minutes of the game.
Husidic scored an emphatic second goal for the Galaxy in the 30th on a pass from Gordon.
Gordon received a Marcelo Sarvas through ball at the top of the box, fended off the defender behind him and then gave the ball to the oncoming Husidic with a flick pass off the side of his right foot. Husidic then slotted a perfectly placed right-footed shot to the left side of a diving Irwin after Zardes created a helpful screen by letting the ball on through to Husidic.
“Very good game,” Arena said of Husidic after the game. “[Husidic] is a very good player. He’s played very well over the past couple of weeks. Those were big goals tonight.”
The busy Gordon had an opportunity to make it 3-0 moments before the break on a leaping header, but he wasn’t able to connect well enough with the ball. But Zardes made up for Gordon on the following possession on a play that looked much like the one that led to the second goal.
This time, however, it was Husidic who sent the through pass to Zardes, who deceived his defender by – again – letting the ball on through to Donovan, effectively creating a wall. Donovan then passed the ball to an unmarked Zardes, who hammered home from the left side of the six-yard box.
Zardes’ two goals gave him 14 for the season, the highest tally ever for an MLS Homegrown Player. Zardes played high school soccer at Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, just seven miles from StubHub Center.
“My teammates are helping me,” Zardes said of his breakout year. “All these guys are older than me, and I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from them. Landon [Donovan] is a phenomenal player, and I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from him.”
Just a minute into the second half, the Rapids conceded another clumsy penalty after Chris Klute tripped Zardes inside the box. Donovan converted from the spot for the second time in the game to give the Galaxy a 4-0 lead.
With Donovan and Gordon pulling the strings, the Galaxy continued their outright dominance of the 10-man Rapids. Their 75 percent firs- half possession continued at virtually the same rate in the second half, creating a steady flow of scoring opportunities throughout the game.
Edson Buddle had the first real scoring opportunity for the Rapids at the 63rd minute on a left-footed blast from the left side of the box, but Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo managed to deflect the ball away from danger. The Rapids threatened again at the 69th minute when Buddle again smashed a left-footed shot into Penedo.
Zardes hammered home a header at the 75th minute on a pass from Ishizaki, and Husidic put the final touch on a perfect night in the final minutes with his second of the evening on an assist from Donovan.
When asked after the game to compare this team with the 2011 championship team, defensive stalwart Omar Gonzalez had high praise for this year’s squad.
“Right now everything is clicking,” he said. “The ball movements are fantastic, the forwards are getting around and scoring goals, Gyasi [Zardes] has been unbelievable, [Alan] Gordon has been a great acquisition for us. Everyone is just firing on all cylinders. Juninho, Marcelo [Sarvas] are great in the midfield winning tons of balls; not allowing teams to counter us and protecting the back line.”
Game notes: – Captain Robbie Keane was out of the lineup while on international duty with the Ireland National Team. – There was a moment of silence prior to the game due to the passing of Luca De La Garza, the newborn son of Galaxy defender A.J. De La Garza, as well as an ovation in honor of the young De La Garza at the 20th minute headed by Galaxy supporters groups. The Galaxy also wore black armbands with the name “Luca” embroidered on them. – Nasco’s red card was the fastest red card in MLS history. – Donovan’s two assists gave him 131 in his MLS career, just four behind all-time assist leader Steve Ralston. Donovan became the MLS’ all-time leading scorer earlier this season.