Galaxy captain Robbie Keane scored the first goal against FC Dallas Wednesday night. (Rafael Orellana/Living Out Loud LA)
Winless in their last four games, the Los Angeles Galaxy – led by captain Robbie Keane – welcomed the opportunity of a home match against a Western Conference opponent in FC Dallas in front of 14,615 fans Wednesday night at StubHub Center.
“It has been a long few weeks away from home, so it was certainly nice to be [back] in our garden,” Keane said. “I think the way we played was very good. The pitch was playing very, very well with the wetness; you could see from the way we moved the ball really quickly.”
Keane scored the opening goal on a fantastic left-footed finish, and Gyasi Zardes added a second goal in the first half against the Texas team.
Fabian Castillo generated the match’s first moment of suspense for Dallas when he dribbled past Dan Gargan on the left flank and did as best he could with what little angle he had, but Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo was there to cradle in his hurried left-footed shot. Castillo was at it again in the 12th minute when he dribbled at midfield with space ahead and threaded a neat through pass behind the Galaxy defense to forward Tesho Akindele. Akindele took a right-footed blast from just outside the box, which was deflected just enough by Penedo to result in a Dallas corner kick.
Galaxy supporters, the Angel City Brigade, did their part in the weeklong tribute to 15-year-old Jacob Trainor by performing a chant created especially for the young Galaxy supporter from Alabama who was diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. The Galaxy teamed up with Make-A-Wish chapters from Los Angeles and Alabama to sign Trainor to a contract with the Galaxy and train with the team ahead of tonight’s match.
“It was nice meeting Jacob yesterday,” said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. “He’s a fine young man. Having him around before the game gave us some good concentration and a desire to win.”
Keane livened up a rather dormant match at the 25th minute with a splendid blast from just outside the 18-yard box to give the Galaxy a 1-0 lead.
“It was a good goal,” said Keane. “Obviously it was nice to get the first goal … seems like we haven’t done it for a while, so it was important for us to get that first goal”
Zardes sent a divided pass to Keane from the left side of the field, some eight yards beyond the 18. Keane earned possession after battling Dallas defender Jair Benitez, then maneuvered past another defender and buried an upper 90-degree firecracker past Dallas goalkeeper Raul Fernandez.
“I saw Robbie open, and then I just tried to give it to him as soon as possible. I knew he had a great opportunity on goal,” said Zardes, who played the full 90 minutes for the first time this season.
Kofi Opare was booked at the 37th minute after a reckless slide tackle on Akindele on the Dallas part of the midfield line. Akindele was booked himself in the 44th minute on a similarly reckless challenge.
With Keane pulling the strings on a number of attacking plays, the Galaxy enjoyed possession through the latter part of the first half. Zardes made it 2-0 just before the break for the Galaxy, on a ball that went off his right shoulder on a cross by Juninho. Unmarked, Zardes seemed to have put a header on the upper left corner of the net from six yards out, but the replay clearly showed the ball went in – legally – off his right shoulder instead of his head.
Samuel received a ball inside the 18 with his back to the net but quickly turned around and was able to unleash a potent – but off-target – shot into the side of the net.
Stefan Ishizaki and Keane connected on a dangerous play at the 56th minute, when the Swede sent the Irishman a pass from deep inside the right touchline. Keane used his chest to bring the ball down and set himself up for a left-footed blast from the half-circle that missed the right post narrowly.
Although there were intermittent challenges from the Galaxy, Dallas controlled the pace of the first 20 minutes of the second half but were always a step short from threatening Penedo.
Keane had a breakaway opportunity to make it a rout at the 64th minute after receiving a long through pass from the Galaxy’s backline, but he was unable to maintain composed enough to challenge Fernandez, who watched Keane’s off-balance shot sail out of bounds.
Dallas finally made good on an opportunity at the 66th minute after a turnover by the Galaxy defense. Benitez cleverly threaded across, behind the Galaxy defense from the left touchline, where a completely unmarked Akindele easily slotted the ball past a helpless Penedo from four yards out. This was the first career MLS goal for the sixth overall pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft from Canada.
“Since we were [the visiting side], it was so quiet after I scored; I thought for sure I was offside,” said Akindele, “I checked like five times with the assistant ref just to make sure he didn’t raise his flag. It is just pure happiness as a striker when you score a goal, that is what I am paid for, that is why I am here.”
Je-Vaughn Watson had a clear opportunity to tie the match, unmarked, from inside the 18 at the 72nd minute. But the Jamaican’s awkward first touch made the ball bounce and hit his left hand, resulting in a Galaxy free kick.
Raul Mendiola made a quick impact after coming on for Ishizaki at the 74th minute. The lively Galaxy Homegrown Player gave the team’s offense, which was dormant for large parts of the second half, a change in pace and provided an added dynamic that helped Los Angeles regain some of its lost leverage in the final 15 minutes.
The Galaxy host the Philadelphia Union this Sunday at 5 p.m. at the StubHub Center. The game airs on Time Warner Cable Sports and Univision Deportes (Spanish).