Robbie Keane led the Galaxy to victory over the Timbers Saturday afternoon. (MoraCreativeStudio.com/LA Galaxy)
The Los Angeles Galaxy have been looking for their championship form all season. Thanks to their improved defense and recent offensive resurgence, they’re much closer to where they want to be – and at just the right time, too.
If Saturday’s 3-1 win over the visiting Portland Timbers is any indicator, the best has yet to come for Los Angeles.
“We played [the Timbers] three times already so we know them pretty well,” says Landon Donovan. “They have a lot of attacking players, but their attacking players don’t defend. That’s why we’ve been so successful lately. Everybody is defending and we knew that if we got the ball wide, their guys weren’t going to track back much.”
Donovan missed the first opportunity of the game for the Galaxy at the fifth minute from just outside the 18-yard box, but the Galaxy’s mindset for the afternoon was clear.
The Galaxy dominated the action early on, while the Timbers had a difficult time getting out of their own defensive half of the field. But on virtually their first meaningful possession in the Galaxy’s half at the 14th minute, the Timbers managed to score via a deflected free kick from 25 yards out by Diego Valeri. His free kick was well-placed, but his ball would’ve been much more manageable for Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo had the ball not clipped the head of Galaxy defender Robbie Rogers.
The Galaxy continued to control the pace of the game after the Timbers’ goal, but again, failed the pose any real danger to Ricketts and the Timbers for most of the half.
Due to the free-flowing nature of the Galaxy offense, wing backs Rogers and Dan Gargan were often able to drive up and contribute offensively. Rogers, in particular, had little to do defensively and was a key contributor throughout the game.
“I think that coming from a deeper position is good for [Rogers],” says Arena. “But the thing about Robbie in that position is he’s an excellent defender, which is the number on box you need to check when you are going to play as defender … The other stuff – like going forward – is icing on the cake.”
The Galaxy had their best opportunity up to that point at the 30th minute on a booming header by Gyasi Zardes that rattled the crossbar. But Portland managed to clear the ball out of danger after the bounce.
Robbie Keane had an opportunity of his own in the 37th minute, when his blast from 20 yards surprised Ricketts. Zardes finally opened up the scoring for Los Angeles two minutes into added time with a great header off a pinpoint left-footed, one-time cross by Rogers.
“Couple of plays ahead of [the goal], I had a header and I hit it off the post,” says Zardes. “So I realized that the defender was a little bit shorter, and he usually jumps early. So I just tried to beat him off the jump.”
The Galaxy outshot Portland 13-1 in the first half.
The Galaxy controlled possession again in the beginning of the second half, but this time with less clarity and fluidity up top. Portland forward Kalif Alhassan went down in the 66th minute after some contact by Rogers, but referee Kevin Stott deemed the contact inadvertent and play continued.
Keane gave the Galaxy a 2-1 lead on a diving header from point blank in the 73rd minute (check), after receiving a short, left-footed cross from Donovan. Keane had a Portland defender on him, but managed to outmuscle him and win the ball.
Keane scored his second of the game in the 85th minute from the penalty spot after Juninho was tripped inside the box.
“I think if you look at it from start to finish, we dominated the game, there’s no question,” says the Irishman. “I think they only had one shot on target … I think it was only right that we got that goal in the first half, and from then we came in at halftime and we knew that if we continued to play the same way we would get opportunities, and we did.”
The win moves the Galaxy to second place in the Western Conference, behind only the Seattle Sounders. The Galaxy will host the San Jose Earthquakes Friday, Aug. 8 at 7:30 p.m.