BY ADAM SERRANO
CARSON, CALIF — The LA Galaxy returned to its winning ways with a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union.
In a match that saw ten cards issued including two red cards, the Galaxy were able to get their second victory of the season due to a first half goal by Leonardo. Controlling much of the possession against the Union, the Galaxy appeared eager to respond after last week's embarassing loss to Real Salt Lake on the road.
With a strong defensive performance, in which the Galaxy controlled a great deal of possession despite being down a man for much of the match, it was a postitive night for the Galaxy.
"The performance was more important tonight than anything else, we wanted the three points, but after the emabrassment of last week, the character was the most important and we showed that," said midfielder David Beckham. "We started with a high tempo and continued that, even when we went down to ten men, we needed more character and we showed that."
Los Angeles was bolstered by the return of Donovan Ricketts and Omar Gonzalez to the starting XI, with both making their season debut. The Galaxy took the lead off a Leonardo header in the 32nd minute of play, when off a Beckham free kick, Leonardo beat his marker and smashed it past the Union goalkeeper Faryed Mondragon. It was the first career goal for the Brazilian defender, which proved all the more special for him stating afterward that the goal came on his mother's birthday.
Throughout the match, the Galaxy controlled much of the possession and generated numerous chances in front of the Union net. The attack appeared lifted considerdably by Beckham, who was playing in a central midfield role as opposed to his normal flank position.
As the match that wore on, the play became more physical as ten cards were given out including two reds. The first was given to Chris Birchall when defensive midfielder appeared to get into a touch of the face of Carlos Ruiz during a tackle and was sent off by referee Paul Ward. Near the end of the second half, the match saw its second red card when Union forward Jack McInerney was sent off for a shoving match with Chad Barrett.
"It wasn't a game that demanded a lot of cards, I don't think that the referee showed good judgement for how he issued cards," said head coach Bruce Arena. "eight, nine, 10, 11 cards? That's ridiculous."
The match proved to be a difficult affair for the Union, who struggled throughout the match to threaten the Galaxy back line even when up a man. When attacking, the Union forwards appeared over matched by the physical pressure that the Galaxy provided and struggled to generate scoring chances.
Perhaps the finest chance of the night for the Union came in the 50th minute when Jordan Harvey fired in a cross that Carlos Ruiz was unable to reach, which then fell to defender Sheanon Williams, who shot into the side netting. The disappointing night for the Union was summed up in one final stat: of the four shots that Phildelphia managed, the Union were unable to get a single one on goal.
"We didn't play good the first half, the second half we obviously played better, but we didn't find the space to score," said Ruiz.
Following the match, Ruiz revealed that he had injured his shoulder towards the end of the match. The Union released a statement later, calling the injury a minor right shoulder strain.
The Galaxy will now travel to Washington, D.C. to take on D.C. United while the Union will return to PPL Park to take on the New York Red Bulls. The match against United is part of a three game road swing for the Galaxy, who will travel to Chicago and Toronto following their match in Washington.
To earn these tough three points at home before such a swing was absolutely vital for the Galaxy.
"We need to win at home and after last week, knowing that we had three games on the road, it was very important," said Donovan. "Considering that we had a man sent off for 35 or 40 minutes, I think it was an excellent result."