Donovan and Magee lead Galaxy rally to Knockout Round win

By KAYLA KNAPP

CARSON, CALIF. – When Landon Donovan stepped up to the penalty spot in the 73rd minute on Thursday night, the tension was thick. The Los Angeles Galaxy captain has been under scrutiny lately – in recent interviews, he made comments about taking a break from soccer.

When Donovan calmly drilled the penalty kick past Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Brad Knighton, giving the Galaxy a 2-1 lead and assuring their spot in the Western Conference semifinals – all the worry about his future was forgotten, at least momentarily.

The Galaxy overcame an early deficit set up by a third-minute Darren Mattocks strike, finally breaking down the Whitecaps defense when Mike Magee struck a perfect volley to tie the match. Donovan did the rest, drawing a penalty call courtesy of a Martin Bonjour foul before converting the spot kick to help send the Galaxy into the Western Conference semifinals.

“I’m not so concerned about scoring goals,” Donovan said of his game-winning penalty kick. “I want to win, it was a night where we needed a couple of guys to make plays. Mike [Magee] made a fantastic play to score an unbelievable goal and that really set us on our way.”

And the Galaxy captain was right – Magee’s goal in the 69th minute breathed life back into the Los Angeles attack. The player who came up big for the Galaxy in the playoffs last year is off to a good start in the 2012 post-season.

“I’m so much more nervous for these games than I am any other, but just as a team, we battle as a team, and I’ve kind of been the beneficiary goal-wise the last two years, but this team keeps battling away,” Magee said after the win. “Being down a goal, we had to push, and tonight it was my turn.”

Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was pleased with the performance, despite giving up the early goal.

“We had to show patience. It’s the kind of game we expected. We thought we’d have a lot of the ball,” Arena said post-match. “Vancouver would get numbers behind the ball and make it difficult for us. We really put ourselves in a difficult position conceding the goal in the early minutes of the game. We showed a lot of character to scrap and fight and get back in that game. So it’s a great result for our team.”

Though obviously disappointed with the loss, Vancouver head coach Martin Rennie found lots of positives to take into the off season.

“The overall performance from our players, the effort, the belief, the determination was top class. It showed our club making a big step forward,” Rennie said after the match. “This season has been a good season in that regard, we’ve taken massive strides forward. Got ourselves into the playoffs for the first time. I think with a little bit of luck tonight we could have easily gotten ourselves into the next round.”

After knocking out Vancouver, the Galaxy now face their California rivals, the San Jose Earthquakes, in the next round of playoffs, which is sure to be a highly entertaining series. But getting there wasn’t easy.

Los Angeles put themselves in a hole early against Vancouver, giving up a goal in the 4th minute, when Matt Watson smoked Hector Jimenez – who played right back in place of the injured Sean Franklin – crossed the ball to Darren Mattocks who finished the pass perfectly past Josh Saunders. The visitors took an early lead, shaking the confidence of the reigning MLS Cup champions on their home field.

After their early goal, the Whitecaps settled into what the Galaxy expected to face in this knockout match: almost the entire team behind the ball, defending a relentless attack.

“I think patience is the key tonight, it’s certainly not the way that we wanted to start the game,” Donovan said. “Kind of one play broke us down and we were behind the eightball. Our determination was good and we kept putting them under pressure.”

The Galaxy dominated in possession, but just couldn’t break down the tough Vancouver defense. The Whitecaps maintained their fragile 1-0 lead until late in the second half, when the goal-scorer from Sunday’s regular season finale against the Sounders came through again.

In the 69th minute, none other than Magee scored the equalizer from the top of the box to tie the match up. Then, just four minutes later, Donovan drew the penalty kick, and buried the shot, and snagging the game-winner.

The Galaxy will face the San Jose Earthquakes in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals on Sunday at the Home Depot Center, and they are excited for it – especially Donovan.

“I always hold a special place in my heart for [the San Jose Earthquakes], especially for Frank so it’ll be enjoyable in that sense,” Donovan said of his former team. “But it’s not going to affect the way that I approach the game or play the game, but it will be good to see those guys on the other side of the field.”

There are some injury concerns for the Galaxy heading into Sunday’s clash. Sean Franklin [left leg] and Christian Wilhelmsson[right quadriceps] sat out Thursday’s match, and Juninho [apparent Achilles] picked up a knock up during the match.

While Arena said he expects Franklin back for Sunday, is hopeful Wilhelmsson will be ready, and Juninho will be assessed tomorrow (but he expects him to be fine), depth will be the key for Los Angeles heading into the two-leg semifinal.

“The key is going to be recovering quickly,” Donovan said of the short turnaround to Sunday’s match – just three days away. “We need guys that are fresh and ready to go. As I said all year, this team has 25, 28 players that can step in and do a good job. If Bruce needs to make changes then he’s got no problem doing that.”

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20 Responses to Donovan and Magee lead Galaxy rally to Knockout Round win

  1. MemRook says:

    Feels deserved and undeserved at the same time….

    • MOUF says:

      (fan of neither team, was pulling for Caps simply because they were underdogs and I enjoyed the road game there)

      LA played better, the PK was really soft, but the early one should have been called, so whatever. Move on and take the W

  2. bottlcaps says:

    Jay Demerit and O’Brien were really tough to break down. They pretty much ruled the box. When Demerit went down, you could see the change in the Vancouver defense. Without that ancho,r the Galaxy were able to get into the box. It was almost good fortune that the Whitecaps scored so early. You cannot park a bus in front of goal for 90 min. against the Galaxy.. I think the LA possession was really lopsided like 80/20?

  3. AzTeXan says:

    Normally I’d root against LA but I just can’t stand the thought of watching MLS cup with a crowd of ten thousand.

  4. Dimidri says:

    If I were ranking the PK’s based on legitimacy I would do

    1) La 1st half
    2) Donovan PK
    3) Vancouver PK.

    At the very least one of those is a pk, galaxy had 70% possession, mattocks, demerit out of game, I would take the Galaxy to win at 2-2 in extra time or normal time anyway.

    Also the notion that this was the result of some pro-LA conspiracy is tiring. There are terrible calls EVERY MLS game, small market against large, small against small etc., they are so common that it is just wrong to say there was some directive from mLS or some more subtle bias in favor of the galaxy.

    I don’t even see what the debate is on the LD penalty, it looked like he got shoved. Did he go down easy-ish? Sure, but he was fouled. It looked bad. I’d argue all 3 were penalties. 3-2 galaxy.

    • MOUF says:

      I rather see none of them called, all were pretty soft contact, each time the player wasnt looking to do anything but go down. The first half was the only one that probably should have been called

    • TomG says:

      Can’t disagree with any of that. LA dominated but their defense looked so shaky. It reminded me of an Arsenal game. You always wind up saying that Arsenal deserved the points because they dominated but, with defending like that, did they really?

  5. Leonardo says:

    Galaxy did mostly crosses into the box or corners the entire 1st half – gave too much time for Vac to get back and fill the box. At one point Land-O was at the top of the box motioning for the mid to dribble to the middle but instead the dude turned back and went wide. in the 2nd you saw more 1 touches stringed together and runs being made – one where Land-O was offside but that was exciting cuz it showed aggression. And Galaxy eventually scored so it looks like going fwd Galaxy should keep at the aggressive attacking mindset that Land-O wants. simply going wide and crossing it is too easy to defend (and not very entertaining). Beckham has incredible crosses, as usual, btw.

  6. I can't help it says:

    Before hitting the PK, did Landon have a talk with the ball about whether it had always just felt like taking a break to do some travel into the net?

  7. joe says:

    Turning point was when Demerit took a shot to the face and got right back up and missed his mark on the corner resulting in the LA goal. He then went off injured. He should have stayed down, got subbed off then the corner should have happened. With his concussion problems earlier in the year he has to take head shots seriously. Having said that, the ref really blew the penalty call. If Donnovan pulled that in the EPL he would have got a yellow for diving.

    • MOUF says:

      Keane complaining of hte defender diving when he fouled him in extra time was comical, absolutely no shame

      • Shake says:

        Odd that both commentators said it was a deserved penalty, and that LA deserved a PK in the first half as well.

        I’ve never understood all the Donovan hate. Don’t be so biased.

  8. divers suck says:

    Something about watching this game told me that there was no way in hell Garber and MLS would have ever let Vancouver win this game. Conspiracy theory? Perhaps.

    • Shake says:

      Maybe it was the fact that the ‘Caps were outplayed in all but 2 minutes of the match….

      • whoop-whoop says:

        The conspiracy theories are pretty weak. Should a playoff team with championship aspirations be playing not to lose, or have enough quality and confidence to go after it? In what universe did VAN look the better team? Every statistic, eyeball and smell test says LA was the better, more skilled and agressive team. The nature of playing a passive role and absorbing pressure for 90 minutes is that the odds of eventually having calls go against you go up. When 50% of the game takes place with your asses parked 5 yards out and both sides condensed grabbing and pulling within your own box- something bad is eventually going to happen. VAN fought hard- much respect, but they aren’t the better team.

  9. g-dub says:

    Observations:

    A. Very good match
    B. Class finish by Mattocks: Europe one day?
    C. Rennie is an excellent manager
    D. Is Landon’s saga a PR stunt?
    E. Omar looked good
    F. Valiant effort by Robson
    G. DeMerit’s groin is broken

  10. Vinz Clortho says:

    I think the earlier PK gripe went unawarded cuz the ref should have been calling fouls before that point. Vancouver had a huge window of opportunity (65th min?) to go up by 2 and failed to capitalize. Almost immediately after that LA nicked their first….

    • ManicMessiah says:

      Agree with this. The keeper is out of his net, Miller and Robson (I think) had three chances between them, and couldn’t score. At that point I felt like I should just turn off the TV because the Galaxy were going to equalize.

      Then Magee scores, which was annoying enough as a Red Bull fan, but I kept watching the rest of the game anyway.

  11. soccerhorn says:

    Galaxy domination was thorough and complete. Whitecaps scored one goal completely against the run of play when they beat a reserve team midfielder playing right back. It was their only shot of the half. Then they tried to park the bus for the next 85 minutes. That might work against Edmonton, but not in the big leagues. Kudos to the Whitecaps for making a game of it.

    Does anyone have any idea what Maddox was doing during his goal celebration? He spent a good thirty seconds taunting the LA Riot Squad with some weird hand gesture. Way to go Darren, guess it’s better to be a villain than an unknown?