Galaxy snap Sporting KC’s shutout streak on way to victory

LandonDonovanKC (Getty)

By OMAR SHAMOUT

CARSON, Calif.– If the Los Angeles Galaxy were going to quell any creeping doubt among themselves and supporters regarding their recent three-game mini slump, Saturday night’s showdown vs. Sporting Kansas City was the perfect game to make a statement.

Sporting Kansas City hadn’t given up a goal in more than nine hours of play, a five-game shutout streak, on their march to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

The Galaxy answered the call, turning in their best performance in weeks, and reminding many in the Home Depot Center crowd of their imperious home form of two seasons ago that combined a well-organized defense with blistering speed and flashy goals. Those hallmarks were back again in the team’s 2-0 win over Sporting KC.

Landon Donovan set up a goal and scored another to lead the Galaxy to a win that pushed them into second place in the Western Conference with 11 points, eight behind FC Dallas.

“We finished a game well, finally,” Donovan said after the game. “We had been giving up some sloppy goals.”

Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said it was a “more complete match” than they had played recently. “We haven’t closed games out the right way this year. I think tonight we did that.”

Both teams started the first half brightly. The Galaxy created most of their chances on the counter attack, while Sporting tried to control possession and came close to scoring when Graham Zusi rattled the crossbar with a free kick in the 19th minute.

Sporting KC looked like a tired team though, and began to fade and show the effects of having played a mid-week game and flying cross-country for Saturday’s match.

The Galaxy finally converted one of their numerous counter attacks in the 27th minute when Marcelo Sarvas knocked the ball in Nielsen’s net from a yard out after receiving a pass from Donovan.

The counter attack started after Oriol Rosell slipped in midfield for Kansas City. Donovan broke down the left flank and made his way to the end line before finding an onrushing Sarvas. The goal was the first conceded by Sporting in 545 minutes of play, but it came with some controversy. Sarvas appeared to handle the ball with his arm in midfield before finding Donovan to start the break.

The non-call left Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes fuming after the match.

“It’s a shame in a game like this … for a goal to be scored in that way,” Vermes said. “You have center ref, you’ve got linesmen, and you have the fourth official. It’s a failure in the system. They made a mistake for sure.”

Sarvas was perplexed when asked about the handball controversy, claiming he didn’t play the ball with his hand (replays clearly showed that he did).

“No, I don’t think so,” the Brazilian midfielder said. “It was just the situation of the game.”

After a somewhat listless start to the second-half in which Sporting KC’s cross-country travels seemed to catch up with them, the Galaxy’s fast break kicked into high gear once more. Keane broke down the left and dribbled into the Sporting penalty area. Rather than taking the wide open shot himself, the striker passed to Donovan, who tapped in his first goal of the season.

“Yeah, of course,” Keane said when asked if that stat played into his mind when passing to Donovan.

“I could sense that he wanted to get me going,” Donovan said. “That’s what a leader does. If he took the shot, he’s probably going to score, but he wanted to get me a tap in, and I appreciate it. He’s a class player.”

The forward added that he’s starting to get his groove back. “I did feel more like myself out there today,” Donovan said. “It’s nice to hit the net again. It’s been a while.”

The result changes momentum for both teams, who came into Saturday’s matchup heading in opposite directions. The Galaxy had lost three straight, including their two CONCACAF Champions League semifinal legs against Monterrey. Their typically sturdy defense had leaked six goals over their previous four games. Leonardo’s red card suspension opened the door for Bruce Arena to turn to the four-man back-line that has helped lead the Galaxy to their past two MLS Cup titles, with A.J. De La Garza at centerback and Sean Franklin at right back alongside Omar Gonzalez and Todd Dunivant.

“I think I feel a little bit more comfortable in the middle just because I’ve played there since I was 14-years-old,” DeLaGarza said. “But I think I’m learning the right side.”

Donovan said it was nice to see “the old crew back together,” referring to what had been Arena’s first-choice back line until DeLaGarza’s late-season injury last year.

Sporting KC will return home having split their two-match road trip. They are still in first place in the East and will return to Sporting Park to take on the Portland Timbers next week.

Despite the victory, Donovan didn’t have any doubts as to whether Kansas City has the credentials to make a deep post-season run.

“No question,” he said. “That team would look different had they not played in New York and traveled here. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up coming out of the East.”

Here are the match highlights:

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31 Responses to Galaxy snap Sporting KC’s shutout streak on way to victory

  1. Andrew In Tally says:

    Loved this game. Landon showed what we are missing for the UN MNT. That speed and decisiveness on the counter. Benny and Zusi got schooled. Both are decent players but have limitations when it comes to the international game.

    • John says:

      I didn’t see a lot of difference through the course of the game. If Zusi’s strike is in inch lower and the hand ball is called we could have a totally view of the game.

      • John says:

        different view*

        • HoBo says:

          wouldn’t have mattered it was offside on his strike and from the angle I watched you couldn’t tell if it was a handball or not. We all get calls in your favor and against at times. It all evens out.

          • ChiTown says:

            It was a free kick. There was no offside.

            And that handball was clear as day. Vermes saw it. Players saw it. Only people that apparently didn’t see it were the official.

          • Lil' Zeke says:

            Hmm, really? A goal doesn’t matter in soccer? It didn’t “all even out” during this game.

      • Tony in Quakeland says:

        I disagree. Donovan would have had at least one more assist if Keane could finish last night. His passing was fantastic. Zusi had one play, the free kick.

      • TommyOC says:

        Intentional handling of the ball is different than the ball finding itself in a favorable position after making contact with your arm. And that call is at the discretion of the referee. There is a high degree of probability that Sarvas did not intend to make contact with the ball. I’m sorry that non-call preceded the series of excellent plays to put the ball into the back of the net, but it is what it is. KC had opportunity to shut both LD and Sarvas down before the ball was slotted home.

    • beachbum says:

      Benny’s record as an int’l for the USMNT as super sub is pretty good. need only review the last time he played in the kit to see what he brings to that team

  2. Good Jeremy says:

    KC could have easily let two or three more in, but Keane was uncharacteristically playful with the ball in front of goal instead of just taking the open shots. Donovan and Keane absolutely destroyed KC’s fullbacks when they ventured forward.

  3. Fredo says:

    Sweet Victory!

  4. HoBo says:

    Good game, Donovan starting to get his touch back and his vision for the game is fantastic and will no doubt help the Galaxy and hopefully our Nat team as well. Keane made some uncharacteristic blunders which could have ran the score up a little more.

    The counter attack on Donovan’s goal absolutely tore KC apart :)

  5. G.Bean says:

    Both goals came from a fast counter after a SKC free kick. Both Sporting CB’s were brought up to be big bodies in the box, and were caught way out of position, both times. lol

  6. Dantheblue says:

    I get so sick and tired about people saying that professional athletes are tired from a midweek game and travel. Give me a freaking break. They are finely tuned physical bodies…. No excuses or get out of the game and go sit in an office and rest and make a meager wage

    • ChiTown says:

      It doesn’t matter how finely tuned your body is–traveling that far that quickly–SKC to NYC to SKC to LA will affect your body–it has nothing to do with physique, but with your brain and eyes in line with your circadian rhythm, proper hormone secretion and neurological signaling based on your body’s natural environment. It takes days to adjust to those switches and they were probably still adjusting to NYC when they had to play in LA.

      Not to mention they played 90 minutes on Wednesday in a tough game and another 90 minutes 3 days later while dealing with long travel and their bodies adjusting to constant time zone changes.

    • Lil' Zeke says:

      This is ignorant. NBA teams alway lose the back-end of back-to-backs, and soccer clubs always lose the second game in four days. There are exceptions, but they are exceptions. Don’t worry though, I’m going to give you a freaking break.

  7. Hopper says:

    Keane was awful. LA could have had three more goals if not for his terrible finishing.

    • Tony in Quakeland says:

      Apparently when he was leaving the field after the game, he missed the doorway and walked into the wall

  8. Chupacabra says:

    No mention of Jimmy”my face! my beautiful face!” Nielsen’s encore of his Tony-award-worthy performance from Wednesday?

  9. AzTeXan says:

    Better late then never!!! Good luck in the CCL final LAG!!!!

  10. The Squad says:

    Good football all-around…

    Perfect match for a national audience.

    Though its early in the campaign, the passing appeared to be of good quality..

    Guys were in good spots to do something with the ball on both sides.

    Donovan seemed ‘engaged’

    The LA squad at full strength has some quality. As mentioned elsewhere, LA’s counter game looked to be a step above what KC could do defensively.

    The mid-week game probably means something, these guys were on the road…

    Overall the quality of on-field play in MLS seems to have risen a notch.

    Seems like a pretty decent mix of both offensive and defensive soccer form a number of sides.

    Mid-season games should be interesting to watch.

  11. chris thebassplayer says:

    Nice to see LD rounding into form…can’t wait to see him with the nats.

  12. White Kix says:

    LA is much better with AJ and Gonzo in the middle and Franklin overlapping from the back. Leonardo is a decent player, but they always give up some easy goal with him in the line up. All this talk about Keane mssing opportunities (which he did), but McBean should have had a couple goals as well (I know, expectation are higher for a DP than a teenager). I would like to see villereal get the start next game. I think he would combine better with Kean and LD, and maybe finish.

  13. Catamount says:

    Love the KC fans on this board. Sorry folks about the loss. Sorry that you think the apparent handball actually mattered. It might be a good idea to control the midfield of you plan to beat LA. For me Juninho and Sarvas were the stars of the game. They controlled the game start to finish against three midfielders. When two guys can dominate three players the game becomes 8 v 9. Every one of the Galaxy 9 played better than any of the KC 8.

    McBean and Keane frittered away at least 3 goals. I think KC were fortunate to leave LA with a 2-0 defeat rather than a 5-1 drubbing (let’s give Zusi his free kick). I am anxious to see KC again without the midweek game. A tactical change will be required because even a fresh KC team needs to figure out what to do about Juninho and Sarvas. Hopefully for KC, Keane will have another paltry performance. Otherwise, I don’t seen anything changing.