CARSON -- David Beckham is celebrated the world over for his ability to put a ball in specific spots, and he was at his best in doing so Saturday night at Home Depot Center.
The Galaxy's biggest name had its biggest game in the biggest showdown of the season, at least so far, delivering three beautiful balls for goals in a 3-1 triumph over FC Dallas that extended L.A.'s lead over the Hoops in the Supporters' Shield and Western Conference races to six points.
Six big points.
The victory also gave the Galaxy (13-3-9) the advantage in the tiebreaker, which means they'll get the trophy should Major League Soccer's two best sides finish on even terms when the regular-season ends in another 2½ months.
“We've got our own goals that we've set, and the first one is winning the Supporters' Shield,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said, “and this was really a big step in the right direction.”
It was a chippy, sometimes ugly game, filled with fouls and cautions, but it was beautiful for L.A., which needed to show character after a horrid performance in Wednesday's loss at Portland. It didn't start well, with Marvin Chavez providing FC Dallas (12-6-6) a ninth-minute lead, but once the Galaxy found their step -- perhaps a half-hour in -- they were the dominant side.
All three goals came from Beckham's service, with Omar Gonzalez finishing a free kick in the 32nd minute (after Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman swung and missed while trying to punch away the cross), Juninho volleying home after a corner kick in the 62nd (when Gregg Berhalter inadvertently nodded the cross back to the top of the box) and Mike Magee heading home clinically from an 81st-minute free kick.
Said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena: “Obviously, he's made quite a reputation for himself over the years on set pieces, and he continues to have the abuility to serve the ball in dangerous spots. ... Teams that can score goals off set pieces often win a lot of games. Obviously, it's an important part of our attacking scheme.”
A quick look at the Galaxy's victory:
BEST PLAYER: The most impactful player, no question, was Beckham, whose service was dangerous all game, even when he failed to connect with teammates. He did connect, three times, and that was the difference in the game.
“I felt like I was striking the ball well tonight,” he said. “I felt every ball I was putting in, I was putting in the right place, and when you have nights like that, I know when I put the ball in there, it's going to be in the right place [and] someone is going to get on the end of it or get a flick-on and we'll get a chance.”
Beckham's ability on dead balls, Donovan noted, isn't “surprising anybody at this point -- I think everybody knows what he can do” -- but it's still a sight to behold when he delivers a perfect ball, such as his looping free kick from near the right corner that plopped down right onto Magee's head. That goal, in the 81st minute, cemented the victory.
“We've got a number of weapons,” Donovan said, “and we've got a guy who can put the ball in the right spot every time.”
BEST GOAL: One of the Galaxy goals was really nice -- Beckham's free kick that Magee nodded home near the end -- and the other two took fortunate bounces but counted just the same. The best goal was Dallas', by a good margin, especially Chavez's strike -- one of the better shots we've seen this season.
It came from a counter, with Zach Loyd sending a long ball toward the Galaxy box and Maicon Santos backheeling it to Chavez, who had space and time to look up and see the situation clearly. He took a couple of touches toward the center, then unleashed a blast that left Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders no chance.
It caromed off the bottom of the crossbar and the inside of the left post before settling into the net, and the Hoops were on top.
Donovan called the shot “at least one in 100, maybe one in a thousand, maybe one in more.” Yes, it was that good.
BIGGEST STRUGGLE: It was a chippy game, which six yellow cards, 34 fouls -- 14 of them by the Galaxy in the first half -- and at least a half-dozen stoppages so players could receive medical attention or pull themselves up off the field after going down hard.
That ended up playing to the Galaxy's strengths.
“We wanted to make sure that we were going to set a tone tonight, and it got chippy right away ...,” said Sean Franklin, who played on the right side of midfield. “They were hitting us, we were hitting them. They were talking trash, we were talking trash back. It's expected, and that's what it's going to be when we play these [top] teams.”
FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman said the physical play wore down his players, who were showing fatigue before halftime.
“It was a very fast-paced game -- I think they wanted it that way,” he said. “I think it was a very disruptive game. Every time we went past them, we were taken down. ... I think the foul count in the first half was 14-6; that's a lot of fouls, and that's just the ones that were called.
“I think the Galaxy because of the last performance against Portland, I think this was a huge game for them, not only because we beat them in the Western Conference championship last year, not because we were one of the defeats they had [this season], and we're fighting for the Supporters' Shield, right behjind them. I think all those things added on it, but I think the biggest thing is they needed to come out and put things right, and I think that shows their character.”
WORTH NOTING: Juan Pablo Angel, who is neither scoring goals nor contributing as much as a Designated Player should, was back on the bench, with Adam Cristman teaming with Magee up top. The start was Cristman's first in an MLS game since last Aug. 29, when he was with D.C. United. It came at HDC, too, against Chivas USA. Angel came on for Cristman in the 78th minute. ... Beckham's assists were his ninth and 10th of the season, pulling him even with Houston's Brad Davis atop the MLS leaderboard. ... Beckham picked up his league-worst ninth yellow card of the season.
FINAL JUDGMENT: “We wanted to get the three points,” Beckham said, “but I think our performance was more important tonight after we let ourselves down in Portland. That was the biggest thing tonight. Character-wise, it was a very good performances, all around the pitch. Everyone worked hard for each other -- that's the only reason we won tonight.”
NEXT: Tuesday, Aug. 16, in CONCACAF Champions League vs. Motagua (Honduras) at Home Depot Center, 7 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel). Next league game: Saturday, Aug. 20, vs. San Jose at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket)
Home Depot Center (Carson)
Galaxy 3, FC Dallas 1
FCD -- Marvin Chavez (Maicon Santos, Zach Loyd) 9
LA -- Omar Gonzalez 32
LA -- Juninho (Gregg Berhalter, David Beckham) 62
LA -- Mike Magee (David Beckham) 81
Galaxy: Josh Saunders; A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, Gregg Berhalter, Todd Dunivant; Sean Franklin, David Beckham, Juninho, Landon Donovan; Adam Cristman (Juan Pablo Angel, 78), Mike Magee (Michael Stephens, 88). Unused subs: Chris Birchall, Paolo Cardozo, Bryan Jordan, Miguel Lopez, Brian Perk.
FC Dallas: Kevin Hartman; Zach Loyd, George John, Ugo Ihemelu (Bobby Warshaw, 92+), Jair Benitez; Bruno Guarda (Danny Cruz, 72), Daniel Hernandez; Marvin Chavez, Ricardo Villar, Brek Shea; Maicon Santos (Eric Alexander, 79).
Yellow cards: Villar 18, Beckham 25, Benitez 27, Berhalter 35, Chavez 68, Stephens 94+.
Referee: Michael Kennedy. Att.: 21,546.