GALAXY: A season-saving stop? Perhaps
April, 28, 2012
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
CARSON -- The Galaxy return home in search of a third successive victory -- a feat virtually unthinkable a month ago -- vitalized by Josh Saunders' massive penalty-kick save last weekend.
It was the kind of play that can make the difference over distance for a teetering club, and although the Galaxy have never doubted that their horrid start to this season wouldn't last, they've certainly been in need of something galvanizing.
In came in second-half stoppage, with L.A. holding onto a 2-1 lead over Colorado, after referee Ramon Hernandez whistled David Junior Lopes for a phantom foul against Andre Akpan. Saunders guessed right and leapt left to repel Omar Cummings' penalty and nail down the win.
It was justice at work, and that was a big deal.
“I've been doing this awhile, and very few times does the ball lie,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “Josh still had to make a great play on it, but it's funny how things work out that way. It was a big save for us. You never know how things shake out, but that can mean the difference between playoff spot or not, seeding. It could be a Supporters' Shield-saving moment. You never know.”
The points were big, sure, but how it spurs on the Galaxy from here -- starting with Saturday night's Major League Soccer clash with FC Dallas at Home Depot Center -- could define this campaign.
“It's always easy to judge things and have commentaries afterward,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “We're trying to get ahead of the curve and figure things out before they happen. But I think the save in the Colorado game could be the defining moment in the season. It was unfortunate, the call [awarding the penalty kick], and nine times out of 10 we walk away with a point on the road there [rather than three points]. I think, hopefully, that gives us the kind of momentum we need.”
David Beckham noted that “situations like that can always bring teams together ... psych a team up and push us into a different level.” Saunders noted last year's such moment, a 0-0 draw at San Jose in which Mike Magee admirably stepped into the nets after starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts suffered a broken arm and Saunders was red-carded. The Galaxy lost just once in their next dozen games to make the Supporters' Shield race a romp -- although, to be fair, they hadn't lost in nearly two months to start with.
“Through the course of the year, you need a couple things like that to happen ...,” Saunders said. “You do hope those are moments that do change a season around. Hopefully, [last week's save] is a little bit of a turning point for us.”
WORTH NOTING: Saunders' save was a finalist for MLS Save of the Week, won by Sporting Kansas City's Jimmy Nielsen. Cummings' second-half goal was a finalist for MLS Goal of the Week, won by Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman. ... This is the first of three games in eight days for L.A., which plays Wednesday at Seattle and is home next Saturday against New York. ... Magee, listed earlier this week as questionable with a bruised quadriceps, says he's fine and ready to play. Juninho, with a bruised ankle, was added Friday to the injury list, as questionable. ... Midfielder Andrew Jacobson could return for Dallas. He was among four starters to miss Wednesday's draw vs. Real Salt Lake. ... The Galaxy lead the all-time series, 33-23-9, with a 26-19-9 mark in MLS regular-season games (19-5-3 at home). ... L.A. has no shutouts in six games (eight, if you count the CONCACAF Champions League matches). They needed more than seven games to post a clean sheet just three times, in 1997 (10th game), 2003 (ninth) and 2006 (15th). The last two were the seasons following the first two MLS Cup triumphs. Their first shutout in 2002 was in the seventh game. ... Arena, on Brazilian center back Leonardo, who made his first appearance in more than a year in a reserve match last week: “He's got a way to go. He's not been involved in a whole lot. He's always eligible [to come off the disabled list], but he's far from being ready to play.” ... Goalkeeper Brian Perk, out with a sports hernia, is slated to return fully to training next week.
- THE OPPONENT
Head coach: Schellas Hyndman.
Key players: M David Ferreira, D/M Jackson Goncalves, G Kevin Hartman, M Daniel Hernandez, D Ugo Ihemelu, D George John, D Zach Loyd, F Blas Perez, M/F Brek Shea, M Ricardo Villar.
Local guys: Hartman (Palos Verdes Estates/UCLA and Cal State Dominguez Hills), G Chris Seitz (San Luis Obispo/Thousand Oaks).
Update: 2010 MLS MVP Ferreira's return from a broken foot has taken another downward turn, and Dallas isn't quite the same team when he's not on the field. Not that its a bad side -- there's talent, and Jackson's return a week ago from loan to Cruzeiro has added to the weaponry. But since beating New York in the opener, the Hoops are 2-3-2 (the wins at home against New England and Montreal, with a 3-9-2 mark between them) and coming off a 1-0 loss last weekend in Vancouver and a 1-1 draw at home Wednesday night against Real Salt Lake. Shea is the rising star, capable of incredible feats but maddeningly streaky, and Perez, coming off a one-game suspension, has been among MLS's best strikers to start the season. Hartman has missed the last two games, but Seitz has been fine in his place.
- INJURY REPORT
Out: D Omar Gonzalez (left ACL tear), D Leonardo (right ACL/LCL tears), G Brian Perk (sports hernia surgery).
Questionable: M David Beckham (hamstring strain), M Juninho (right ankle contusion), M Mike Magee (left quadriceps contusion).
Out: M David Ferreira (right foot surgery), M Carlos Rodriguez (left elbow dislocation), M Ricardo Villar (right foot strain), M Andrew Wiedeman (sports hernia surgery).
Questionable: G Kevin Hartman (lower back spasms), M Bryan Leyva (left ankle sprain).
- THE GAME
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
TV: KDOC (Channel 56, English) and KWHY (Channel 22, Spanish, 8 p.m.)
Radio: K-Talk (KTLK-AM/1150, English) and ESPN Deportes (KWKW-AM/1330, Spanish)