CARSON -- The Galaxy are living and dying from the penalty spot these days, and after the turn of events early in the second half Saturday night, it didn't look as if there was a whole lot of life in them.
Ah, appearances can be deceiving.
Pat Noonan netted a huge first goal with L.A., finishing a stoppage-time scramble in FC Dallas' box to deliver a 1-1 draw in an often invigorating clash that was otherwise defined by Bill Gaudette's fine play in the nets and a pair of penalty kicks that looked certain to doom the Galaxy to another home defeat.
They instead pulled out a point with an ending that, if not enough to nail down a third successive victory, could be as galvanizing as Josh Saunders' penalty-kick stop to beat Colorado a week ago.
“We getting a goal in extra time, can't be complaining about the point,” said head coach Bruce Arena, who might have had reason to complain anyway. “It's that simple. We missed a penalty. We had some good chances during the game. There weren't a whole lot of chances in the game for either team, but we had enough to get ourselves two or three goals and didn't. ... The team plays that hard and gets a point at the end like that, I think that's a positive.”
Robbie Keane missed the penalty kick, with a chance to take the lead in the 49th minute, and Brek Shea converted from the spot 12 minutes later to provide Dallas an advantage that lasted almost to the finish. But Arena made smart substitutions -- Adam Cristman, Chad Barrett and Noonan, all of them second-half submissions, combined on the winning goal -- and L.A. (3-3-1) got more than they might have on a night in which they weren't quite crisp enough.
Gaudette, making his first-team debut for L.A., was outstanding in place of Saunders, who bowed out to deal with what the team called “personal matters.” The veteran keeper has a history at HDC -- he made his first MLS appearance here in 2005 for Columbus and two years ago helped the Puerto Rico Islanders to a 4-1 win over the Galaxy in the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round -- so when he saw his name on the board when he walked into the locker room Saturday afternoon, he was ready.
He made three huge saves -- diving to stop George John's quick deflection of a Daniel Hernandez free kick in the 18th minute, parrying Shea in the 21st and leaping to tip away a looping, off-balance Blas Perez header moments after Keane's miss -- but committed the foul that gave Shea the ball at the spot.
Most of the blame on that play goes to David Junior Lopes, making his third start since arriving in a trade from Chivas nearly three weeks ago. Lopes struggled with the ball at his feet the entire match and made several mistakes, none as debilitating as his poor attempt to chest the ball from a Jair Benitez cross back to Gaudette.
Perez raced past him to take possession, and Gaudette took him down. Shea's shot left Gaudette no chance.
“It's one of those instances that we didn't do the best possible we could have done as a group,” Gaudette said. “Not just David, myself also.”
Landon Donovan ought to have scored twice in the first half -- he hit the right post after rounding goalkeeper Chris Seitz from Keane's through ball in the 11th minute, and Seitz made a big stop on the goal line after Donovan one-touched a ball from Edson Buddle in a goalmouth scramble following a corner kick just before halftime.
He won the penalty at the start of the second half, dragged down by Benitez after a beautiful curling ball put him into the Hoops' box, then told Keane to take the kick.
Donovan had taken all 20 MLS regular-season penalties for the Galaxy since June 2007, converting 18 of them. Keane, taking his first, fired wide right.
“I just told Robbie I wanted him to take it,” Donovan said. “He did everything right, except he mishit it a little bit. It's a guy who has taken many penalties and made many penalties, and I'm sure the next time he takes one, it'll go in.”
Why did he give it to Keane?
“Just to get him going,” Donovan replied. “It's been a little while since [the forwards] have hit the net. We're trying to get them more chances, and we're not doing a good enough job getting them in front of the goal, so I thought it would help them a little bit.”
Keane left the locker room before reporters were admitted.
Said Arena: “I'll be honest with you. If any team has the choice of Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, or Beckham, taking penalty kicks, you're real happy. The easiest thing to do is in the aftermath, then be critical, saying 'missed a kick.' There aren't any better players in the world to take penalties than Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan. We missed it tonight.”
The equalizer arrived in the second minute of stoppage. Donovan sent a ball into the box from the left flank, and it cleared Cristman and fell to Benitez, who mistouched it. Cristman knocked it away to Barrett, who fed it back to Noonan. His shot through traffic hit the net.
“I'm looking at [Barrett], he wasn't looking at me, but he heard me,” Noonan said. “That's what he said. And he laid it off perfectly.”
Could he imagine a better first goal with a club?
“If it would have been a win.”
WORTH NOTING: Arena said he'd “know a little bit more next week” about Saunders' availability for games Wednesday in Seattle and next Saturday at HDC against New York. ... Brian Perk, who is slated to resume full training next week after recovering from sports-hernia surgery, was the backup goalkeeper. Arena said he could have played if required. ... Said Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman: “I told our guys: If you're going to be up a goal on any team in the league, on their field, you don't want it to be L.A. They just have so many firepowers, they serve the ball well, they change the point of attack well, so physical in the box. I think we did a fantastic job holding out as long as we did.” ... The Hoops (3-3-3) were playing their third game in eight days. They lost last weekend at Vancouver and tied Real Salt Lake last weekend.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Home Depot Center (Carson)
Galaxy 1, FC Dallas 1
FCD -- Brek Shea pen. 61
LA -- Pat Noonan (Chad Barrett) 92+
Galaxy: Bill Gaudette; Sean Franklin, A.J. DeLaGarza, David Junior Lopes (Pat Noonan, 81), Todd Dunivant; Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Juninho, Mike Magee (Chad Barrett, 74); Edson Buddle (Adam Cristman, 74), Robbie Keane. Unused subs: Bryan Jordan, Tommy Meyer, Brian Perk, Michael Stephens.
FC Dallas: Chris Seitz; Zach Loyd, George John, Ugo Ihemelu, Jair Benitez; Daniel Hernandez; Fabian Castillo (Scott Sealy, 93+), Jackson Goncalves, Andrew Jacobson (Matt Hedges, 82), Brek Shea (Hernan Pertuz, 76); Blas Perez. Unused subs: Bruno Guarda, Ruben Luna, Richard Sanchez, Bobby Warshaw.
Yellow cards: Shea 4, Castillo 19, Benitez 48, Gaudette 60, Cristman 83, Beckham 95+.
Referee: Ricardo Salazar. Att.: 23,249.
Records: Galaxy 3-3-1, 10 points; FC Dallas 3-3-3, 12 points.