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Sunday, October 16, 2011
Barrett, Galaxy conquer Goats

By Scott French

CARSON -- Chad Barrett came so close to scoring about a minute into Sunday's match. And again 15 or so minutes later. And twice more just before halftime.

He finally got it right on his fifth chance, nodding home an Adam Cristman cross in the 53rd minute, and the Galaxy captured the SuperClasico for the sixth time in seven seasons -- and fourth year in a row -- with a 1-0 triumph over cross-stadium rival Chivas USA in front of a capacity crowd at Home Depot Center.

Chad Barrett
The Galaxy's Chad Barrett easily could have easily had four or five goals Sunday, but one was enough to beat Chivas USA.
Both sides welcomed back star central defenders -- Gregg Berhalter going the full 90 while wearing the captain's armband for L.A., Heath Pearce coming on at halftime for the Goats -- and the Galaxy didn't bother suiting up Landon Donovan, whose quad injury, coach Bruce Arena said, was accentuated by a “knock” sustained in training.

It's far more important that Donovan, who was honored after the game as L.A.'s team MVP, be ready for Thursday night's CONCACAF Champions League group finale against Motagua in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, a must-win game for the Galaxy to advance to next year's quarterfinals in the regional club championship.

This SuperClasico showdown meant virtually nothing. L.A., which also was without injured forward Robbie Keane and right-sided midfielder/defender Sean Franklin, has clinched its second straight Supporters' Shield as regular-season champion, and Chivas' playoff hopes died a dozen days earlier.

Nonetheless, there on the whiteboard in the Galaxy locker room was a list of priorities, arranged chronologically: Chivas, Motagua, MLS Cup title. A big check was next to “Chivas” afterward.

The victory completed an unbeaten regular season at home for L.A. (19-4-10), provided a share of the league single-season shutout record -- the Galaxy can claim sole ownership with an 18th clean sheet next Sunday in Houston -- and left them one point away (with 67) from MLS's points record, set by the Galaxy in 1998.

Had that team played under current rules, it would have amassed 70 points. A victory in Houston will leave L.A. with 70 points.

This triumph came down to two big defensive plays -- Omar Gonzalez blocking a shot by former teammate Juan Pablo Angel in the L.A. box in the 72nd minute, and Todd Dunivant's sliding stop to keep Angel from shooting after a spin move juked Berhalter out of position in the 87th -- and Barrett, who with better fortune and more clinical finishing could have erased former Galaxy star Clint Mathis' league record for goals in a game: five, set Aug. 26, 2000, for the MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls) in a 6-4 win over Dallas.

Barrett could have scored six. Maybe Barrett should have scored six.

“We just told him [at halftime] to score a goal, simple as that ...,” David Beckham said. “He had a few to choose from. It was good to see [him score]. Shows character: You have a few chances you don't score -- goal scorers are like that. Another one comes along straightaway, so it was great to see him put one away.

“It could definitely be a hat trick. It could have been probably more, but, you know, one will do. He'll take one, we'll take one, and it's three points.”

A quick look at the Galaxy's victory:

BEST PLAYER: Barrett is playing with so much confidence that even when he misses should-score chances -- and he missed more than a couple -- you can't help but be impressed.

The veteran forward constantly found his way into dangerous places, and he should have had a hat trick, at the least.

But Andy Boyens made a save on the goal line after Barrett beat Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy in the opening minute, Kennedy sensationally slapped away Barrett's bicycle attempt in the 18th minute, and the forward's powerful 17-yard header from Dunivant's cross in the 39th caromed off the left post.

He nodded just wide from a Beckham free kick just before halftime and nearly got to a sizzling diagonal ball from Dunivant into Chivas' goalmouth in the 63rd minute.

BEST GOAL: Barrett should be getting the nod for the audacious bike in the 18th minute or the header off the post in the 39th. He instead wins for the header eight minutes into the second half.

The play went perfectly for the Galaxy. Mike Magee sent a long header from Kennedy's goal kick back into Chivas territory, for Barrett to flick on to Cristman over on the right. Cristman eluded a defender as Barrett sprinted to the Goats box, a few steps in front of Zarek Valentin, and there was no way he wasn't going to put Cristman's cross away.

“First one [at the start of the game], I should have slipped past [Kennedy],” Barrett said. “I beat him in the first [meeting] -- I put it in the side-netting, so I tried to do the same thing, and good clear off the line by Boyens. The bike was an unbelievable save. And then the header, just really unlucky.

“The one that Adam put in was inch-perfect, and I just made a good run to the far post, and I was there to slam it home. That's the position I want to be in for the easy tap-ins, but I also want to score the goals I'm supposed to.”

BIGGEST STRUGGLE: L.A. didn't finish all of its chances and was spotty defensively -- Dunivant called it “naīve” -- over the last half-hour. Chivas (8-13-12) wasn't sharp with the ball and struggled to create chances. And the intensity usually associated with a rivalry game was missing.

“They were kind of playing for pride, at the end of the day. Obviously, they're not in the playoffs,” Beckham noted. “I think if they had been fighting for something, it would have been a different story. If we would have been fighting for something, then different story. ... I think it was a somber kind of game, really.”

Angel wasn't happy with what Chivas created.

“At the end of the day, I was the only [attacker] in the box the majority of the time ...,” he said. “The chances weren't clear. ...”

“We weren't good enough with the ball early on, and as a result, turnovers put us behind the eight-ball,” Goats head coach Robin Fraser said. “Certainly, they are a smart and efficient team, so if you turn the ball over, they're going to be dangerous. ... At times I thought our buildup was a bit too slow, which allowed them to get numbers back in the box.

“I think we were able to create a few half-chances or better than half-chances -- I'd say half-chances -- but we probably could have been a little neater with them, and certainly the Galaxy's defense were extremely committed to doing what they needed to do.”

WORTH NOTING: The Galaxy became the third MLS team to go a full season unbeaten at home, wrapping up a 12-0-5 home campaign and extending their home regular-season unbeaten streak to a club-record 18 games (13-0-5). ... The first two teams unbeaten at home: San Jose (9-0-7 in 2005) and Real Salt Lake (11-0-4 last year). ... The Galaxy went 17 regular-season home games without a loss from July 4, 2004, until July 16, 2005, going 11-0-6. ... The league record is 29 games, set by Real Salt Lake over the last three seasons. ... L.A. tied Kansas City's league mark for shutouts in a season. K.C., which set the record en route to a Supporters' Shield/MLS Cup double in 2000, did it in 32 games. The Galaxy needed 33. ...

The Riot Squad fan group gave its Player of the Year award to Gonzalez. ... Arena on Keane, whose injury -- aggravated while playing nine days ago for Ireland, is being described by the Galaxy as an “adductor strain”: “Robbie will be back at some point. That injury is very hard to set a specific time [for return]. But we're hopeful it's sooner than later, and, hopefully, he's ready for our first playoff game [on Oct. 29 or 30], but we're going to do what makes sense. If he needs more time, he's going to get more time.” ... L.A. has a 12-game unbeaten streak (8-0-4) against the Goats since the start of the 2008 season. ... The Galaxy is 12-1 in one-goal MLS games this year and has nine 1-0 victories.

FINAL JUDGMENT: “I wouldn't say [we were] unlucky,” Arena said. “We didn't take advantage of some of our opportunities. That's on us. That's not bad luck. That's maybe not being clean enough in the penalty area to finish off a play.”

NEXT: The Galaxy play Thursday at Motagua (Honduras) in a CONCACAF Champions League Group A finale, 7 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel) and Sunday, Oct. 23, in their final MLS regular-season game at Houston, 4 p.m. (Fox Sports West and Galavision). Chivas finishes its season Saturday against Seattle at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22). Home Depot Center (Carson)
Galaxy 1, Chivas USA 0

LA -- Chad Barrett (Adam Cristman) 53

Galaxy: Josh Saunders; A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, Gregg Berhalter, Todd Dunivant; Paolo Cardozo, David Beckham, Juninho (Michael Stephens, 61), Mike Magee; Adam Cristman (Chris Birchall, 73), Chad Barrett (Jovan Kirovski, 85). Unused subs: Dan Keat, Miguel Lopez, Dasan Robinson, Donovan Ricketts.

Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; Zarek Valentin, Andrew Boyens, David Junior Lopes (Heath Pearce, 46), Ante Jazic; Michael Lahoud (Laurent Courtois, 59), Ben Zemanski, Nick LaBrocca, Marcos Mondaini; Alejandro Moreno, Juan Pablo Angel. Unused subs: Simon Elliott, Victor Estupiņan, Jorge Flores, Blair Gavin, Zach Thornton.

Yellow cards: Berhalter 57, Angel 61, Jazic 75.

Referee: Jair Marrufo. Att.: 27,000. In the playoffs:
1. *W1-Galaxy 67 points (ceiling 70)
2. *W2-Seattle 60 (63)
3. W3-Real Salt Lake 52 (55)
4. WC1-FC Dallas 52 (55)
5. E1-Sporting Kansas City 48 (51)
6. E2-Philadelphia 48 (51)
7. E3-Columbus 47 (50)
8. WC2-Colorado 46 (49)
9. WC3-Houston 46 (49)

In the top 10:
10. WC4-New York 43 (46)

In the mix:
11. Portland 40 (46)
12. Chicago 40 (43)
13. D.C. United 38 (44)

Eliminated:
14. Chivas USA 36 (39)
15. San Jose 35 (38)
16. Toronto FC 32 (35)
17. Vancouver 28 (31)
18. New England 27 (30)

W -- Western Conference; E -- Eastern Conference; WC -- Wild card; * -- clinched position