Wednesday, July 4, 2012
GALAXY: Omar's return not nearly enough
By Scott French
A.J. DeLaGarza reacts to a first-half call, one of many frustrating moments for the Galaxy in a loss.
CARSON -- Omar Gonzalez was back on the field, and the Galaxy so dominated portions of the action Wednesday night that they should have been fairly certain of a victory well before halftime arrived.
Those were the pluses from the annual Fourth of July festivities at Home Depot Center, but they were greatly outnumbered by all that went wrong: squandered chances, defensive breakdowns, an inability to close out halves.
It all added up to a 2-1 loss to Philadelphia that, following last weekend's collapse against San Jose, has all but erased the glowing memories of the three-game winning streak that suggested the old Galaxy, the championship Galaxy, was back.
SoCal boy Michael Farfan set up one goal and scored the other, netting the winner five minutes into second-half stoppage, to give the Union (4-9-2, 14 points) their first win in five meetings with L.A. (6-10-2, 20 points), which kept pace with fifth-place Colorado in the Western Conference but lost ground to Real Salt Lake, Seattle and Vancouver, which sit second through fourth.
“The reality is we should be five wins in a row right now, and now we find ourselves behind the eight-ball a little bit again,” captain Landon Donovan said. “It's difficult to take, but the reality is now it's over. We can either moan about it or we can wake up tomorrow morning and get ready for [Sunday's game at] Chicago.”
The Galaxy created more than a half-dozen outstanding chances but managed to stick just one of them, Chad Barrett's 73rd-minute equalizer after Robbie Keane got the slightest of touches to a feed from Todd Dunivant. It wasn't nearly enough.
Keane ought to have had a hat trick in the first 25 minutes, David Junior Lopes hit the crossbar in the second half, and had David Beckham not been stuck in a luxury box -- next to Chelsea's Frank Lampard, rumored to be in L.A.'s sights -- following his foolish red card in the loss to San Jose, the Galaxy might have gotten something out of two late, close-range free kicks, one of them in the semicircle.
Keane's first two chances -- after pushing through two defenders at the top of the box, then beating goalkeeper Zac MacMath on the dribble in the fourth minute, then after stepping past MacMath to the left of the net in the 11th -- were cleared off the goal line, by Carlos Valdes and then Sheanon Williams. His third, a blast inside the box in the 25th, was parried by MacMath, who faced 16 shots but had to make just four saves.
“We gave the game away,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “That's a game we should have walked away comfortably with three points, in my opinion. Too many chances in the first half that were wasted. Poor concentration at the end of the first half cost us a goal. And just an extremely poor effort at the end of the game to get exposed and to give up the point we worked so hard to get.”
Philly managed just four decent chances all game, and it beautifully converted two of them through Farfan, who is from Wildomar and played at Cal State Fullerton before leading North Carolina to the NCAA College Cup final four.
The Union went ahead in the first minute of first-half stoppage, with Farfan beating Lopes on the right wing to the byline, then cutting a ball toward the near post. Jack McInerney, with A.J. DeLaGarza on his back, niftily back-heeling the ball just inside the far post.
The other goal came in the 95th minute. Lionard Pajoy, battling two defenders on the left flank, suddenly back-heeled toward the box. Farfan collected, squared up, and curled the ball past Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders and inside the right post.
“For Michael, the work that he did the whole game ... he was Superman,” Philadelphia head coach John Hackworth said. “He's going up and down, he's a playmaker, he's defending, and then to be able to pull off that kind of classy finish at the end was fantastic.”
Arena noted that “each game we get a couple guys that make a few mental and tactical mistakes that punish us” and that “we've lost a bunch of games we should have won. We should be a team sitting with 30-some-odd points. This is not about playing poorly for 18 games. This is about playing poorly in a couple of spots in 18 games, and it's cost us severely.
“Tonight, in my view, there's a bunch of chances we had to take in the first half to comfortably position ourselves in this game, and instead we go into halftime down a goal.”
Gonzalez's return to the lineup was the feel-good part of the story. Last year's MLS Defender of the Year, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in early January, was activated Tuesday after playing 45 minutes in a scrimmage Monday against L.A.'s U-17/18 Academy team.
Gonzalez looked all right, didn't have a lot to do -- Philly had virtually no offense until scoring its first goal -- and was genuinely pleased with the evening, even with the result.
“I felt really good. I was happy to get out there,” said Gonzalez, who came off at halftime. “I was pretty nervous the whole day, but once the referee blew the whistle, I was ready to go and feel comfortable. ... I had thoughts about [whether I was really ready] during the day, but I think that just talking to medical staff again, talking to Bert [Mandelbaum, the Galaxy's surgeon] and Armando [Rivas, the head trainer] and everybody that was involved in the whole process, and seeing that they were so confident in me coming back, it just gave me all the confidence in the world to be ready for anything.”
WORTH NOTING: DeLaGarza started at right back and moved into the middle for the second half, after Sean Franklin came on for Gonzalez. ... In addition to Lampard, U.S. national-teamer Maurice Edu -- looking for a club after Scottish power Rangers FC's financial implosion -- was on hand. The midfielder from Fontana played with Toronto FC before heading to Europe. ... Chivas USA defender Danny Califf, who arrived in a trade from Philly a month and a half ago, also watched the game, and he was quite pleased with the result. ... The Galaxy has double-digit losses for the first time since 2008, when they went 8-13-9 under Ruud Gullit and Arena and missed the playoffs for the third straight year. They've conceded 29 goals in 18 league games after surrendering 28 goals over 34 games last year. ... L.A. fell to 9-5-3 in Independence Day games, 5-2-3 on the Fourth at Home Depot Center. ... This was the seventh sellout in 10 Fourth of July games at HDC and the third in 10 home games this year. ... L.A. is 1-5-1 against Eastern Conference teams this year, with games remaining Sunday at Chicago, Aug. 15 at Columbus and Sept. 22 against Toronto FC at HDC. ... The Galaxy's scheduled MLS Reserve League game next week against Chivas has been postponed, with no new date set.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Home Depot Center (Carson)
Galaxy 1, Philadelphia Union 2 P -- Jack McInerney (Michael Farfan) 46+
LA -- Chad Barrett (Robbie Keane, Todd Dunivant) 73
P -- Michael Farfan (Lionard Pajoy) 95+
Galaxy: Josh Saunders; A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzaloez (Sean Franklin, 46), David Junior Lopes, Todd Dunivant; Hector Jimenez (Chad Barrett, 60), Juninho, Marcelo Sarvas, Mike Magee; Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan. Unused subs: Bryan Gaul, Bryan Jordan, Tommy Meyer, Brian Perk, Michael Stephens.
Philadelphia Union: Zac MacMath; Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan; Freddy Adu (Antoine Hoppenot, 71), Michael Lahoud (Gabriel Gomez, 61), Brian Carroll, Keon Daniel (Lionard Pajoy, 75); Jack McInerney, Michael Farfan. Unused subs: Chris Albright, Raymon Gaddis, Chris Konopka, Roger Torres.
Yellow cards: Valdes 14, Okugo 70, MacMath 78, DeLaGarza 97+.
Referee: Armando Villarreal. Att.: 27,000.
Records: Galaxy 6-10-2, 20 points; Philadelphia 4-9-2, 14 points.