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Sunday, July 10, 2011
GALAXY: Beckham turns the corner

By Scott French

David Beckham and Omar Gonzalez
David Beckham celebrates his corner-kick goal with Omar Gonzalez after giving the Galaxy a 2-1 lead.

CARSON, Calif. -- David Beckham remembers the last time he curled in a corner kick for a goal. It was 16 years ago, during a brief loan spell to Preston North End early in his glorious Manchester United career.

The one before that? That's tougher.

“I'm not sure I've scored another one,” he said, “since I was playing Sunday-league football as a kid.”

He scored one Saturday night, threading it low through a crowd and into the far-post netting in the 65th minute to send the Galaxy (10-2-9) to a 2-1 triumph over the Chicago Fire at Home Depot Center.




He set up L.A.'s other goal from a corner kick, too, finding Landon Donovan for a header at the far post in the 58th minute, as the Galaxy extended their unbeaten streak to a dozen games and joined FC Dallas as the only Major League Soccer clubs to post double-digit wins this season.

The victory came in a tough encounter in which the Fire (2-5-12) had the better of play for long stretches, taking advantage of a somewhat makeshift lineup forged by a growing injury crisis that sent four more players -- including A.J. DeLaGarza, who suffered a scary head injury in the Fourth of July draw with Seattle -- to the sidelines, joining the likes of starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and three others.

It was a meaningful match for Beckham, who played sparingly last week after missing the previous two games because of a fractured spine. He wasn't expecting to go the full 90, but he gritted through from start to finish, bringing great energy, improving the level of L.A.'s passing -- and delivering those two corners for goals.

“He's a warrior, man,” praised Donovan, who pulled even with New York's Thierry Henry for the league lead in goals with his ninth of the season. “Since he's been here, he's played through a lot of injuries. He's spent a lot of time off the field, so I think he wants to do everything he can this year to play as much as possible, and he's playing through a lot of pain. I'm impressed.”

Beckham has been in pain, but he felt pretty good Saturday night, and that was apparent with his set pieces, which provided L.A.'s only legitimate scoring opportunities.

Gregg Berhalter nearly finished a Beckham corner at the near post in the third minute, Donovan got above Gonzalo Segares to nod back across the goalmouth and into the far-post netting to give the Galaxy the lead, and Beckham's winner arrived just three minutes after Cristian Nazarit got between Berhalter and Todd Dunivant to head home a Patrick Nyarko cross that tied the score.

“I felt on Thursday I had a lot of pain in my back, and Friday I woke up, and it got 90 percent better,” Beckham reported afterward. “And this morning I woke up with hardly any pain.

“I didn't expect to play 90 minutes, but, you know, I think with 25, 20 minutes to go, Bruce [Arena] said, 'I'm going to give you five minutes,' and I seemed to get a second wind. I told him that, and he left me on. Thankfully, I did, because I got the goal.”

There was good news on DeLaGarza: A battery of tests showed he did not suffer a concussion when Seattle's Fredy Montero kicked him in the head Monday -- he's been diagnosed with a bruised face -- and Arena said he thought the versatile defender would be ready to go for L.A.'s next league game, July 20 against Columbus.

Forward Chad Barrett (sprained ankle) and right back Sean Franklin (hamstring strain) weren't available, and midfielder Mike Magee was scratched because of a tight hamstring. Center back Omar Gonzalez, who sustained a hip pointer against Seattle, went the full 90 and played well.

A quick look at the Galaxy's victory:

BEST PLAYER: Given all he has overcome and the passion and effectiveness with which he played for 90 minutes, Beckham is a definite candidate for MLS Player of the Week. But the best player on the field, without question and by a significant margin, was Nyarko, who toyed all night with the Galaxy defense -- he was matched up with inexperienced Bryan Jordan, filling in for Franklin -- and created chance after chance.

He was at his best setting up Nazarit's goal and on back-to-back chances in the 13th minute, cutting in from the left to set up a Marco Pappa shot that sent goalkeeper Josh Saunders to the ground, then making a brilliant run into the box, fending off Chris Birchall and racing past Gonzalez. He almost certainly would have scored had Berhalter not slid in at the last moment to block the shot.

BEST GOAL: Beckham scored one of his more memorable goals to give L.A. the victory, bending a corner kick from the left wing through a scrum of players at the near post, past Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson and inside the far-post netting.

“I saw the goalkeeper cheating a little bit, going out of the goal, and I saw a little bit of a gap,” Beckham said. “And I knew if I put it in an area it was either going to get a touch off somebody or it was going to go straight in. So luckily it went straight in.”

BIGGEST STRUGGLE: The match ended in controversy after Birchall's bruising tackle took down Nyarko in stoppage time, which led to a lot of shoving, to Fire forward Dominic Oduro being chased off the field and to Fire coach Frank Klopas angrily confronting fourth official Tyler Ploeger.

Fire defender Josip Mikulic was red-carded from the bench, but Birchall escaped with a yellow card, and he and Nyarko departed with injuries.

Arena said “there's no question in my mind” that a yellow card was the appropriate sanction for Birchall and that the tackle “was fairly harmless, to be honest with you,” but Birchall acknowledged he was fearful he would see red.

“A bit, but only on the aspect that it caused a bit of a riot,” he said. “If that wasn't the case, it would have been a yellow, and as it was, I think the referee [rookie David Gantar] saw that it was a mistimed tackle, but it wasn't meant to be vicious. I probably came out of it worse [than Nyarko].”

Klopas wasn't too forgiving. Asked if it was a red-card foul, he said: “In my opinion, 100 percent. But hopefully the league will review it, and they they'll act accordingly.”

WORTH NOTING: The Galaxy's lead in the Western Conference and Supporters' Shield standings is up to five points following FC Dallas' 2-0 loss at Real Salt Lake. ... Forward Adam Cristman made his second appearance of the season, coming on in the 77th minute for Juan Pablo Angel, providing energy and holding the ball as L.A. held on for the win. ... Defender Kyle Davies and rookie winger Hector Jimenez made their first appearances on the Galaxy's 18-man game roster, but neither got onto the field. ... The Fire, Klopas said, “totally outfought, outplayed, outshot the [Galaxy], but we hurt ourselves with the set pieces ... and when you give up opportunities from set pieces to a player who's probably the best in the world at it [Beckham, of course], you put yourself at risk.” ... The Fire outshot L.A., 14-8, with a 7-3 advantage in shots on goals. ... Chicago's eight-game unbeaten streak was halted, and so was its stretch of four straight ties, including last weekend's 1-1 decision at HDC against Chivas USA.

FINAL JUDGMENT: “It feels good to win,” Donovan said. “We haven't played very well lately. Today wasn't perfect, but we were a lot better. Our energy was better. Our commitment was better. We passed the ball better. We made the plays we needed to to win.”

NEXT: Wednesday in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal vs. Seattle in Tukwila, Wash., 7:30. Then: Saturday, July 16, vs. Real Madrid at the Coliseum, 7 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes). Next league game: Wednesday, July 20 vs. Columbus at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket)

Home Depot Center (Carson)
Galaxy 2, Chicago Fire 1

LA -- Landon Donovan (David Beckham) 58
C -- Cristian Nazarit (Patrick Nyarko) 62
LA -- David Beckham 66

Galaxy: Josh Saunders; Bryan Jordan, Omar Gonzalez, Gregg Berhalter, Todd Dunivant; Chris Birchall (Michael Stephens, 94+), David Beckham, Juninho; Paolo Cardozo (Miguel Lopez, 67); Juan Pablo Angel (Adam Cristman, 77), Landon Donovan. Unused subs: Kyle Davies, Hector Jimenez, Jovan Kirovski, Brian Perk.

Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson; Jalil Anibaba (Diego Chaves, 78), Yamith Cuesta, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares; Marco Pappa (Orr Barouch, 82), Logan Pause, Daniel Paladini, Patrick Nyarko (Bratislav Ristic, 95+); Cristian Nazarit, Dominic Oduro.

Yellow cards: Paladini 64, Chaves 91+, Birchall 94+. Red card: Mikulic 95+.

Referee: David Gantar. Att.: 21,762.