Los Angeles Soccer: Bryan Jordan
The Brazilian center back went the full 90 minutes, not by plan, in L.A.'s third-round loss in Cary, N.C., to the Carolina RailHawks, who will be home for next week's round-of-16 clash against Chivas USA, the third successive Southern California side the second-tier club will face in the nearly century-old competition.
That's about it on the plus side.
The Galaxy's season-long slide dipped a little deeper with the 2-1 defeat, in which they surrendered a lead for the third straight game and were beaten for the sixth time in seven outings. No, they didn't have their big guns -- only Chad Barrett, Leonardo and maybe David Junior Lopes among the first XI could be considered “starters,” and none are first choice at their positions. One of the lessons from an evening in which seven of 14 Major League Soccer clubs in action were eliminated by lower-division foes: Those who used virtual first-choice lineups won, and those who didn't lost.
It was more pronounced for the Galaxy, which had to spend all three substitutions on injuries -- one of them apparently significant -- and was unable to make tactical swaps nor pull off fatigued players as Carolina took charge down the stretch.
Hector Jimenez's demise was the low point. He had to be carted off, RailHawks midfielder Amir Lowery on one shoulder, with a knee injury after a rough tackle near the end of the first half. He couldn't put weight on his left leg, and it looked serious. The Galaxy have provided no updates but he'll undergo a scan now that the team is back in Los Angeles.
Barrett left while cramping 20 minutes into the second half. Bryan Gaul, who like Jimenez has seen increased first-team time, left just before Ty Shipalane's 75th-minute equalizer after he was hit in the face during an aerial battle in the Galaxy box. His left eye was puffed up, but it appeared to be nothing serious.
“Three guys who have actually been playing game and three guys that would have been good to go 90 minutes,” midfielder Michael Stephens noted in his postgame media session. “It was really unfortunate, and I think you saw that. A lot of guys ran out of legs down the stretch.”
Include Leonardo in that group. He'd played just twice in games this spring -- 11 minutes in an April 24 reserve friendly against the L.A. Blues and one half in an MLS Reserve League game with San Jose on May 8 -- and was on the 18-man roster, but did not play, in the last three league games.
“Remarkable we got 90 minutes out of him tonight ...,” Arena said. “We didn't anticipate him playing that long, but once we had those injuries and we had to make all our changes, he had to stay in there. He did a good job. He obviously got tired at the end.”
No David Beckham. No Robbie Keane. No Todd Dunivant. No Josh Saunders. Two more starters on the bench. Only two first-team players in their favored spots.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena sure did rotate his lineup for Wednesday night's Major League Soccer showdown in Seattle, and it showed. L.A. never really challenged the Sounders in a 2-0 defeat, struggling to get a grip on CenturyLink Field's artificial surface and paying a heavy price for some rather passive defending.
Eddie Johnson scored on a header just before halftime and Fredy Montero sent a 35-yard riser into the upper-left corner at the start of the second half as Seattle (5-1-1) beat the Galaxy for the first time at home in MLS play before a full house of 39,002, second-best in the league this year.
“Give Seattle credit. In a span of about eight minutes, we lost the game,” Arena told media in Seattle after the game. “We would have liked to go into halftime even and put a little pressure on them after the half, but we weren’t able to do it. ... We technically weren't good. Our guys struggled on the turf to get any kind of crosses in front of the goal. We weren't able to get any shots on the fame. It results in us not really being able to test their goalkeeper.”
The Galaxy (3-4-1), who didn't drop their fourth game last year until October, were playing the second of a three-games-in-eight-days set, and Arena -- mindful of the hated turf -- left home over-30s Beckham, Keane and Dunivant in advance of Saturday's game at Home Depot Center against New York. Saunders is missing for “personal reasons,” reportedly a stint in MLS's substance abuse treatment program.
Mike Magee and Edson Buddle started on the bench, Sean Franklin moved into midfield, Marcelo Sarvas took Beckham's spot, and Arena gave rookie Bryan Gaul his MLS debut at left back, with right back Bryan Jordan and striker Adam Cristman making their first starts of the year. Bill Gaudette was back in the nets with another superb showing.
“I think it's a difficult week with the travel and playing on this surface,” Arena said. “We wanted to keep some players fresh for the game on Saturday. That’s the decision I made. We didn’t think we were going to be able to play eleven players in three games, and we had to rotate some players. It made sense to me to have those players available on Saturday.”
Then a tęte-ŕ-tęte on the flank saw Seattle midfielder Christian Sivebaek sent off, and the insertion of three of their brightest young players sparked some life into the Galaxy attack. Reward arrived at the end, with rookie Rafael Garcia's diving header in the 90th minute delivering a 1-0 triumph on Home Depot Center's University Field 1.
The triumph offered a tantalizing glimpse at L.A.'s future, with Garcia -- a former Canoga Park High star taken out of Cal State Northridge in January's supplemental draft -- Home Grown Player Jose Villarreal (Inglewood/Leuzinger HS) and Academy standout Raul Mendiola (San Bernardino/Rialto HS) skillfully carving open the Sounders to create a flurry of chances before the goal arrived.
The Galaxy is high on all three. Assistant coach Curt Onalfo, who guides the reserve side, spoke about each in his postgame scrum with reporters.
- On Mendiola: “He's got great instincts going forward. He reminds me a little of [2010 MLS Rookie of the Year] Andy Najar, when I was [head coach] in D.C. Guys like that, you've got to let them play with their instincts and just create things, and that's certainly what he did when he came into the game.”
- On Villarreal: “Instinctally, he's very, very good, very comfortable on the ball. He's got to continue to develop to the speed of play, and when they do that consistently, that's when you see more success.
- On Garcia: “I love him, I have to say. I’ve always liked him. I loved him in college and was just glad we got him. Sometimes it’s difficult for me and for him, because we’ve got other guys who need to get minutes. Today [Marcelo] Sarvas needed minutes, which meant [Garcia] was coming off the bench. He deserves to be on the field. My message to him was to make the most of your opportunity. Sometimes playing 30 minutes is more important than playing 90, and certainly that was the case today.”
Villarreal, who returned a couple of weeks ago following preseason leg surgery, came on in the 70th, moments after Sivebaek was red-carded for a retalitary foul on rookie left back Bryan Gaul, and provided instant offense, forcing Sounders goalkeeper Bryan Meredith to make a diving save in the 75th, then forcing a tough stop about a minute later, with Kenney Walker's rebound deflecting past the post.
CARSON -- Michael Stephens is expected to be back on the training field Thursday with the Galaxy, and his teammates know it's not where he wants to be.
Stephens was a late substitute in the United States' devastating defeat in an Olympic qualifier Monday night, sent on to help kill off the game. Instead, the Americans surrendered a goal more than four minutes into stoppage, and a 3-3 draw with El Salvador eliminated them from contention for this summer's London Games.
“It's disappointing for everyone,” defender Todd Dunivant said following the Galaxy's practice Tuesday morning at Home Depot Center. “Shows you can't take those things for granted.”
Stephens, a former UCLA star, had not played in the U.S. under-23 national team's first two group games in Nashville. He came on for Joe Corona in the 88th minute of the Group A finale in CONCACAF's qualifying tournament.
“I would have loved for Mikey to play in the Olympics,” said midfielder Mike Magee, who watched the game on television. “That was no way to leave the tournament. It was definitely frustrating when that last goal went in.”
The defeat's larger meaning -- and who deserves blame for the Americans' unexpected failure -- was debated Tuesday across the American soccer landscape. Dunivant and Magee noted that missing the Olympics is not the same as missing a World Cup, for which the U.S. last failed to qualify in 1986.
“I don't think anyone feels devastated,” Magee said. “Obviously, it's not what you want, but the main thing for soccer is definitely the World Cup. We want our young players to do better, and we want to go through [to the finals] at every level, but at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter in terms of the sport in our country.”
Dunivant saw another side.
“Ask any of those guys who were on that field whether this was a big deal or not,” he said. “Those guys had a chance to be in the Olympics, and how many athletes have said they've done that. Any of us would want that. Is it the end of the world? No. But it's certainly a black mark on U.S. soccer right now.”
TORONTO -- Rafael Garcia, whose San Fernando Valley exploits revealed him as one of Southern California's most promising young players, will get his shot at the big time.
The central midfielder from Canoga Park and Cal State Northridge survived preseason with the Galaxy, winning one of the final three roster spots. The Galaxy has not yet announced the deals but are expected to later Tuesday or Wednesday.
Defender Bryan Gaul and midfielder Kenney Walker also signed with the club, giving L.A. 31 players, although only 30 -- the MLS cap -- will count against the roster maximum until Omar Gonzalez, expected to be out until at least September because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, comes off the disabled list. They'll then have to make a roster move.
Garcia, 23, part of the great Canoga Park High School team that won a mythical national championship in 2007, starred at Northridge, participated in Major League Soccer's pre-draft combine in Florida and was selected by the Galaxy in the second round of January's supplemental draft. He impressed in just three preseason match appearances, providing one of the highlights of L.A.'s preparations with a dynamic run to set up a Dan Keat goal in a 3-2 victory Feb. 16 against Chivas USA.
“I'm at a loss for words,” Garcia said following the Galaxy's training session Tuesday afternoon at Rogers Centre, where they'll face Toronto FC in a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg Wednesday night. “I'm really excited to be on the team, and to make it official is just a great feeling.
“I tried my hardest [during preseason]. I worked very hard. I like to think my hard work paid off. I looked at the rest of the midfielders, saw what they were doing, and I learned a lot. I think that was to my benefit, and thank God it all worked out for me.”
Gaul, 22, a 6-foot-5 forward-turned-center back from Bradley University, also was selected in the supplemental draft. He made eight preseason appearances, with three full 90s, primarily partnering Andrew Boyens as a second-choice tandem in the middle.
Walker, 23, a central midfielder from the University of Louisville, was taken in the second round of the SuperDraft after an impressive performance at the combine. He played in seven preseason matches.
Supplemental draft pick Justin Davies, an outside back from San Diego State, and trialist J.T. Murray, an outside back from Louisville who was drafted last year by Sporting Kansas City but did not make the Wizards' roster, were released from camp.
Center back Tommy Meyer, the Galaxy's first-round SuperDraft selection, signed an MLS contract before the draft.
Red cards, seven minutes apart, decided this one, with Beckham's service tearing apart a Real Salt Lake side that was down a man in the 69th, down two in the 76th and didn't surrender a goal until the 80th.
Paolo Cardozo scored on an 80th-minute chip, one of the more embarrassing moments of RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando's career, and Mike Magee exquisitely volleyed home a Beckham delivery six minutes later in a 2-0 triumph in Tucson.
Rookie Kelyn Rowe, from UCLA, scored twice to lift New England past New York, 2-0, in the second game of the doubleheader. Rowe has four goals and four assists in five preseason games. The Galaxy faces New York on Wednesday, and a victory -- and perhaps a draw -- will send them to the tournament final next Saturday.
Beckham came on in the 66th minute, and a Galaxy attack that had sputtered much of the night suddenly found a rhythm, with Beckham's long balls opening space in front of the Utahns' goal.
Beckham's importance to the Galaxy can't be minimized, but RSL isn't the same team with just nine men. Ned Grabavoy, whose pro career started with the Galaxy, was sent off in the 69th minute -- a harsh decision -- after spilling Marcelo Sarvas with a tackle. Yordany Alvarez was gone after his second yellow card in the 76th.
Cardozo struck four minutes later, chipping over a crowded box with a shot that should have been a simple catch for Rimando, a U.S. national-teamer from Montclair (and UCLA). Instead, it slipped through his hands and into the net.
Magee's goal, his second in as many Desert Diamond Cup matches, was of far greater quality.
The Galaxy got one big postseason mission out of the way Friday, re-signing defender/midfielder Sean Franklin while collecting signatures from three others and exercising an option they previously, but not irrevocably, had declined.
Defender/midfielder Bryan Jordan also re-signed, and the Galaxy wrapped up deals with forward Pat Noonan, whose rights were acquired from Seattle in last week's second-stage re-entry draft, and goalkeeper Nick Noble, who has spent the past two seasons in Sweden.
Also back is forward Adam Cristman, who had pulled out of Major League Soccer's re-entry process after the option on his contract, worth only the league minimum of $42,000 last year (but with a salary boost anticipated), was initially declined.
Franklin (Palmdale/Highland HS and Cal State Northridge), 26, the 2008 MLS Rookie of the Year and an MLS All-Star Game starter last summer, is the big news. He's among the best right backs in MLS and is probably better as a right-sided midfielder, which is where he'll likely play if Landon Donovan is paired with Robbie Keane on L.A.'s forward line.
Jordan (Temple City/Temple City HS), 26, who has been with the Galaxy since 2008, is a backup, primarily as an outside back, who played in 18 first-team and eight MLS Reserve League games last season. Cristman, 26, a big, physical, hard-working forward, scored eight goals in 33 games, including Reserve League, after arriving in a trade last January.
Noonan, 31, was one of four players the Galaxy selected from other rosters during the second-stage draft in the re-entry process. He's scored 46 goals in 10 MLS seasons, but only four in the last five injury-filled campaigns. He played just 259 minutes across nine games with the Sounders last season.
Noble, 27, was Chicago's first-round draft pick in 2007, when Galaxy associate head coach Dave Sarachan was the Fire boss, but he never saw league action before his June 2009 release. He played briefly with the second-tier Austin Aztex before taking off to Sweden, where he's spent the past two seasons, making 59 first-team appearances, at second-division Ljungskile SK.
Noble is the third goalkeeper on the Galaxy roster, joining Josh Saunders and Brian Perk. The Galaxy also selected Jon Conway from Chicago in the second-stage re-entry draft, but Noble's signing might signal that the club, which won't carry more than three netminders, doesn't plan to bring in Conway.
BECKHAM IN DOHA?: Agence France-Presse reports that David Beckham will attend the Qatar ATP Open tennis tournament in Doha right after New Year's and could sign with Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain at that time.
The tournament runs Jan. 2-8 and the president of Qatar's tennis federation is Nasser Al-Kelaifi, who also is president of PSG. Al-Kelaifi heads Qatar Sports Investments, a quasi-governmental outfit that is the French club's primary shareholder.
ELSEWHERE: Other MLS news ...
- Midfielder Baggio Husidic, whom Colorado drafted from Chicago in the second-stage re-entry draft, is former Galaxy defender/assistant coach Gregg Berhalter's first signing with Hammarby in Sweden.
- New England signed midfielder Clyde Simms, which it acquired from D.C. United during the second-stage draft.
CARSON -- The Galaxy found redemption when they most needed it Wednesday night, washing away the frustration and injustice of the past few weeks with a stoppage-time goal that delivered a must-have victory in their biggest showdown of the season.
And, of course, everyone took a gander at the linesman, just to make sure.
Juninho's end-of-the-game finish from a corner kick delivered a 2-1 triumph over Morelia at Home Depot Center, exorcizing whatever demons remained from a controversial defeat to the Monarcas in Mexico and leaving L.A. 90 minutes from a berth among the final eight when CONCACAF's Champions League reaches the knockout stage early next year.
“It felt like poetic justice,” said left back Todd Dunivant, who made the feed for Mike Magee's first-half opener, then played a pivotal role in corralling Morelia's counterattack as the Galaxy gambled heavily in the final 10 minutes or so. “I mean, it was pretty ironic the way it happened. Essentially, a tale of two games, and this time it worked out for us and not for them.”
L.A. needed a bit of fortune, a lot of resolve and a series of corner kicks at the end to poke home the winner and put behind them the phantom call that erased Robbie Keane's would-be winner in a 2-1 defeat at Morelia two weeks ago.
It came from the last of three corner kicks near the end, with Chad Barrett rising to nod Landon Donovan's serve into the goalmouth, and Juninho's shot found its way through diving Monarcas goalkeeper Federico Villar and into the net.
The Galaxy, with David Beckham suspended and Keane out with a gluteal injury, was the aggressor from the start, and it paid off with Magee's 21st-minute goal.
A Michael Stephens long ball cleared a scrum at the top of the Morelia box, and Dunivant tracked it down on the left byline and played the ball through defender Marvin Cabrera's legs to Magee. He side-footed it first-time, and Villar, partially screened by Adam Cristman, couldn't keep it from its path inside the far post.
The Monarcas got the equalizer with help from some sloppy defending in the 60th minute. Bryan Jordan cut off a Damian Manso ball into L.A.'s box for Yasser Corona, but Rafael Marquez Lugo got to the ball before Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders or defender Omar Gonzalez, and he was able to slip it past them.
Saunders immediately raced toward Jordan, chastising him for the play, but Corona would have had an open net had Jordan not intervened.
CARSON -- Sept. 17 might mean something special to Mike Magee, if only he would allow it to. He has played twice on the date in his Major League Soccer career, and both times he found the net twice.
He scored from Robbie Keane's feed just before halftime, then headed home a Bryan Jordan cross to finish off the Galaxy's 3-0 triumph Saturday night over the Vancouver Whitecaps, a victory that pushed L.A. closer to its second successive Supporters' Shield and within two clean sheets of the league's shutout mark.
Six years ago, Magee tallied twice as New York overcame New England, 5-4.
His memories of that one: “Nothing. I remember my whole L.A. career -- that's it. The L.A. goals. That's it. That's all that matters.”
Both his goals mattered plenty Saturday night, as the Galaxy (16-3-10) withstood an early onslaught from the 'Caps' skilled attackers, took command with Magee's strike in the 40th minute, then pulled away with two late goals, wide-open headers by Keane in the 64th minute and Magee in the 75th from Jordan's crosses.
“That's not a 3-0 game,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “I think Vancouver is one of the teams I've recognized over the last couple of months that has really improved. ... I'm pleased by our players' efforts tonight. Obviously, a pretty full week we've just experienced, and we're going to be experiencing full weeks for a little bit now.”
The Galaxy bounced back nicely from Tuesday's disappointing defeat at Morelia and now face another CONCACAF Champions League trip, to Costa Rica for Wednesday's showdown with Alajuelense.
The shutout was L.A.'s 15th of the season, just two off the record set by the Kansas City Wizards en route to the 2000 MLS Cup title, and it required two big saves from goalkeeper Josh Saunders, in fine form after struggling at the end of the Morelia match, in which mistakes enabled the Monarcas to turn a deficit into a 2-1 victory in the final 10 minutes.
“I was really happy for [Saunders], because he's been great this year, and I know he felt really bad about the other day,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “I thought he was really sharp.”
A quick look at the Galaxy's victory:
BEST PLAYER: Keane was very good, terrifically setting up Magee's first goal, scoring his second league goal (and third of the week, although one was called back in Mexico), and working nice combinations with David Beckham and Paolo Cardozo. Best of all was his off-the-ball movement, and that paid off for Magee, who credited his second goal to the Irishman.
CARSON -- The Galaxy's response to its Labor Day collapse in Kansas City was succinct and explosive. Their domination of the first 45 minutes Friday night against reigning MLS Cup champion Colorado was comprehensive, and the reward was a playoff berth. Officially.
That didn't mean a whole lot to L.A. (15-3-10), which posted a 1-0 victory at Home Depot Center in a match that wasn't nearly so close. Landon Donovan got the goal -- his 12th, tied for New York's Thierry Henry for the MLS lead -- with an expert finish in the 36th minute, and Donovan Ricketts made one big save in his return from a broken arm as the Galaxy extended their club record for shutouts to 14.
Uruguayan rookie Paolo Cardozo, making just his third start of the league season, had a breakout performance for L.A., which is heading to Major League Soccer's postseason for the third successive season after missing three in a row following their 2005 MLS Cup championship run.
Not that it matters.
“I think we clinched awhile ago, to be honest with you,” said head coach Bruce Arena. “That's probably not cause enough to jump through hoops and have parties. But, obviously, that's part of it. To have a chance to win an MLS Cup, you've got to be in the playoffs, and I guess we are in the playoffs.”
The mood in the locker room wasn't much different than after any win. No champagne.
“We're kind of laughing that off,” said defender Todd Dunivant. “I think we made the playoffs a couple of weeks ago, in reality.”
Donovan didn't even realize that L.A. had clinched -- the first team to do so.
“Oh, yeah, I forgot,” he said when reminded afterward. “Yeah, it's nice. It’s good to have that out of the way. I said earlier in the week: Every year the first goal at the top of the list is to make the playoffs. We can cross that one off.
“We’ve put ourselves in an even better position with the Supporters’ Shield. The beauty of playing on a Friday night and winning is now you get to sit back all weekend and watch the other teams beat each other up. We’ll be hoping for some favorable results and maybe we’re a little closer to the Supporters’ Shield on Sunday.”
A quick look at the Galaxy's victory:
BEST PLAYER: The most electrifying player, without question, was Cardozo, who put on an often mesmerizing display -- full of guile and with skills silkier than anyone else on the field can muster -- and played a huge role in at least five scoring chances in the first half-hour.
He forced two outstanding saves from Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens, the other candidate here, and walked off after 66 minutes to a loud, deserved ovation.
CARSON -- Officially, Manchester City won Saturday afternoon's friendly against the Galaxy, prevailing on penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw. But it felt like a victory for L.A., who were the better side in the second half, rallied on a superb Mike Magee goal and accomplished most of what it set out to do.
“I think I saw a little bit more today than I saw in [last week's friendly against Real] Madrid,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said after his team shook off a poor first half to create more than enough chances to beat the English Premier League powerhouse in the World Football Challenge clash at Home Depot Center.
“I think we're gonna have to be playing three games a week for an extended period of time” -- actually, it's twice a week, once CONCACAF Champions League play begins -- “and we need to go deep into our roster. Today were some indications that there are some players we can use, which is a positive.”
The best such impression was made by rookie midfielder Dan Keat, from New Zealand by way of Dartmouth College, who was slowed by injury early this season but looks like he's ready to contribute now.
Keat played two superb long balls to Chris Birchall, the first one leading to Magee's 53rd-minute goal, the second to a Todd Dunivant chance two minutes later, and and tested City goalkeeper Joe Hart with a blast from Dunivant's rebound. He won balls in midfield and was a solid conduit as the Galaxy took charge over their tiring foe as time wore on.
“I thought Dan Keat played real well,” Arena said twice during his postgame news conference. “I was impressed with his composure, his passing. He had a good look at goal. ... His distribution was good, he got around the ball pretty well, won some tackles. ... That was very encouraging.”
Said Keat: “Today was all about going out there and showing that I can play at that level and giving a good showing of myself,” Keat said. “I think I did that. ... A lot of players stood up and did well. It's good for Bruce to see that everyone performed at that level and showed they can contribute to the second half of the MLS season.”
Winger Hector Jimenez and defender Kyle Davies made their first starts for the first team, and 16-year-old forward Jack McBean and midfielder Dustin McCarty made their initial first-team appearances.
Frankie Hejduk returned to the field following a lengthy ankle injury, playing 30 minutes in the second half -- “Huge for us,” Arena said -- and reserve forward Adam Cristman, midfielder Jovan Kirovski and goalkeeper Brian Perk got ample time. Michael Stephens went the full 90, splitting time in central defense and on the left flank. Omar Gonzalez, wearing a mask to protect his fractured nose, played 45 minutes after missing L.A.'s last two games.
LOS ANGELES -- He danced to the right and swayed to the left. His feet fluttered. Again to the left and, finally, Cristiano Ronaldo was ready to unleash a left-footed rocket that's nowhere to be found in American soccer.
Galaxy backup goalkeeper Brian Perk did what he could, sticking his frame to the near post. Still, Ronaldo found the slightest crease, scoring on a scintillating blast that wowed those at the Memorial Coliseum. Ronaldo's goal was the highlight of all highlights, a world-class strike that stood out in Real Madrid's dominant 4-1 win Saturday night.
Galaxy defender Bryan Jordan, Ronaldo's dance partner during the sequence, did what he could, really. Jordan followed Ronaldo to the right and back to the left, forcing him wide. But the Portuguese star did everything at a different pace. Jordan never had a chance.
"When he's coming at you, you've got to drop," Jordan said. "If you get too close to him, he'll push it by you. He was cutting back and forward, so I gave him the inside originally and tried to get players to help me. He didn't have much space down there, but he hit a great shot."
Perk, meanwhile, thought he was in good position. His intention was to cut off Ronaldo's shooting angle, leaving a small space on the far post that is nearly impossible for offensive players to capitalize on.
"In retrospect, I was right in line," Perk said, shaking his head. "I couldn't get a full dive so all I could do was put my hand up. He took one step over and hit a ball. I mean, he hit the ball. I'll leave it at that. He beat me at a spot he shouldn't beat me but that's Ronaldo."
The Galaxy's dominance of the Portland Timbers extended into Sunday afternoon's MLS Reserve League meeting, but it lasted less than a half-hour.
Once Michael Stephens, the most influential player to begin the match, was sent off for a last-man foul in the 28th minute, the Timbers found their legs, started linking passes and took advantage of their opportunities for a 3-1 victory in a league opener at Home Depot Center's Track and Field Stadium.
Rookie forward Spencer Thompson, out of UC Irvine, scored two of the Timbers' goals, and former Santa Barbara High School standout Rodrigo Lopez assisted a pair.
Jovan Kirovski, the Galaxy captain, slotted into central defense, his “first real game” he's played at the position.
“I think I can play there,” he said. “We're short on central defenders, and I can do the job there. So it's fun. I had fun playing there.”
Both teams used experienced lineups, each with at least a half-dozen players who wouldn't look out of place in the first teams. Included: Galaxy Designated Player Juan Pablo Angel, who faded after an energetic first 25 minutes and departed at halftime.
SEEING RED: Stephens, teamed with Paolo Cardozo in central midfield, was outstanding both ways and provided a foundation to the Galaxy's possession game. Until he was red-carded, for dragging down Ryan Pore just outside L.A.'s box while trying to make up for a give-away, the game had been played overwhelmingly between the midfield line and Portland's box.
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
The arrival of striker Juan Pablo Angel has helped place the Galaxy's front line among the league's best.
When it became clear last fall Edson Buddle -- the Galaxy's only consistent forward and (arguably) best player during last year's Supporters' Shield run -- wasn't coming back, the reaction was swift.
The result: By losing their only credible front-liner, the Galaxy, who open MLS's 16th season Tuesday night at Seattle, built a superior attack and established themselves as MLS Cup title favorites. Or, at least, one of them.
The arrival of Colombian striker Juan Pablo Angel, who remains a first-class goal scorer at 35, plus three more intriguing forwards -- and the improved health of a returning starter -- has placed the Galaxy's front line, in 2010 a weakness obscured by Buddle's proficiency, among the league's best. Maybe not Colorado or Real Salt Lake quality, but, on second thought, perhaps so.
“We're deeper up front than we were last year,” said Landon Donovan, who will again be stationed primarily on the left flank, with occasional assignments up top. “We were overly dependent on Edson last year, and, thankfully, he didn't get hurt seriously at some point or we would have had some real problems.”
Buddle scored 18 goals, including playoffs -- half of them in the first seven games -- to win a role at the World Cup and lead the Golden Boot race until the season's final week. He finished second in league MVP balloting, then took off for Germany, signing with second-division stragglers FC Ingolstadt for considerably more cash.
Enter Angel, who scored 61 goals in four seasons for the New York Red Bulls after scoring consistently for Atletico Nacional, River Plate and Aston Villa. He might be the best pure striker ever to play in the league, was no longer in New York's plans, and already had a relationship with Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, who during his tenure as Red Bulls coach brought the Colombian star to MLS.
'EASIER THAN NORMAL': L.A. won his rights in December's re-entry draft and signed him to a Designated Player contract just before preseason camp opened in January.
“It was a little easier than it normally would be because New York chose not to keep him,” Arena said. “Our ownership wants us to put the best product we can on the field, and they supported my decision to bring him here.”
The prospect of Angel finishing crosses from David Beckham and feeds from Donovan is enticing.
“Sometimes forwards have a certain way of scoring,” Donovan said, “but he scored goals where a ball drops loose in the box and he pounces on it, he makes a good run in front, he can score with his head or both feet, he can score from distance, he's good at taking free kicks.
The Dartmouth-educated New Zealander is a two-way central midfielder taken with the third overall selection in the Jan. 18 supplemental draft -- basically, the start of the fourth round.
A lot of players taken before Keat have been cut from rosters around the league, but Bruce Arena's plan from day one has been to keep his five draft picks. The Galaxy coach has the sharpest eye in American soccer for talent and for team-building, and he only selected players he wanted on his roster.
Keat was one of them, and for that he's thankful, and with reason. His injury might have cost him a chance elsewhere in the league, but he's already signed his L.A. contract and is looking forward to getting onto the field.
“I'm ready to go,” he said. “I've been itching to play for a long time.”
Here are five questions with Keat:
You've not been on the field; how has the team been treating you?
They've had a lot of confidence and faith to stick with me through this time, and they've said just be patient and keep working hard, and I hope it will work out. That's all I can really do.
You know, when you're injured, you've got to almost work harder than if you're training, to make sure you do all the right things and look after your body and make sure that you're ready when you get out on the field. … It's a little tough, coming in and being in the training room a lot. It's not where you want to be, being a rookie and missing out on all the hard work, but all I can do is go in and show that I'm working hard, and the guys, I think, can see that.
How did you end up at Dartmouth?
They had an assistant coach from New Zealand, and I grew up with Craig Henderson, who was a year ahead of me [at Dartmouth]. … It all stems from the [Notre Dame men's coach and former New Zealand national team boss] Bobby Clarke connection back to New Zealand. At a basic level, all New Zealanders stem from that, so I have to thank him and a lot of people for where I am now.
I knew some guys from my club that [went to college in the U.S.] -- Mike Wilson went to Stanford, and, obviously, there are players doing well, like Ryan Nelsen and Simon Elliott, who came through the system and went on to have great careers. I was never going to stay in New Zealand. I think I decided when I was about 15 I was going to go to Europe or end up in the States. So [coming to America] was a very real option and something that worked out wonderfully for me.