Los Angeles Soccer: Chris Rolfe
Robbie Keane celebrated his 32nd birthday Sunday with two goals to end a two-game Galaxy skid and restore some of the momentum from that three-game run a couple of weeks ago.
The Irishman might have had a third, but two was more than enough for L.A., which again channeled last year's model in grinding out a 2-0 Major League Soccer victory at Chicago to climb back to fifth place in the Western Conference.
It was all about defense, and the Galaxy (7-10-2, 23 points)-- its usual back four on the field, Omar Gonzalez sent to the bench -- gave its finest defensive performance of the season, keeping things tight at the back and eliminating space for the Fire's vibrant attack, then took its chances well.
“It was a good win ...,” head coach Bruce Arena told media at Toyota Park. “I think we had a good plan coming into the game, and we played pretty solid for 90 minutes. It wasn’t our best game, but it was good enough for three points. But it was a good effort by the group.”
The Galaxy was without David Beckham, serving the second game of a suspension, and Landon Donovan started on the bench after picking up a hamstring strain in Wednesday's loss to Philadelphia, but they prospered through Keane's strikes -- his fifth and sixth goals of the season -- and two superb second-half saves by Josh Saunders.
Keane wasn't particularly sharp, but he drew a questionable first-half penalty to give the Galaxy the lead and finished after some superb work by Donovan in midfield for the second goal with a dozen minutes plus stoppage to play, and that was enough.
“You get the ball to that guy anywhere near the goal, he's going to score more often than not,” said Donovan, who was a spark after coming off the bench in the 65th minute.
Keane converted a 24th-minute penalty kick, firing in off the right post, after his cross from just left of Chicago's box caught defender Jalil Anibaba's hand on the edge of the box. It was clearly an infraction, but Anibaba's arm might have been outside the box when contact was made.
The Fire had more of the ball -- 60 percent possession -- and managed 14 shots and 10 corner kicks, but they couldn't create space for speedy forward Dominic Oduro, who departed after 66 frustrating minutes, nor winger Patrick Nyarko. The shutout was L.A.'s third in the past six games.
“They're good attacking players, and we're certainly aware of their speed,” Arena said. “What your trying to do is keep them in front of you as much as you can. I think our backline did a good job for the most part.”
UCLA is headed to its 13th NCAA College Cup after Reed Williams' goal in overtime paid back Louisville for last year's quarterfinal thriller.
Williams (Newport Beach/Corona del Mar HS) scored 91 seconds into the second extra period to send the fourth-ranked (but 13th-seeded) Bruins (18-4-1) to next weekend's final four in Hoover, Ala., just outside Birmingham.
They'll face top-seeded North Carolina (20-2-2), a 2-0 winner over St. Mary's (11-7-5), in the semifinals. The other game will pair Sunday's winners, with third-seeded Connecticut (19-3-2) or Charlotte (16-4-2) facing second-seeded Creighton (20-2-0) or seventh-seeded South Florida (13-3-4). The game at Creighton was postponed by snow Saturday.
Williams fired from the top of the box through a thicket of defenders and inside the left post after Patrick Matchett (Laguna Niguel/Dana Hills HS) made a run from midfield, then played a give and go with Ryan Hollingshead on the right flank.
It led to a wild celebration for the Bruins, who watched two two-goal leads slip away and lost, 5-4, to Louisville in the closing seconds of last year's quarterfinal, which was played in a snowstorm.
This time, the conditions were mild -- low 50s drifting into the high 40s -- and UCLA did a superb job of absorbing pressure, pushing forward when the opportunity arrived, then forcing the issue once overtime arrived.
Louisville (14-7-2), which lost to Akron in last year's title game, had the better of the play much of the game but struggled to find chances when i got to the Bruins' box. All-American Chris Rolfe had several opportunities, but he fired high with an open shot in the 16th minute, poked the ball just wide of the right post while battling UCLA goalkeeper Brian Rowe in the 48th, then forced Rowe to parry a blast in the 85th.
That was all Rowe needed to tie a school record with his eighth straight shutout, extending his goal-less streak to 747 minutes, 40 seconds.
UCLA nearly tallied several times. A Fernando Monge header from a long throw-in by Joe Sofia (Dove Canyon/Mission Viejo HS) forced an early save from Cardinals goalkeeper Andre Boudreaux, who also made big stops on Eder Arreola (Chino Hills/Chino Hills HS) in the 75th minute and, with a diving save, on Williams' header just a minute before the goal.
In other men's action:
- Michael Salazar (Moreno Valley/Canyon Springs HS) scored twice, with the winner in the 81st minute, to lead Cal Baptist (17-5-1) past Geneva (Pa.), 2-1, in the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association title game in Kissimmee, Fla. Salazar's 18th minute goal was answered by Jake McCracken's header eight minutes into the second half, and he netted the winner from a feed from Alex Anderson (Palmdale/Palmdale HS).
In women's action:Bernadette Witz (Temecula/Temecula Valley HS) scored just before halftime and again midway through the second half as Cal Baptist (18-2-1) rallied from an early deficit to beat Trinity International (Ill.), 2-1, and win the NCCAA championship in Kissimmee, Fla. The Lancers outshot TIU, 22-2, and took 14 corner kicks to none for their foe, but they were behind after Kelly Streekstra's long-distance drive in the 17th minute. Witz scored from a feed by Channing Perea (Riverside/Riverside Poly HS)'s feed to tie the score and from tournament MVP Fabiola da Silva's pass to net the winner.
Press (Chadwick School), widely expected to win the honor, scored 26 goals and set school career records for goals, assists and total points in a phenomenal senior season. She was the Pac-10's Player of the Year, a first-team NSCAA All-American and a first-team Academic All-American.
Press, the second successive winner from Stanford -- Kelley O'Hara won last year -- is expected to be the second selection in next week's Women's Professional Soccer draft, after Morgan, who missed part of her senior season while playing for the U.S. national team.
Darlington Nagbe (Lakewood, Ohio), the leader of NCAA champion Akron's attack, won the men's honor, following former teammate Teal Bunbury's victory last year. Indiana's Will Bruin (St. Louis) finished second and Louisville's Colin Rolfe (Canton, Mich.) was third.
Nagbe is widely considered the best bet to be the top pick in Major League Soccer's draft next week.
GOLETA -- It's No. 1 against No. 2.
Top-ranked Louisville and second-ranked Akron offered scintillating displays in Friday's NCAA College Cup semifinals at UC Santa Barbara's Holder Stadium, but both needed a bit of fortune -- and a late goal -- to claim berths in Sunday afternoon's final.
Louisville (20-0-3) was most impressive against North Carolina, creating far more opportunities but waiting until the end to pull out a 2-1 decision. Akron (21-1-2) was far more dominant against upstart Michigan, spending huge swaths of time in and in front of the Wolverines' box, but it took a defensive miscue to pull out a 2-1 victory and gain a repeat trip to the title game.
Bests, worsts and so forth:
BEST PLAYER: Lot of candidates -- Louisville's Chris Rolfe and Ryan Smith, Michigan's Justin Meram, a whole host of guys from Akron: midfielders Michael Nanchoff, Anthony Ampaipitakwong and Perry Kitchen, forward Darlington Nagbe and defender Zarek Valentin, etc. -- but Kofi Sarkodie was sensational from start to finish.
He set the tone for nearly everything Akron did: His forays up the right flank and into Michigan's box (he spent more time there than anyone, perhaps, aside from Wolverines goalkeeper Chris Blais) drove the attack; his physical play -- not always clean, to be sure -- kept Michigan honest; and he capped the performance with the winning goal, a fine header from Nanchoff's cross in the 74th minute.
BEST GOAL: After scoring with 52 seconds to play to beat UCLA in the quarterfinals, could it get any better for Aaron Horton? Oh, yeah. Three minutes after coming on for All-American Rolfe, the Louisville freshman took a defense-splitting pass from Smith and chipped Scott Goodwin -- lifting the top-ranked Cardinals into the final … with just 51 seconds to go.