Los Angeles Soccer: Juan Guzman

GALAXY: Magee hero in goalkeeping disaster

June, 26, 2011

Mike Magee went well beyond the call when the Galaxy visited San Jose this weekend, and L.A.'s unbeaten streak hit double digits because of it.

Forced into the nets after starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was injured and backup Josh Saunders red-carded, the 5-foot-10 forward/midfielder pulled on the gloves and stepped between the pipes in the 43rd minute and was rewarded with a shutout in Saturday's draw with the Earthquakes.

The Galaxy (9-2-8) is 5-0-5 in its last 10 after surviving more than a half down a man -- and that after the Quakes dominated the first 45 minutes. But superb defensive organization, marshaled by Gregg Berhalter (making his first first-team start of the year), and Magee's huge contribution in unfamiliar territory gained a share of the points.

Ricketts, making his return after missing three games while with Jamaica at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, was stellar in the opening minutes, but he suffered a left forearm injury in a 21st-minute collision with Khari Stephenson as both closed in on a Ryan Johnson cross and exited the game.

A Galaxy spokesman said the injury will be evaluated Monday and that reports that the preliminary diagnosis was a broken arm, first mentioned on Fox Soccer Channel's broadcast of the game, were in error.

Saunders, who has been solid in seven starts this year while Ricketts was injured or on international duty, stepped in. Within 20 minutes, he was gone, too. It occurred in the least likely of situations: The goalkeeper was holding onto the ball, seemingly by himself, preparing to throw it out to a teammate when San Jose forward Steven Lenhart, from behind, leaned down and headed the ball out of Saunders' possession.

That's a big no-no, and referee Juan Guzman should have whistled play dead right then. But he didn't, and Saunders scrambled to pick up the ball, then threw an elbow -- perhaps blindly -- that caught Lenhart in the head. Guzman showed Saunders a red card and Lenhart a yellow.

With no other goalkeeper on the bench, Magee volunteered to take the job. He made four saves -- the biggest on a 30-yard Bobby Convey blast in the 47th minute and a point-blank leg stop on Lenhart at the right post in the 89th -- and did well handling crosses and taking command of his box.

“I think I blacked out [when I volunteered],” said Magee, who claimed he had “never” played the position, “not even in a non-competitive match.”

“I looked around after Josh Saunders got the red card, and I nominated myself. I did all right, I guess. Looking back, I have no idea why I nominated myself. … I only thought I had to make it 10 minutes, and then we’d have a great plan at halftime where I’d be back on the field. And then we got back in [to the locker room], and it started hitting me that I was going back in goal, and that was pretty nerve-wracking. Bruce [Arena, the Galaxy's head coach], he gave me all the confidence. He said to have fun with it and don’t worry about it.”

A quick look at the Galaxy's draw:

BEST PLAYER: Magee gets the nod for his selflessness and for stepping into the most challenging assignment of his career and, truly, shining. He made two big saves -- the point-blank stop on Lenhart at the end was massive -- and provided a real presence in the box. Unquestionably one of the great performances in the Galaxy season.

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