Los Angeles Soccer: Lovel Palmer
May, 26, 2011
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesLandon Donovan (10) and Galaxy teammates celebrate his penalty kick goal in the first half Wednesday.
CARSON -- Chris Birchall has no illusions about the shot. It wasn't on target, it wasn't close. As Landon Donovan noted after the Galaxy's 1-0 victory Wednesday night over the Houston Dynamo: “I thought that was going to be a throw-in.”
Birchall's blast in the final minute of the first half wasn't close to being on target, but it couldn't have sailed away any better for L.A. It caught Dynamo midfielder Lovel Palmer on the upper arm, in the box, and Donovan converted the resulting penalty kick to send the Western Conference-leading Galaxy (7-2-5) to its third straight victory and fifth in a row without a loss.
Birchall also teamed with right back Sean Franklin to limit Brad Davis' ability to send in crosses from the left flank, preventing Houston from creating much of anything -- and absolutely nothing until the final 10 minutes.
“Bruce [Arena]'s game plan was to try to stop Davis getting on the ball,” Birchall said. “He's probably their key player -- he likes to get crosses in from wherever he is and set up the play.
“[Arena] told me and Sean to try to double up on him, try to not give him space on the ball. Same to other side [against Colin Clark]. I think we did it the good majority of the game.”
Birchall and Michael Stephens, who were “rotated” into the lineup in favor of absent David Beckham and Mike Magee, were outstanding defensively, and Stephens did a lot of nice work in attack, mostly in support of Donovan, who was stationed right behind the strikers. Birchall was on the right flank, where Donovan has been since Beckham was shifted to the middle.
But Birchall's greatest contribution was the wayward shot that found Palmer in the middle of the Dynamo box.
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