Los Angeles Soccer: Major League Soccer
CARSON, Calif. -- Robbie Keane couldn't help himself.
Christian Wilhelmsson's 67th-minute rebound touch off a Landon Donovan shot appeared to be headed -- a bit slowly, albeit -- for the back of the net in Sunday's Western Conference Finals leadoff leg between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Seattle Sounders.
But Keane, the productive Irish striker, just had to jump in and slam the ball behind Seattle keeper Michael Gspurning for the Galaxy's third and final goal in their 3-0 win.
"He was too slow, eh?" Keane joked afterward of Wilhelmsson.
The teams will play again next Sunday in the return leg in Seattle, with the Sounders now needing to outscore the Galaxy by four goals to advance to the MLS Cup in the aggregate-goal playoff system.
Keane has played inspired soccer in this 2012 postseason, with four goals in four matches thus far. The final one Sunday was a bit of a steal from a teammate, but Keane didn't mind. He was just following the words of his youth coaches, he said, and making sure the ball hit the back of the net as quickly as possible.
"This was on its way in, but it's OK," laughed Wilhelmsson, a Swedish international. "He's a striker. That's how they should think. It's better to be there one time too much than one time too little."
The Galaxy's first goal on Sunday, which coach Bruce Arena called "probably the difference in the game," came in the lone minute of extra time of a tightly played first half.
Wilhelmsson deftly pretended to touch Sean Franklin's pass from the right side, letting Donovan get it freely in the box. Donovan tried to create room for a shot, then delivered a short cross directly to Keane's head for his third postseason goal.
After Donovan nearly found Keane again on a sharp sequence in the 57th minute, the Galaxy added a second goal in the 64th. Keane, coming off a long run through the midfield, passed smartly to Franklin to the right and Franklin one-timed a perfect ball to Mike Magee.
Playing to his “Mr. November” nickname, Magee proceeded to calmly knock it past Gspurning's outstretched hands.
"He gave me a layup," Magee said of Franklin.
The Galaxy had three more serious chances for goals, including in the 76th minute, when Donovan's tap-in was kicked out a foot away from the goal line by Seattle center back Jeff Parke.
"You can't have everything in life," Arena said, smirking, in his postgame news conference.
L.A. goalkeeper Josh Saunders was solid, but he was barely challenged. Seattle's two best chances to score came on a strongly hit deep ball from Osvaldo Alonso in the 31st minute and a poor touch from Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez in the 50th that almost went in for an own goal.
The Sounders, who beat Real Salt Lake on Thursday to qualify for the semis, were without top goal scorer Eddie Johnson until the 64th minute.
Sunday's return leg is scheduled for 6 p.m. PT at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, meaning the Galaxy will get a week’s break, including the next two days off from practices. Having played four games during the past 11 days and five in the past 15, Keane acknowledged Sunday that there were "a lot of tired legs in our camp."
"We've played about 50 games in the last two weeks," midfielder David Beckham said.
In two games in Seattle this season, the Galaxy lost by a combined six goals, 6-0. Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said he and his team "take solace in that fact," recalling their August 4-0 win, started by a sixth-minute strike from Johnson.
"We know we gotta come out with the same sort of effort," Schmid said.
Final notes: Donovan exited Sunday's match in the 84th minute with what he described as a tightening-up of his hamstring. Arena said the team was "hopeful" he'd be fine. An announced sellout crowd of 27,000 attended Sunday's match, the second straight sellout at the Home Depot Center. Tickets for a potential Dec. 1 MLS Cup final at the stadium against the Houston Dynamo went on sale shortly after the final whistle Sunday. Galaxy forward Edson Buddle did not suit up Sunday after suffering an unspecified injury during Saturday's training session. His absence in the lineup led to Wilhelmsson's start.
Chivas USA's quest for a trophy ended the same place its last real quest met its end, where every quest, at least for this trophy, seems to come to a close.
The Goats ran into the Seattle Sounders in Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup semifinals, and if their usual trouble spots -- an inability to create chances, costly mistakes in the worst places -- hadn't put them at a sizable disadvantage, then surely the reigning champs' attacking prowess would have done the trick.
The Sounders advanced to a fourth straight U.S. Open Cup title game -- and perhaps an unprecedented fourth straight triumph -- with a 4-1 romp in Tukwila, Wash., where they are 17-0 in the 99-year-old tournament.
Eddie Johnson gave Seattle a 31st-minute lead, Osvaldo Alonso converted a penalty kick at the start of the second half, and Cesar Romero's strike to halve the deficit with about 20 minutes to go was answered by UC Irvine product Brad Evans and Riverside's Sammy Ochoa near the end.
Chivas, which hasn't won a trophy in its 7 1/2-year history, failed in its biggest match since falling in the semifinals two years ago to the Sounders on the same Starfire Sports Complex turf.
“Early in the game was exactly as we expected it to be: a battle for territory, not giving anything up, getting into good spots,” head coach Robin Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles. “I really thought it was going exactly as expected. Then we made a mistake to give up a bad goal, made another mistake for a bad goal to start the second half, then we're chasing the game.”
Chivas, despite ample possession, couldn't penetrate, and the service from the wings wasn't good enough. Starfire's narrow dimensions caused problems, and the Goats didn't get off a shot until the 58th minute -- and didn't get off a good one until Romero, who provided a big spark off the bench, made it 2-1 in the 74th.
That has been the recurring theme all season: Chivas has only 17 goals over 21 games in all competitions, and it's not because chances aren't being taken.
“I'd say I'm running short on patience in terms of scoring goals,” said Fraser, whose team has been shut out in three of its last four Major League Soccer matches and scored more than once only four times all year, twice against lower-level Open Cup opposition. “We'll just continue to work at it, continue to try to get the ball in dangerous spots.”
Seattle will face Sporting Kansas City in the final Aug. 8 at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.
Sporting won, 2-0, at Philadelphia, with Jacob Peterson tallying from Graham Zusi's free kick in the 65th minute and -- with Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath pushed forward in search of an equalizer -- Zusi scoring from midfield into an empty net deep into stoppage.
Center back Andrew Jean-Baptiste, a first-round pick in January's MLS SuperDraft, has joined the Blues on loan from Portland in advance of this week's games against last-place Antigua Barracuda in Bradenton, Fla.
Also arriving on loan is Orlando City forward Maxwell Griffin (Palmdale/Littlerock HS), a former UCLA star who scored 10 USL Pro goals last year and finished the season on loan to the San Jose Earthquakes. The Blues sent winger George Davis IV to Orlando on loan in the deal.
The moves with Portland coincide with Monday's dismissal of Timbers head coach John Spencer, with general manager Gavin Wilkinson taking charge on an interim basis for the rest of the MLS season.'
The Blues also have signed defender Josh Suggs, who played for the club last year and has been with San Jose this season, and goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski, a Chicago Fire supplemental draft pick who spent nearly a week on trial in February with Chivas USA. Head coach Charlie Naimo indicated L.A. also is talking to an MLS club about acquiring an attacking player.
Woszczynski could be replacing Amir Abedzadeh, the Blues' No. 1 goalkeeper, whose transfer to a club overseas appears imminent.
Naimo, whose team has lost five in a row, expects to release a few players this week.
“Everybody knows we’re one win away from feeling good again,” he said in a club release. “That said, it doesn’t erase what I’ve seen over the past two weeks. Nothing will ever erase that -- not even two wins this week in Florida. What has happened has happened, and the mark has been left. Making changes now is nothing more than the logical conclusion from that.
“It’s never personal, but we’re absolutely going to release players and trade to bring on others who we think can help us. I’m exhausting every minute of my time right now to try to find a way for us to get better in our personnel.”
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.”
David Beckham and Landon Donovan won the fans' vote for Major League Soccer's All-Star First XI, the first step in selecting the team that will take on European champion Chelsea later this month in Chester, Pa.
MLS on Sunday announced the first 11 players, selected in a 4-4-2 formation, and the list includes New York Red Bulls star Thierry Henry, San Jose striker Chris Wondolowski and reigning league MVP Dwayne De Rosario from D.C. United.
Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy lost out to Sporting Kansas City's Jimmy Nielsen for the First XI goalkeeper slot but was among seven players MLS cited as being “close to the leading vote-getters at their positions.”
The First XI is not the starting lineup, merely the first 11 players chosen for the team. Commissioner Don Garber has two selections and D.C. United coach Ben Olsen, who will guide the MLS side in the July 25 match, will fill out the remainder of the 18-man game roster, with the announcement of their picks scheduled for next Sunday. Olsen will determine his starters from the 18.
Fourteen additional players will be announced July 25 as all-stars, per the MLS Players Union's Collective Bargaining Agreement with the league, but none will be eligible to play.
Donovan is a 12-time All-Star selection, and Beckham is making his third appearance on the list. Beckham's availability is uncertain; he might be in London for the Olympics, which begin July 25.
Sporting Kansas City placed three players on the First XI, with defender Aurelien Collin and midfielder Graham Zusi joining Nielsen. Former Chivas USA defender Heath Pearce is the second Red Bull on the list, and San Jose also has a second player, defender Steven Beitashour.
Here is the First XI:
Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting Kansas City), Denmark, second All-Star appearance
Steven Beitashour (San Jose Earthquakes), U.S., first
Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City), France, first
Jay DeMerit (Vancouver Whitecaps), U.S., first
Heath Pearce (New York Red Bulls), U.S., first
David Beckham (Galaxy), England, third
Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United, Canada, seventh
Landon Donovan (Galaxy), U.S., 12th
Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), U.S., first
Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), France, second
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), U.S., second
CARSON -- Chivas USA on Saturday night offered more of the same thing it's been offering all season long: solid defense, not enough chances -- not nearly enough goals.
None, in fact. The scoreless draw with Vancouver, a most reasonable result, was the sixth time the Goats have been shut out in 10 Major League Soccer home games this season, and coach Robin Fraser's dissection of the match had a familiar ring to it.
Chivas (5-7-5, 20 points) came close to scoring four times in the final 20 minutes after creating virtually nothing for the first 70 in another frustrating evening in a season full of them.
“I thought we were probably too passive at the beginning of the game,” Fraser said, echoing his comments from several games past. “We want to be able to push the tempo and push the pace, but in the first half things were too slow. ... The second half I felt the urgency was much better. Certainly the second half of the second half, I thought it was very good.
“We created a number of chances. Ultimately, we need to be able to finish one of those. ... More than anything, we came out of it as a group realizing the urgency we saw in the second half is something we need to see more of.”
The Goats were fine defensively, preventing Vancouver (8-4-6, 30 points) from creating anything particularly dangerous. The Whitecaps used a numerical advantage in midfield, made more pronounced by defensive midfielder Oswaldo Minda's absence because of his second yellow card-accumulation suspension of the season, to find their way to Chivas' box four times in the first 15 minutes, but they, too, lacked urgency.
“We did have decent looks from the edge of the box and didn't shoot, so that was the biggest thing we talked about in the locker room,” Vancouver coach Martin Rennie said. “If you have half a chance, you have to shoot. Even if it doesn't go in, it might deflect, it might come back off the goalkeeper. Who knows?”
Chivas matched up with Vancouver in the second half, switching from a 4-4-2 formation to a 4-2-3-1, and that was more of less it for the Whitecaps' offense. With rookie speedster Darren Mattocks sidelined with his own yellow-cards suspension, the 'Caps lacked the pace to stretch the Goats' superb backline.
CARSON -- The steps Chivas USA has taken this season are apparent in the results the past two months: just one loss in 10 games of every stripe -- and that to Real Salt Lake -- with a march into the U.S. Open Cup's final four.
How much further the Goats still must go is right there, too: They've won just twice against Major League Soccer competition during that span -- and that extends to 10 league games, going back into mid-April.
They've been turning a corner, in the parlance, but where that corner straightens isn't yet clear, it seems. Not everyone agrees.
“I feel like maybe the first month of the season, you could emphasize that,” Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy said on the eve of Saturday night's match with the Vancouver Whitecaps (8-4-5) at Home Depot Center. “I feel like the last two months, we've really turned that corner and become a team that can really grind results out.
“I would like to obviously see those results not just being ties.”
The Goats (5-7-4) have asserted themselves the past two months as their personality -- a gritty possession team -- has matured with the acquistions of, especially, young forwards Juan Agudelo and Jose Erick Correa. There's a growing dynamism within the group, and as they hit the midpoint of their MLS campaign, the next step in the evolution requires that dynamism to start translating into goals.
Chivas has hit the net only 11 times in 16 games, by far the worst rate in MLS. It has been shut out seven times, scored more than once just twice, and that's not entirely about the scoring struggles at season's start: no goals in two of the last three MLS games.
“We certainly feel like every day we're getting closer to the group understanding what is necessary to create more chances,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said. “We like our group of players. There's this gelling process we certainly feel has to take place and is taking place. The more we see the group, the more we feel like it's coming along.”
Burling, a 2007 Galaxy draft pick who spent all or part of three seasons with Chivas, has been on trial with the Goats for the past month. Chivas still must sign him after sending a 2013 international roster slot to the Montreal Impact for his rights.
The 6-foot-5 veteran played in two MLS Reserve League games last month for Chivas after featuring in a reserve game with the Colorado Rapids in May. No word on how soon the Goats will have him under contract or whether he will be signed and eligible for Saturday's game against Vancouver at Home Depot Center.
Burling, a former Loyola Marymount star, went from the San Jose Earthquakes to the Impact in last November's expansion draft, but he was unable to reach a deal and has been in limbo since. He was pursuing his MLS options after trials earlier this year with Sint-Truiden in Belgium and Kickers Offenbach in Germany.
“He's a big guy, a great physical presence in the back,” assistant coach Greg Vanney, a former U.S. national team defender, said last month. “He's in every challenge and he's strong in the challenge and he wins his challenges, and that's a good thing.”
Burling joined Chivas in April 2007, after failing to make the Galaxy roster, and played only in Reserve League games as a rookie. He made 18 MLS starts for the Goats in 2008 but was limited by injury to only three appearances in 2009 before heading to the Earthquakes in a September trade. He made 45 league starts in two years and two months in San Jose.
Gordon, a tall right back, made five first-team appearances with Chivas, going the full 90 in the first two U.S. Open Cup matches. He last played in the June 5 Open Cup victory at Carolina and was last on the bench for the June 20 match against Montreal.
He had signed March 16 following a nearly three-week trial with the club.
CARSON -- Omar Gonzalez was back on the field, and the Galaxy so dominated portions of the action Wednesday night that they should have been fairly certain of a victory well before halftime arrived.
Those were the pluses from the annual Fourth of July festivities at Home Depot Center, but they were greatly outnumbered by all that went wrong: squandered chances, defensive breakdowns, an inability to close out halves.
It all added up to a 2-1 loss to Philadelphia that, following last weekend's collapse against San Jose, has all but erased the glowing memories of the three-game winning streak that suggested the old Galaxy, the championship Galaxy, was back.
SoCal boy Michael Farfan set up one goal and scored the other, netting the winner five minutes into second-half stoppage, to give the Union (4-9-2, 14 points) their first win in five meetings with L.A. (6-10-2, 20 points), which kept pace with fifth-place Colorado in the Western Conference but lost ground to Real Salt Lake, Seattle and Vancouver, which sit second through fourth.
“The reality is we should be five wins in a row right now, and now we find ourselves behind the eight-ball a little bit again,” captain Landon Donovan said. “It's difficult to take, but the reality is now it's over. We can either moan about it or we can wake up tomorrow morning and get ready for [Sunday's game at] Chicago.”
The Galaxy created more than a half-dozen outstanding chances but managed to stick just one of them, Chad Barrett's 73rd-minute equalizer after Robbie Keane got the slightest of touches to a feed from Todd Dunivant. It wasn't nearly enough.
Keane ought to have had a hat trick in the first 25 minutes, David Junior Lopes hit the crossbar in the second half, and had David Beckham not been stuck in a luxury box -- next to Chelsea's Frank Lampard, rumored to be in L.A.'s sights -- following his foolish red card in the loss to San Jose, the Galaxy might have gotten something out of two late, close-range free kicks, one of them in the semicircle.
Keane's first two chances -- after pushing through two defenders at the top of the box, then beating goalkeeper Zac MacMath on the dribble in the fourth minute, then after stepping past MacMath to the left of the net in the 11th -- were cleared off the goal line, by Carlos Valdes and then Sheanon Williams. His third, a blast inside the box in the 25th, was parried by MacMath, who faced 16 shots but had to make just four saves.
“We gave the game away,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “That's a game we should have walked away comfortably with three points, in my opinion. Too many chances in the first half that were wasted. Poor concentration at the end of the first half cost us a goal. And just an extremely poor effort at the end of the game to get exposed and to give up the point we worked so hard to get.”
The Galaxy have been home for the Fourth every year of their existence, winning a lot more than they lose. The league's most iconic Independence Day celebration takes place in Denver, where the Colorado Rapids also are home for the 17th time -- and looking to improve on their 11-2-3 record.
This also marks the midpoint, more or less, of the MLS season -- 10 of 19 clubs have played 17 or 18 of 34 matches -- so let's look at how things have gone.
BEST TEAM: The San Jose Earthquakes are atop the Supporters' Shield standings, and that's a decent barometer this time. Their knack for comebacks and late winners could take them far.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: See Best Team.
MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: You thought I was going to say the Galaxy? No, it's Toronto FC. The Reds made such huge strides last year, did well to knock out L.A. in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, then collapsed. It cost Aron Winter his job, but they've looked better under Paul Mariner.
MVP: The best player in MLS has been Thierry Henry, but injuries have limited his time -- and New York's best run took place while he was sidelined. Dwayne De Rosario, last year's winner, is critical for D.C. United, the Eastern Conference leader. Marvin Chavez has been fantastic for San Jose. But our vote goes to Chris Wondolowski, whose importance for the Earthquakes goes beyond his league-best 14 goals.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Frank Yallop is a slam dunk for what San Jose has done.
Here are this week's power rankings:
1. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (11-4-3, 36 points), Last Week: 1
Week 17: Chris Wondolowski's 14th competes rally from two-goal deficit to beat the Galaxy, 4-3; Alan Gordon's strike too late in 2-1 loss at Portland.
Latest: Shea Salinas, back from a broken clavicle (thanks to Rafa Marquez), returns to the starting lineup.
American idol: Yorba Linda's gritty Steven Lenhart, the most hated forward (by opposing defenders) in the league.
Next: Saturday at FC Dallas, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
2. D.C. UNITED (10-5-3, 33 points), LW: 5
Week 17: Chris Pontius scores his ninth just before halftime, and D.C. cruises to a 3-0 victory over Montreal.
Latest: Long Tan arrives from Vancouver, looking for playing time.
American idol: Has to be Pontius, Yorba Linda's other goal-getter.
Next: Sunday, July 15, at Houston, 6 p.m. (Galavision).
3. NEW YORK RED BULLS (9-4-4, 31 points), LW: 2
Week 17: Jan Gunnar Solli scores at the start, but Red Bulls settle for 1-1 draw at Toronto FC.
Latest: Bulls hopeful Teemu Tainio can return from knee injury. Seems surgery would help.
American idol: We're going with Kenny Cooper, a Texan only because his father -- an English goalkeeper -- was an NASL star way back when.
Next: Sunday at New England, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
CARSON -- The Galaxy have played at home, followed by a fireworks show, every Fourth of July since their inception. That makes Wednesday night's Independence Day clash with the Philadelphia Union their 17th such encounter.
The first seven were at the Rose Bowl, with the Galaxy going 4-3-0. It's been better at Home Depot Center, their home since 2003, with just one loss in nine matches.
The New England Revolution have been the foe on six occasions -- at 2-2-2, they're responsible for half of L.A.'s losses on the Fourth -- and the Galaxy have played Columbus, San Jose and Seattle twice. This is the first time Philly has played in this game.
The Galaxy's top Independence Day scorers? Carlos Ruiz is No. 1, with five, and Landon Donovan has three, none since scoring twice in 2007. Cobi Jones tallied twice in the 1990s.
Here's a quick game-by-game summary of the Galaxy's Fourth of July clashes:
CARSON -- It's time for the Galaxy's annual Fourth of July festivities, but David Beckham is a no-show after some fireworks last weekend. Might Omar Gonzalez's return make up for his absence?
L.A.'s biggest name will miss Wednesday night's match against the Philadelphia Union at Home Depot Center after picking up a stoppage-time yellow card in last weekend's loss at San Jose, but Gonzalez has been activated from MLS's Disabled List and will be available for the game.
Beckham's caution was his sixth of the season and triggered an automatic one-game suspension for accumulation, and more games on the sideline could be coming later this week.
As the Galaxy starts to awaken from their slumber -- they took a three-game winning streak, marked by diversely strong performances, into Saturday night's defeat -- the last thing they need is the man who runs their attack sitting games out.
“Any time you lose your best player, it's going to hurt,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said as L.A. prepared for Philly. “It's part of the game, but we obviously wish we had him. We've got guys who will step in and do a good job.”
It was inevitable that Beckham would serve a yellow-card suspension -- he did so twice last year -- after picking up four yellow cards in a six-game span during April and May. The fifth means a one-game ban, and Beckham had erased one of his with three clean games before picking up cards in each of the last two games.
“Actually, David started the season with a lot of cards right in the beginning, and I think he's done fairly well since then,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “Certainly, when you start off with four yellow cards in the first four games, or close to it, you're going to be dealing with suspension at some point.”
Arena is mistaken on the specifics: Beckham didn't pick up his first caution until L.A.'s seventh game and has been carded six times in his last 10 league appearances. Saturday's card was totally unnecessary.
Beckham, frustrated as Sam Cronin sat prone in front of the Earthquakes' goal during a stoppage, seemingly trying to waste away the game's final seconds, twice booted balls from the left wing toward the San Jose midfielder. The second ball struck Cronin and ricocheted off referee Hilario Grajeda, who pulled the yellow.
In the pushing and shoving that ensued, Beckham got to face-to-face with a couple of Quakes, at one point lowering his head into that of Quakes midfielder Rafael Baca, the former Loyola Marymount All-American from Lawndale. When the final whistle blew moments later, Beckham had to be prevented from going after San Jose midfielder Khari Stephenson.
Robert Mora/L.A. Galaxy
Defender Omar Gonzalez saw his first scrimmage action of the year Monday.
CARSON -- Omar Gonzalez is back on the training field, doing pretty much everything everybody else is doing, and that might be the best news the Galaxy has had since David Beckham decided to stick around.
Gonzalez, Major League Soccer's 2011 Defender of the Year, was sidelined after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee back in January during his first practice session of a short-term loan with German club FC Nuremberg. He now is targeting the end of this month or a little later for his return to the real games, but he found himself in a game situation for the first time Monday morning.
Gonzalez, the 6-foot-5 Texan whose presence on the back was crucial during the Galaxy's MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield title campaigns last year, played all of a 45-minute scrimmage against the Galaxy's U-17/18 Academy side.
It didn't mean a whole lot, except to Gonzalez.
“Today was just to see how I am and how my fitness is coming along,” he said after the first team, largely a group of reserves, claimed a 3-1 victory on L.A.'s training field at Home Depot Center. “I got a little bit tired towards the end, and we’re playing against our Academy, so I didn’t have to get up for a lot of headers or do a lot of defending. So for the most part, I think I did well. But I wasn’t really tested.
“All in all, I'd say it was a pretty good day.”
Gonzalez, 23, was hurt Jan. 5 in Turkey when he knocked knees with German-born American defender Timmy Chandler and underwent surgery eight days later in Santa Monica.
“The knee feels great,” he said. “Some spots are a little tender, but I think it's still the overall healing process going on. Once I'm out there, I don’t have any restrictions. I just get after it and get into tackles. There’s really nothing else stopping me other than making sure that we hit close to the six-, seven-month mark and making sure that it’s fully healed.”
He's been training nearly full speed for about 2½ weeks, and the limitations were gone last week ... not that teammates are willing to test him too strenuously.
“I know that they haven't been that hard at me in practice,” Gonzalez said. “I can sense that they're a bit hesitant to come in hard, which is great for me.
“When I'm ready and they're ready, then we can get after it.”
CARSON -- British reports claim the Galaxy has offered Chelsea's Frank Lampard a two-year, $20 million offer, and that the veteran central midfielder is strongly considering a move to Los Angeles.
It's not the first time Lampard's name has been linked to the Galaxy, but the reports have never been so specific.
Several outlets made the claim, none identifying their sources, but David Beckham lobbied his former England teammate last year and club owner AEG president Tim Leiweke has publicly expressed interest in signing the star.
“I'm a fan of Frank's. I think he's a great player. When I think of Chelsea, I think of Frank Lampard ...,” Leiweke told Sky Sports in January. “It took us two years to get David to come here the first time.
“We're working on the next [Designated Player], and we'll continue to work on the next DP. There are a half-dozen guys we have a good relationship with, and we'll see how that goes. But first we've got to have a spot, and at the moment we don't have a spot.”
The Galaxy still doesn't have a spot. MLS clubs may sign up to three DPs, whose salaries go beyond the $350,000 maximum hit to the salary cap. Beckham, Landon Donovan and Irish striker Robbie Keane occupy L.A.'s slots.
Sources with knowledge of the talks confirmed to ESPN Los Angeles that AEG is holding discussions with Lampard's representatives.
Lampard, who turned 34 on June 20, still has one year on a Chelsea contract that pays him about $12 million a year. He's been with the Blues since 2001 and captained them, in John Terry's absence to suspension, to triumph over Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League final in May.
He is considered one of the finest midfielders of his generation and has played in two World Cups and two European Championships for England, including Euro 2012, in which the English reached the quarterfinals.
The wildest and weirdest of California Clasicos unfolded just as the Galaxy hoped, at least after an early hiccup, and exactly as the San Jose Earthquakes might have expected -- and desired.
Three goals in 11 minutes, two of them caused by Jason Hernandez errors, gave L.A. a two-goal edge just before halftime, and the way the Galaxy have been playing lately, that ought to be enough against nearly anyone in Major League Soccer.
But this Earthquakes side increasingly has the look of destiny about it, and given what's come before, its comeback for a 4-3 triumph Saturday night at sold-out Stanford Stadium was persuasive.
Victor Bernardez blasted home a feed from a corner kick near the end of the first half, Sam Cronin finished a spectacular sequence to start the second half, and MLS scoring leader Chris Wondolowski's backheel from a corner kick in the 61st minute delivered San Jose its seventh comeback victory of the year.
It spoiled the Galaxy's best 10 minutes or so of the season and restored the Quakes' spot atop MLS's Supporters' Shield standings, which had been taken by D.C. United with a victory earlier in the day.
It was an absorbing match, probably the best in the league this season, marked by end-to-end action, huge shifts in momentum, sudden chances enhanced by a tight field, goals both brilliant and unfortunate, tremendous atmosphere (some 50,391 on hand), and a end-of-game meltdown by David Beckham, whose nightmare week closed with a one-game suspension certain and additional games likely to be added.
“It was enjoyable to be part of, for the most part,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan told media afterward. “I thought the crowd was great, the energy was great, and it's just 20 some-off people in here [in L.A.'s locker room] who aren't happy. ... It's a game we should have won.”
Coach Bruce Arena agreed with the last part.
“It was a sloppy game, a lot of mishaps,” he said. “Kind of what we expected on a tight, short field. ... We did a poor job [defensively] today. Our defense on set pieces wasn't good, and it cost us the game.
“We have no one to blame. We should not lose that game.”