Los Angeles Soccer: Marvell Wynne
The Galaxy got the battle it expected in Saturday's Major League Soccer clash at Colorado -- more so once the Denver altitude had sapped their strength -- and everything it needed for success: expert defending (for the third straight game, too), clinical finishing (Marvell Wynne doing his part), and big plays when it mattered from the man in the nets.
It added up to a deserved 2-1 victory over the Rapids, who had most of the ball but not nearly as much of the game as they believed.
L.A. took another step toward its standard with a smart performance in difficult conditions, negating Omar Cummings' speed for long stretches, then huffing and puffing through an excruciating final half-hour after the Jamaican forward halved their advantage in the 63rd minute.
They needed great fortune to pull it off after referee Ramon Hernandez awarded the Rapids a phantom penalty in the final minute. Andre Akpan, leaping to get to ball over the top, fell to the turf under pressure from defenders David Junior Lopes and Todd Dunivant.
Perhaps there was incidental contact with Lopes. Hernandez thought he saw enough, although he was trailing the play by some distance, to point to the spot, assess a yellow card to Lopes, then stand back as Colorado -- with a chance to snatch a point -- unwrapped its gift.
Cummings' penalty was not particularly well-taken, and goalkeeper Josh Saunders leaped to easily knock it aside.
“Certainly a pretty hectic closing minutes of that game, with that call and everything else,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena told reporters afterward. “Absolutely remarkable. We're thankful we survived it.”
The Galaxy scored two first-half goals, took charge defensively after Colorado's speed nearly burned them early on, and overcame altitude's impact on their tiring legs to post back-to-back victories for the first time since winning MLS Cup last season and even their record at .500.
But they needed late heroics from goalkeeper Josh Saunders to pull out a 2-1 victory Saturday evening over the Rapids in Commerce City, Colo.
Saunders saved Omar Cummings' penalty kick three minutes into stoppage to secure the victory as the Galaxy took another step toward normalcy with their first road victory of 2012.
Three thoughts on the Galaxy's triumph:
1. BAD CALL, BIG STOP
L.A. did well to shut off space after Cummings' speed caused a lot of trouble in the first 15 minutes or so, and an own goal by former UCLA star Marvell Wynne and Landon Donovan's clinical finish from Robbie Keane's feed provided an advantage that should have been enough, even after Cummings halved the deficit in the 63rd minute.
Then referee Ramon Hernandez attempted outright robbery, awarding the Rapids a penalty kick after Andre Akpan, soaring for a long ball into the Galaxy box, fell to the turf under pressure -- but nothing beyond incidental contact -- from David Junior Lopes.
A.J. DeLaGarza, so impressive during Major League Soccer's stretch run, gets his first call-up to the national team; he'll be joined by Galaxy backline mates Sean Franklin (Palmdale/Highland HS and Cal State Northridge) and Omar Gonzalez in the Jan. 4-22 camp at Home Depot Center.
Chivas USA forward Justin Braun and three players with local ties -- Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS and UCLA) and Colorado Rapids defender Marvell Wynne (UCLA) and midfielder Jeff Larentowicz (born in Pasadena) -- also are on the 24-man roster, from which Bradley will draw his lineup for the Jan. 24 friendly against Chile at HDC.
The annual January camp, always at HDC, usually is used to scout younger players -- including those who emerged during the previous MLS campaign -- and give U.S.- and Scandinavia-based veterans a foundation to build fitness before their seasons begin in the late winter or spring.
This time Bradley called in very few veterans. Sweden-based midfielder Alejandro Bedoya is the only player from the U.S. pre-World Cup training camp on the roster, and none who went to South Africa is involved. A dozen players are uncapped, five more have just one cap, nobody has made more than six international appearances -- across the roster, there are only 28 caps.
A rundown on the two dozen players coming to HDC:
Sunday's 15th MLS Cup, which kicks off at BMO Field a little after 5:30 p.m. (ESPN and Galavision), could be a classic. Dallas and Colorado are fast, athletic, attacking sides capable of producing scintillating stuff.
There will be abundant goal opportunities, but with Palos Verdes' Kevin Hartman (Peninsula HS/UCLA) in the FC Dallas nets, there's no certainty of scoring. At least at one end.
Both teams attack so well, especially off the counter, that defensive approaches ought to be decisive. The team that does the best job closing space and preventing its opponent's attacking speed from making a difference is likely going to prevail.
Three keys to victory: