Los Angeles Soccer: Miguel Lopez
Miguel Lopez's loan assignment with the Galaxy has ended, and has the Argentine midfielder/forward has returned to Quilmes, the suburban Buenos Aires club has confirmed.
Paolo Cardozo's situation isn't so clear.
Lopez began training last week with Quilmes, which is preparing for next month's start to the Clausura campaign in the second-tier Nacional B Division. The Galaxy, which signed Lopez on loan last January, has not announced any move involving the player, who told an Argentine newspaper that his time in L.A. was most beneficial.
“The experience was very positive,” Lopez said, according to reports in Diario Perspectiva Sur. “The city, the people, the club, everything was very good -- both on and off the field. And the experience helped me grow as a player, taught me another kind of football that can help me contribute here. Because it is a very physical football [in MLS], and that helped me a lot.”
Cardozo, whom the Galaxy selected in the first round of last year's MLS SuperDraft, also was set to return to Quilmes, according to Diario El Sol, which quoted head coach Ricardo Caruso Lombardi as saying he needed “to see the two players. If I like them both, then they'll be welcomed here.”
Lopez was on the roster for Quilmes' camp this week in Mar del Plata, but Cardozo is not on the list.
Lopez, 23, started 14 and played in 24 league games for the Galaxy last season, scoring a goal and adding three assists. He played in 32 first-team games in all.
Cardozo, who impressed last season with extraordinary skill on the ball -- he was the Galaxy's most technical player -- started eight and played in 18 league matches and featured in 27 first-team games. He also played in all nine MLS Reserve League matches, scoring two goals.
UPDATE (3:30 p.m.): Galaxy coach/GM Bruce Arena confirmed Tuesday that Lopez has returned to Quilmes but that he anticipates Cardozo, who is on loan from Quilmes, will return to the Galaxy this season.
He also said New Zealander defender Andrew Boyens, selected from Chivas in the re-entry draft, has been signed and that the club is looking to extend the loan agreement with Sao Paulo for central defender Leonardo.
NO CONWAY: Goalkeeper Jon Conway, whom the Galaxy selected in last month's second-stage re-entry draft, announced his retirement Tuesday after 12 seasons in MLS.
CARSON -- What might be most impressive about the Galaxy's conquests this season aren't the victories (28, with just eight losses, in 46 competitive matches) or the hardware (MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield) or even -- and this probably was the highest achievement -- the dauntless leap to the top spot in the CONCACAF Champions League's toughest group.
It's that the Galaxy did all of this with limited access to their first-choice lineup.
Injuries enough to derail the noblest aspirations had little impact on L.A., which rolled over its domestic competition and relied on Juninho's heroics to track down a favorable berth in the region's club quarterfinals come March.
More than a dozen players, including nearly every major contributor, were sent to the sideline for a spell -- some for two or three spells -- as head coach Bruce Arena, in arguably the finest season in a storied managerial career, mixed and matched brilliantly while shepherding the Galaxy through a wearisome schedule with no more than three hiccups, really, from start to finish.
To do so ...
- He got the best of David Beckham -- fabulous in his first full campaign with L.A. -- and a very good piece of Landon Donovan, the quad injury-slowed stretch drive aside.
- He dumped an underachieving star forward (Juan Pablo Angel) for a European star (Irishman Robbie Keane), adding dimensions to his attack just as the season's pace started to accelerate.
- He engineered career-best performances from three defenders (Omar Gonzalez, Todd Dunivant and A.J. DeLaGarza) and a couple of midfielders (Mike Magee and Juninho), all making significant contributions.
- He stuck with his backup goalkeeper (Josh Saunders), who emerged as a real force during No. 1 netminder Donovan Ricketts' injury absence.
- And he bred uncommon consistency from his squad, no matter that there was little consistency to the lineup until the postseason arrived.
“It was a great season,” said midfielder Chris Birchall, another of the Galaxy's under-the-radar sparkplugs. “We won the Supporters' Shield, the MLS Cup, and we qualified for the Champions League. That was our aim at the beginning of the season. A lot of us looked at each other, thinking it was a bit of a tough ambition, but we did everything right.”
The Galaxy feasted on the talents of the league's richest squad -- Beckham ($6.5 million), Keane ($3.4 million) and Donovan ($2.3 million) are Nos. 1, 4 and 5 on the league's best-paid list -- and a defensive approach that made the difference in a 19-5-10 regular season, four wins in the Champions League and the perfect playoff run.
CARSON -- David Beckham missed Galaxy training again Friday, still suffering, according to coach Bruce Arena, from that pesky “cold” -- but talk that it's really a hamstring injury won't go away.
Arena used the “cold” excuse when he talked for the TV cameras following L.A.'s session at Home Depot Center, noting that he he doesn't “think David needs to train” and that “believe me, David will play on Sunday” in the MLS Cup final against Houston.
He was more succinct with the “print” media.
What's the latest on David?
“He'll be playing Sunday.”
We're hearing about a hamstring. Is there anything to that?
“He'll be playing Sunday.”
Is there anything to his hamstring?
“Yep, he does have hamstrings.”
Is it OK?
“Yep, he'll be playing Sunday.”
Beckham had been scheduled to speak Friday, but his media session was canceled.
The striker will watch from the sidelines after suffering a dislocated right foot in training a week ago, an injury that would force him out three or four weeks, just a little longer that he needs it to be.
“[The timing] couldn't be worse, really,” Barrett said Thursday as he took a break from rehab at Home Depot Center. “As it's getting more and more close to the game, I'm starting to feel a little bit more sad about the whole thing. But at the same time, this is still, like, an exciting time. This is my first MLS Cup experience, and all the stuff that goes before, during and after, you know, it's great to be a part of of. It's great to be part of this team.
“Just because I'm out doesn't change anything. We've been a team all year. We've had injuries all year, and people have missed certain times. This is just the time that I was unlucky to miss. But we're still going to go out there, and whoever's going to step on Sunday is going to do a great job like we have all year, and I expect to still be wearing a ring at the end and lifting the trophy.”
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena has several options to replace Barrett. Backup forward Adam Cristman, who is little bigger and more physical that Barrett, would be a straight swap, but L.A. could opt for slippery Miguel Lopez or push Landon Donovan or Mike Magee up from midfield and use Chris Birchall or Michael Stephens in their place.
“It's unfortunate Chad's not available for this game, but our whole season's been this,” Arena said. “Whenever we need to replace a player, the next guy steps up and gets the job done. We have plenty of options, haven't made a decision yet, but I think we'll have a good choice.”
Cristman, who had his share of ailments this season -- he saw little first-team action until August after a preseason knee injury -- says he's ready to go if called upon.
“I think this game could lend to me being a good potential [to start], with playing against their big backs,” said Cristman, who, like Barrett, was acquired during the offseason. “They're a physical team, and that's kind of my style of play. We'll see how it goes. ...
“Chad's a huge loss for us. I know he's extremely disappointed not to be able to play in the game himself. It's just a bummer that we lose him that way. But each of us has a role on the team, and I need to take care of my role and step up if I'm called upon.”
Barrett, the Galaxy's No. 2 goal scorer this season, was hurt in a non-contact play while turning with the ball late in last Thursday's training session. His cleat got caught in the grass, he rolled over on the ankle, and the foot dislocated.
“I thought it was broken ...,” Barrett said. “It sounded like getting your back popped. Like four or five cracks -- guys said they could hear it from, like, 15 yards away. I felt the cracks, I hurt the cracks [and] then I looked down, and my foot was turned upwards. It was pretty gruesome to see.”
The Galaxy's attack just got weaker for next week's MLS Cup final against Houston. Forward Chad Barrett is out after dislocating his right ankle in the team's training session Thursday at Home Depot Center.
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HOUSTON -- No David Beckham. No Landon Donovan.
The Galaxy heads into its regular-season finale Sunday evening against the Houston Dynamo without their two biggest stars, and that's not all.
They are among a half-dozen influential players who headed home as soon as the Galaxy's charter flight arrived Friday afternoon in Houston from Honduras, all being rested for next weekend's playoff opener. If it looks a little like surrender, think back to Columbus a month ago. Also following a crucial CONCACAF Champions League game in Central America, L.A. took on the Crew in front of a full house without several big guns -- Donovan, Beckham and Robbie Keane included -- and pulled out a dramatic 1-0 victory.
Something like that would be perfect for the Galaxy (19-4-10), who consider this one important even if it means nothing to their championship aspirations. A victory would give them 70 points -- a league record, two better than the '98 Galaxy side -- and and a shutout would be their 18th of the season, also an MLS best.
“This is our third game [in eight days]. We traveled all over the place,” head coach Bruce Arena noted. “We're here to play well -- there's no question about that. I think we've earned the right to rest some players.”
Also home are Best XI (and MLS Defender of the Year) candidates Todd Dunivant and Omar Gonzalez, midfielder Mike Magee and goalkeeper Josh Saunders -- and Keane remains sidelined with a leg injury.
“They'll probably think we're taking it easy with the lineup that we put out, but that's not the case,” midfielder Chris Birchall said. “We feel we can still go out and win the game, and it will be a good test for some of our players who haven't played too many of these games.”
The Galaxy could have Sean Franklin back from a knee injury that has sidelined him for six weeks, and 16-year-old forward Jack McBean and rookie defender Ryan Thomas could make their MLS debuts. It wouldn't be a surprise to see rookies Hector Jimenez or Dan Keat in the starting lineup for the first time, or for Dasan Robinson to see his first action with the Galaxy, and Brian Perk could get the call in goal for the second time, depending on how Donovan Ricketts' ailing quad is doing.
“No matter what team Bruce has put out there, they’ve done well and gotten results,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear told reporters this week. “Defensively, they’re always organized, and they don’t give you much.”
The rookie backliner from Claremont, and Stanford University, gave a breakout performance for the visiting Galaxy on Thursday night, scoring one goal and assisting another as L.A. trotted out to a two-goal lead over the Portland Timbers with about 20 minutes to go.
Thomas was taken in MLS's supplemental draft, the 70th selection overall. Nagbe, an Akron product expected to become a huge star, was No. 2 overall.
The result was enough to assure the Seattle Sounders the Western Division title in the MLS's Reserve League. Portland (4-2-2) had been the only team capable of catching the Sounders (7-1-0); the Galaxy is 1-5-1.
CARSON -- Sean Franklin scored his first Major League Soccer goal Wednesday night, and it was one to remember -- even if teammates teased him that he wouldn't get credit for it.
Franklin's low blast from a blocked David Beckham free kick sent the Galaxy to a 1-0 triumph over the Columbus Crew at Home Depot Center, extending their league unbeaten streak to 13 games -- and their Western Conference and Supporters' Shield advantages to four points -- with a victory that was a lot tougher than it ought to have been.
The Galaxy (11-2-9) created chance after chance through 16 corner kicks -- just three off the MLS record -- and a handful of free kicks around the box but struggled to beat an organized Crew backline anchored by Riverside's Chad Marshall.
The Galaxy missed their towering target on set pieces, 6-foot-5 defender Omar Gonzalez, who was on the bench but didn't play because of a fractured nose sustained last week in training.
Juan Pablo Angel nearly scored twice, but didn't -- he has only three goals this year, and none in more than a month -- and L.A. was en route to a second straight 0-0 draw before Franklin came through with a 26-yard blast in the 70th minute.
The ball caught Crew midfielder Eric Gehrig on the way in, and so Franklin wasn't sure he'd receive credit. Not after teammates kidded him that the goal wasn't his.
Said Beckham: "I've tried to tell him it's an own goal. But he's not having that."
“I think it might have deflected,” said Franklin, a fourth-year right back from Palmdale and MLS All-Star who has tallied just once before for L.A., in last year's CONCACAF Champions League series with the Puerto Rico Islanders. “They might call it an own goal, but I'm gonna try to claim it as my first goal.
“I'm happy I got it, but I'm more happy that the team played well tonight. We created numerous chances, corners and shots. The whole team effort was great tonight.”
The Galaxy didn't get nearly enough from the set pieces. Two of the 16 corners led to real opportunities, but Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer did well to snare a 30-yard Franklin blast from a 34th-minute corner kick and to hold on under pressure from Todd Dunivant after Angel's header challenged him on the goal line in the 54th.
Miguel Lopez had the best chance before Franklin's goal, a glancing header from 14 yards off a Beckham cross late in the first half that Hesmer leapt to parry around the right post.
“[Columbus] did very well, packed their team in,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “Marshall kind of zoned and attacked every ball. Pretty difficult. The ball we played out to Franklin for the shot off the corner, probably have to do that a little more often or play the short corner, but they were tightly packed in there on corners, and you have the 6-foot-5 guy [Marshall] that has the freedom to attack every service, and he did a pretty good job.”
The game ended sourly, with referee Andrew Chapin giving Beckham a yellow card in stoppage for not taking a free kick. It was the Galaxy star's eighth caution of the season and comes with a one-game suspension -- for the July 30 match at Vancouver -- his second yellow-card ban of the campaign.
A quick look at the Galaxy's victory:
The Galaxy won't have the services of Juninho this weekend against Toronto FC. The Brazilian midfielder is back home in Sao Paulo ... getting hitched.
His wedding is this weekend, so the Galaxy is using his absence -- and that of Landon Donovan, who's with the U.S. national team at the Gold Cup -- to investigate a formation they used with great success earlier this season.
The idea is to put a playmaker of sorts right behind the two strikers in a 4-3-1-2 alignment. In training Thursday, Miguel Lopez was stationed behind Juan Pablo Angel and Chad Barrett. Paolo Cardozo is another option for the withdrawn spot.
Donovan played in that role in a 1-1 draw May 11 at Philadelphia, in which L.A. was deserving of all three points but conceded a late equalizer on a nasty Sean Franklin giveaway.
"It worked pretty well, although Miguel and Paolo are two different types of players [from each other and Donovan]," said Angel, who expected to return to the lineup after he was a late scratch, because of a twisted ankle, in last week's scoreless tie with D.C. United. "We have to work on it. We tried it today. Let's see how it goes tomorrow and if we can implement that over the weekend. Every time you change formations, you're subject to make mistakes, and, hopefully, that doesn't happen this time."
Juninho is MLS's second Brazilian this month to head home for a wedding. FC Dallas defender Jackson Goncalves was married last weekend. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said the midfielder, who has had a terrific first nearly three months of the season, would be back for the June 18 clash at MLS Cup champion Colorado.
His teammates gave Juninho and his bride a card filled with cash.
"Unfortunately, we didn't get invites," David Beckham kidded. "We were looking forward to a trip to Brazil. It would have been nice, but I don't think Bruce would have been happy."
The Galaxy made it three 1-0 victories in eight days Saturday night, using more lights-out defense -- with two big saves at the finish -- and one perfect header to knock out the New England Revolution and run their winning streak to four.
Miguel Lopez scored the goal, his first in Major League Soccer, getting a glancing nod to David Beckham's rifled cross in the 69th minute, and A.J. DeLaGarza and Landon Donovan came up huge in the closing minutes to secure L.A.'s seventh shutout in 15 league matches.
“We've been good all year, with the exception of [a 4-1 loss March 26 at Real] Salt Lake,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “And we've been unlucky … losing some points on the road, as well as [a couple of] shutouts, so we've been very good, I think, over the last 10 games or so defensively.”
They've surrendered seven in the dozen games since the RSL debacle, and two were on a faulty penalty kick at D.C. United and a Sean Franklin giveaway in Philadelphia. The Galaxy (8-2-5) had a few questionable moments at Foxborough but cleaned them up after 15 minutes or so and surrendered practically nothing until a blistering sequence just into stoppage.
Jamaican goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who like Donovan was playing in his last Galaxy game before heading off to the CONCACAF Gold Cup, came off his line for a long, hopeful ball into the box by Kevin Alston, but he didn't get much of a punch to it and was out of position for Zack Schilawski's half-volley from the fallout. DeLaGarza, backing up the play, made an acrobatic save, falling almost into the goal as Sean Franklin raced in ahead of Shalrie Joseph to clear the ball from the box.
Sainey Nyassi collected the ball on the right flank and sent in a cross into the goalmouth for Schilawski, whose point-blank volley crashed into the underside of the crossbar and back down. Joseph jumped over (and into) DeLaGarza to head the rebound as a crush of bodies swarmed the goal line, and Donovan, in retreat, kicked the ball to safety.
“I assume [Schilawski's volley crossed the line], to be honest,” Joseph said. “I'm 90 percent hoping it went across the line. It was so close. I saw the net shaking. I don’t know how it was shaking and the ball didn’t hit the net. It just didn’t go in.”
A quick look at the Galaxy's victory:
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.
David Beckham watched his Galaxy teammates give up a late equalizer Wednesday at Philadelphia from the comfort of his home, left behind to rest as L.A. delves more deeply into a congested schedule that will surely test its depth.
Doesn't mean he liked it, and he sure wasn't happy with the finish, but the English midfielder is enthused by the Galaxy's form and is looking to return to the lineup Saturday night with a win over Sporting Kansas City at Home Depot Center.
A victory would end a three-game winless streak that has been prolonged by the Galaxy's difficulty in finishing its chances, a recurring theme through the first two months of the Major League Soccer season.
“We have to finish teams off,” Beckham said Friday. “We're not winning as many games as we'd like to. The biggest thing is finishing teams off. We're playing well, but we need to get that second or third goal.”
L.A. has scored more than once just twice, in successive wins April 17 at Chicago (2-1) and April 23 at home against Portland (3-0). They've had four 1-1 draw, all results that would have been different had the Galaxy been more clinical in front of the net.
Beckham noted last week's draw with New York.
“In the first half, we found a way of getting through them,” he said, “and once we found that, we had three or four or five really good chances, and we didn't put them away, and, obviously, it costs you at the end of the day.
“So we have to find a way of beating teams and keeping pressure up for the full 90 minutes. Because the game is about 90 minutes, and more sometimes, and you have to play through that.”
With Beckham sitting out, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena changed up his system, turning his usually fairly flat 4-4-2 alignment into a 4-3-1-2, with Landon Donovan sitting underneath forwards Juan Pablo Angel and Miguel Lopez. They were dominant most of the night, but a poor back pass from Sean Franklin gifted Philly catalyst Danny Mwanga an 83rd-minute goal, and the returned home with one point rather than three,
“It's always difficult watching games you want to be in involved in,” Beckham said. “I think the guys did well. I think it shows the strength of our squad, because we had [different] players going in and a new formation, as well, and I think that was the positive side of it.”
CARSON, Calif. -- Major League Soccer's biggest showdown yet this season also was among its best encounters, a 1-1 draw Saturday night between the Galaxy and New York Red Bulls that had a little bit of everything.
Except a winner.
Thierry Henry fired New York ahead in the fourth minute, his fourth successive game with a goal, and Landon Donovan nodded home David Beckham's corner kick just before halftime to pull L.A. even, but it was the goals that didn't count -- and the chances that just missed -- that defined this thriller.
“It should probably ended up 3-3, with all the chances from both sides,” Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said. “It's a very intense game. It's a very good game. It's a good level on the game today. Probably the best you can see in MLS at the moment.
“Very entertaining, it must have been. That's two teams that definitely wanted to attack for 90 minutes and go for the winning goal.”
Galaxy striker Juan Pablo Angel, looking plugged in as he hasn't all season, scored against his former team midway through the first half, but the goal was waved off by an offside call that replays indicated was correct.
And Donovan, who has four goals in the last three games, should have had a second just moments after his header. Beckham lofted a ball over the New York backline for Donovan to run onto, and he pushed it past onrushing Red Bulls goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul a good 10 yards outside the box.
That left an empty net, but his roller from 19 yards was way too slow, and defender Tim Ream chased it down, slid and booted it from danger just as it reached the goal line.
Did it cross the line? Replays were inconclusive, but Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said his “take” was “it should have been a goal.”
“Part of that ball was over the line for sure,” Arena said. “Whether all of it was, I sure can't tell from where I am.”
Said Donovan: “It looked like it was in. I think we’re learning this year if we want to score a goal, we really have to score two goals. If we want to score two goals, we have to score three or four. It’s unfortunate. You would hope that at some point you have to think we’ll get the benefit of the doubt, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
The Galaxy got an easy one Saturday night, pummeling Portland, 3-0, at Home Depot Center after scoring twice in the first eight minutes, and if both of those strikes came courtesy of some questionable officiating, L.A. will take it.Landon Donovan scored twice, converting an eighth-minute penalty kick and heading home a Juan Pablo Angel cross in the 67th, and fed Chad Barrett for the fourth-minute opener. The goals were his first in a dozen games for the Galaxy, dating to Sept. 18, not that he cared.
“You guys love those stats, don't you?” Donovan responded when it was brought up in the locker room afterward. “How many wins do we have in that time? Nobody knows, huh?”
Well, Landon, let's see: 3-2-0 to end the regular season last year, 2-1-0 in the playoffs, 2-0-1 this season with you on the field. That's 7-3-1 in games Donovan played but didn't score since his last goal for L.A. Not bad at all.
“I could care less about scoring,” said Donovan, who had missed the previous three games with a minor knee injury. “I want to win. I'm not as much of a scorer anymore. I think you guys have seen both with the U.S. team and this year, that part of my game has not been the same as it was when I was younger, but I want to win, and it feels good to win.”
Said David Beckham, whose passes started the sequence leading to the first two goals: “Of course, it's great to see him back scoring. … It's good to have goals coming from elsewhere, but I know he enjoys scoring goals.”
Barrett, who has finally found his footing with the Galaxy, tallied for the second straight game, not that it should have counted. The ball bounced up on him, and he controlled it with his arm before half-volleying a bullet off Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins' hand and inside the right post.
Donovan converted a penalty kick four minutes later after Rodney Wallace draped himself around L.A.'s captain for a pass from Beckham. It was certainly a foul, but the initial offense occurred outside the box.
Miguel Lopez set up both goals, by Chad Barrett just before halftime and Omar Gonzalez in the 72nd minute, in a 2-1 victory at Chicago to wrap a wild, rarely wonderful three-game trek east that secured five points.
If the absences of starting midfielders Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Juninho, among others, weren't enough, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena chose to leave superstar striker Juan Pablo Angel and right-flank standout Sean Franklin out of his starting XI, giving first starts to Paolo Cardozo and Frankie Hejduk.
But the L.A. lineup responded with an energetic performance that fueled a decent number of scoring chances and an outstanding defensive effort that probably deserved a clean sheet. Barrett scored a fine goal against his former club, his first strike with the Galaxy, and towering defender Gonzalez headed home a corner kick for the would-be winner. Dominic Oduro scored in the 89th minute for Chicago.
A quick look at the Galaxy's victory:
BEST PLAYER: The Fire had to be wary of Lopez every time he touched the ball, and their best answer more often than not was to spill the Argentine forward before he could get into dangerous positions or exploit space to give teammates chances.
His delivery from the right wing for Barrett's goal was delicious, splitting three defenders with a ball that the big forward admitted “surprised me” and left him no choice but to finish. The corner kick, too, was well-taken, pinpointed onto the head of the 6-foot-5 Gonzalez.