The crowd of 14, 462 were treated to a great match between two of the most winningest teams in league history. The Los Angeles Galaxy are the reigning champs, while they were missing a few pieces, they showed their championship mettle in a physical match with DC United. The Black-and-Red haven’t had much success against the Galaxy in recent years, having not won in their last 10 tries. The most recent contest ending in a 4-1 drubbing of United last year in Los Angeles, the outcome was much different this time.
An extremely physical contest looked to be heading to a 0-0 draw before United made magic in stoppage time. The Galaxy had inserted Edson Buddle into the game in the 71st minute, to pair him up front with the dangerous Alan Gordon. They had just drawn a corner and had the ball deep on DC’s side of the field, Bobby Boswell won a header in the box and the ball got out wide to Sean Franklin to start the counter attack. From there Franklin passed it to Davy Arnaud who played it wide to a running Nick DeLeon. DeLeon beat Robbie Rodgers in a 1v1 situation and curled a pass to the far post and Pontius was there to answer it with a header as he was being pulled to the ground. The game was over 45 seconds later, it was a spectacular way to end the game and it was certainly a well earned victory by United.
Davy plays it out to Nicky, I see him 1-on-1 and I actually thought he was going to serve it early. He dinks it over the guy, so I’m just trying to keep my run back-alive and get across whoever was guarding me, just in case it did come through. Nicky puts an unbelievable ball, it’s all Nick DeLeon right there -Chris Pontius on his first goal of the season
Los Angeles came into this game missing several players due to national team duty while DC has been stretched thin mostly due to injuries. Many were wondering who would be starting up front for the Galaxy with Keane and Zardes on National team duty, Gordon and Villareal were the duo chosen by Coach Arena. Fabian Espindola is the one exception as he’s held out until April 18 due to a suspension. The Black-and-Red got some good news this week as Silva and Kemp were said to have practiced the past two weeks. Surprisingly, Kemp started at left back and played the entire game. DC has had to rely on their depth early on this season and will continue to do so going forward after centre back Steven Birnbaum went down on a header less than three minutes into the game. United started the game aggressively and earned the first corner of the game, Birnbaum climbed the ladder and struck the ball with his head to the right side of the net. Robbie Rodgers was standing on the line (maybe behind it) and headed the would be goal away. Birnbaum lay on the ground for some time, the DC staff stating that it was an ankle injury but nothing too serious.
The first half was full of great defense from both sides, causing struggles in the final third for those attacking on either side. With Birnbaum going down, Kofi Opare stepped up and played well against a physical Galaxy front. Gonzales and Leonardo did a great job for LA, the two centre backs rarely let anyone get behind them and they often thwarted Jairo Arrieta whenever he tried to establish position up front. Gonzales did very good job anticipating passes and often ended United attacks before they got to dangerous.
There were several close calls for both sides as Bill Hamid had to make several saves, on set pieces and on balls serviced into the box through the air as the Galaxy were looking for Gordon early and often. LA’s best chance may have been a curling shot from the top of the 18 from Stefan Ishizaki, the midfielder unleashed a curling shot that just got around Hamid’s outstretched hand but it hit the post. Gordon also got his head on several good passes but Hamid was in good enough position to field them cleanly.
The Galaxy’s back line was mostly tested on counter attacks, they would press forward trying to score and DC would push it up field quickly when the scoring opportunity failed. United suffered from a case of over-passing on the evening, they would have chances to take great shots but seemed to always look for a ‘better’ shot and that may just be a product of the healthy bodies they have. None of them seem to have the mentality of a true forward, no one up front thinking shoot all the time. As they get those healthy bodies back, this may become a nonissue.
There were also a couple of instances in which United players were brought down inside the box, but the official said to play on. While the crowd certainly didn’t like it, the official was pretty consistent in his preference for physical play.
Bobby Boswell was huge for his team, with Birnbaum out he was in charge of keeping that back line on the same page and did so all night. He also played a huge role in limiting Buddle and Gordon’s impact in the box whenever the ball was in the air, specifically in the second half when the Galaxy were pressing.
It was a good match between two tough teams, two teams with great depth that will go on to give other teams fits. The Black-and-Red kept their home winning streak alive and ended that horrible streak of losses and/or draws to the Galaxy. The student got his first win against the teacher, Olsen over Arena.
I was just happy to see our team back, that’s us, that’s how we play. The final third, I thought, for both teams was a little lacking but I was very happy with the effort and the response from last week- Ben Olsen
It was a big win for United as they are now 2-1 on the season and expect to get healthier in the coming weeks. The starting 11 outside of Hamid, could look drastically different once the team has it’s full complement of bodies. The Black-and-Red will go on the road to face Orlando City next Friday while the Galaxy travel north to face the Whitecaps next Saturday night.