Cool, overcast conditions in the South Bay Friday undoubtedly made Seattle feel at home ahead of the pivotal, nationally televised Galaxy-Sounders clash Saturday in Carson.
Landon Donovan, who was not made available to reporters Thursday, reportedly remains an injury doubt for the game that presumably will also feature a replacement in central defense for A.J. DeLaGarza, apparently out with a dislocated elbow.
Clint Dempsey, meanwhile, will look for his first Seattle goal since his big money move from the EPL, while Galaxy President Chris Klein was rewarded Thursday for his leadership of the club with a new deal.
Here’s gameday details for those of you heading to StubHub Center.
Well, them and experienced backups Pablo Mastroeni and Chivas USA castoff Laurent Courtois in what was by all accounts an unattractive grind of a game, but got the home team exactly the result they needed both in this competition and to set up Saturday’s big clash against Seattle with rested regulars. Beat writer Phil Collin was at the game and filed this report.
Here’s the Galaxy starting XI, which included two players making their Galaxy debuts, BTW: Brian Rowe – Rafael Garcia, Tommy Meyer, Kofi Opare, Greg Cochrane – Michael Stephens, Pablo Mastroeni, Laurent Courtois – Jose Villarreal, Jack McBean, Chandler Hoffman
Reinvigorated U.S. stars Landon Donovan and Eddie Johnson grabbed the goals and the glory, with only striker Clint Dempsey faltering slightly under the spotlight’s glare, missing a second half stoppage time penalty that would have made the scoreline even more emphatic.
“We’ve always said that Landon is an important part of our team,” Klinsmann said of the Galaxy playmaker. “The things that he went through were his decision. We were totally fine with that, but he also had to understand that he wasn’t getting anything for granted. He had to work his way back, to fight his way back, and that’s what he did. In the Gold Cup to start with, and now coming here, he understands the message that nobody has a spot guaranteed.
The stricken faces of the Mexicans Tuesday said it all, out of ideas tactically and wilting mentally under the pressure and expectations of a rabid nation, while the Americans added grit and determination to bright endeavor and execution. This isn’t a team, it’s a system, with squad members fulfilling role coach Jurgen Klinsmann demands despite the absence of such regulars as Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley.
“They were understandably under a lot of pressure,” Donovan said of El Tri. “We knew that if we kept the game at zero or we were ahead, it was going to play into our favor. Once we got the goal, we could see in their eyes it was going to end in a victory for us.”
It was a magnificent evening watched by more viewers in the U.S. on ESPN than any other World Cup qualifying game in history that represented another major step forward for the sport domestically and internationally. And Carlos Bocanegra et al were happy in Upland, too.
Had Mexico staged the game, 110,000 crazed El Tri fans would have crammed into daunting Azteca. Instead the U.S. opponents got a taste of their own medicine, delirious U.S. fans standing the entire game in much modest 25,000-capacity (or so) Columbus Crew Stadium.
It was an environment that at once exemplified the game’s gulf in popularity in the two nations, but also the spirit and emerging skill of the upstart, underdog Americans who once again proved it has Mexico’s number in games that really count.
Notable: The U.S. is 12-5-4 against Mexico since 2000.
“Step-by-step, we’re getting closer to taking the game to the opponents,” Klinsmann said. “We’re not sitting back and reacting to what happens. We want to take it into their half. Every game is different. We know that, too, but I think we’ve made big progress in terms of tactical variation and in terms of commitment both ways of the game offensively and defensively.
“The players know what we expect tactically. The players know there’s another guy behind them in every position, that if he doesn’t give everything he has the next one comes in and steals his spot. Therefore, there’s more competition and I think if you look at the entire picture they can be really proud of themselves.”
Here’s how goal scorer Landon Donovan saw the remarkable save from Jaimie Penedo to allow his early goal to stand for the 1-0 victory Saturday evening over the Vancouver Whitecaps:
“The save could potentially be save of the year.” Donovan said. “Other than that he was really solid. He came off his line, he was aggressive, he made solid saves when he needed to, he came and got the ball off crosses when he needed to. You can’t ask more of a goalie in a game like this, and I thought he was excellent.”
Especially in contrast to predecessor Carlo Cudicini, who didn’t even make the trip north, but who’s less than desirable play before Penedo’s arrival earned him an oblique reference from coach Bruce Arena:
“Great save! What more can you say? We’ve not had a lot of these opportunities this year where we can close out a game but we got it done tonight.”
Wonder how many more times we’re going to read a column like this about Landon Donovan before season’s end?
Chivas USA plays joint Eastern Conference leaders Red Bull New York at 2 p.m. Sunday at StubHub Center (live on Unimas), but the MLS game of the weekend is undoubtedly the Pacific Northwest derby between Portland and the Sounders (live at 7 p.m. on ESPN2) with a capacity 67,000-plus crowd on hand in Seattle for Clint Dempsey’s home debut against their regional rivals.
A full run-down of the weekend’s EPL action on NBC is here. The pick of the games though is Monday when Manchester United faces Chelsea at noon live on NBCSN
Despite starting an unusually large number of regulars (there were still six changes to the lineup that faced Real Salt Lake Saturday), it took Landon Donovan coming on as a substitute for the Galaxy to unlock the rear guard action of their Costa Rican opponents Tuesday in Carson in a CONCACAF Champions League opener the home team wanted to win by two clear goals.
MLS beat writer Phil Collin was one of 9,474 on hand for the game and filed this report.
Notable: Defender Kofi Opare made his debut and midfielder Robbie Rogers will undergo a scan today to determine the severity of a hamstring issue that forced him from the game prematurely.
Quotable: “It wasn’t a convincing performance but we played well enough to certainly win the game,” said striker Robbie Keane. “It’s always nice to get a couple of goals because goal difference is very important in this [competition.]”
Here’s the significance of the win in the tournament, according to the Galaxy website:
The Galaxy are now tied with Cartagines for the top spot in Group 8. Both teams have three points with the Galaxy standing at 1-0-0 while Cartagines are 1-1-0. Isidro Metapan are in third place with an 0-1-0 record and no points.
The Galaxy also have the best goal difference in the group at +2 while Cartagines are even and Metapan are -2.