LA disappointed to draw Impact after superb turnaround

In front of a mammoth, record-setting crowd at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, the star-studded LA Galaxy came out flat against the Impact.

An eighth-minute Davy Arnaud goal had put the reigning MLS Cup champions down 1-0 heading into the halftime break. But rather than buckling under the pressure, LA dug deep to turn in a stellar effort in the final 45 minutes. And while it was not enough to get the win, the Galaxy managed to fight to a 1-1 draw and restore some confidence after starting the season 3-5-1.

“We’re disappointed not to have the three points,” Galaxy goalscorer David Beckham said. “In the second half, we created so many chances. I knew once we got the first goal, our confidence would grow up. At first, we played with not enough belief, but in the second half, we came in and showed the character that we have.“

Beckham struck in the 62nd minute, firing home a vintage free kick from 23 yards out that beat goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts at his near post.

LA’s energy picked up significantly after the goal, but their growing number of attacks never got clean enough to grab a game-winner.

HIGHLIGHTS: MTL 1, LA 1

“Too often it’s been our story this year,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “We played well enough to win. ... We have to stop making some mistakes, but the attitude and the effort is really good and you can’t fault anyone for that.”

This time around, a former teammate helped sink the Galaxy’s hopes for a full three points. Ricketts made seven saves to hold LA at one goal, including a late stop on a Marcelo Sarvas curler that seemed destined to sneak inside the far post.

“Donovan made the difference in the game today for Montreal,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “He had a couple of excellent saves, positioned them to get a point and maybe win the game. He was outstanding.”

Ricketts led the Galaxy to the MLS Cup final in 2009, and was a large part of the club’s turnaround from a three-year run without a playoff appearance. In 2010, he won Goalkeeper of the Year, but was traded to the Impact after the 2011 season.

“He was a very important part of our success over the last three years and we certainly didn’t want to lose him,” Arena said. “We had to make some moves and unfortunately we lost the best goalkeeper in the league.”

Ricketts’ counterpart Saturday was former backup Brian Perk, who was one of several surprise starters – Kyle Nakazawa and Dan Keat also made the lineup also got starts as Arena tried to shake up the starting lineup.

Perk played in Tuesday’s Reserve League match against the San Jose Earthquakes, his first action since the preseason when he was sidelined by surgery for a sports hernia. His recovery kept him off the bench for the Galaxy’s previous two matches.

“Perk played well,” Arena said of his ‘keeper. “He wasn’t tested a lot. … For his first game this year, he has to come back from surgery and he did well. His distribution was very good.”

The Galaxy will visit the White House on Tuesday before returning home to play Chivas USA on May 19 in what is technically a Chivas home match.

And though they didn’t get the win in Montreal, they can take a positive experience into their SuperClasico matchup.

“Playing in front of 60,000 fans is incredible,” Beckham said. “Wherever you play, that’s what you want. Home or away, even if people are for or against you, it’s great to play in this atmosphere. … We want to thank the Impact fans and the football fans. It was a great day for the game.”

Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at buenodad@gmail.com.