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11/23 5:00pm
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Eastern Conference Championship

Donovan makes good on challenge

Landon Donovan has performed well in recent matches against the Wizards.

Photo Credit: 
Edward Zurga Jr./MLS/WireImage.com

With Landon Donovan having scored four goals and garnering two assists against the Wizards in 10 previous games, it was no secret that the Wizards would keep a close eye on the talented striker during Saturday's clash with the San Jose Earthquakes at Arrowhead Stadium.

What the Wizards didn't know is that Donovan had challenged himself before the match.

"I told myself that I wanted to take some more chances and run at people," Donovan said. "I feel like I play better when I do that."

Despite Donovan's pledge, the match began predictably as San Jose unsuccessfully drove crosses into the area which the league's top defense easily handled.

Kansas City retaliated with their own wing play and created the game's first strong chance through left winger Igor Simutenkov who started his first match of the season after rehabilitating his torn Achilles.

Simutenkov's shot in the 26th minute rattled off the left post, dashing his dream of a storybook start to his season and foreshadowing a trying day for the Wizards.

But Donovan's day was just beginning. Putting thought into action, Donovan began to dash in and out of the Wizards' defense soon latching onto a Brian Mullan cross between Kansas City keeper Tony Meola and right back Nick Garcia. Donovan did not waste the chance as he headed the ball past Meola for his fifth of the season.

Unfazed by the goal and his previous near miss, Simutenkov continued his enterprising play in the 31st minute with a convincing fake that floored his defender and a soft chip that floated over San Jose 'keeper Pat Onstad and landed on the crossbar, once again denying the Russian his first goal of the season.

The Wizards' frustration mounted and their concentration suffered. Giveaways and misfires on the attack continued.

"Defensively today we were tentative for whatever reason," commented Kansas City coach Bob Gansler. "Offensively we didn't put much together either."

Meanwhile, Donovan continued to terrorize the Wizards. In the 59th minute, strike partner Brian Ching intercepted a Garcia pass and played for Donovan who had only one K.C. defender to beat. Donovan raced into the box with Shavar Thomas helplessly trailing and slid home his second of the match, his sixth against the Wizards in 11 games.

The 22-year-old Californian was at a loss after the match in trying to explain his success against Kansas City.

"I don't know what it is, but I like it," he said. "They have one of the best defenses and one of the best goalies in the league. I don't know if it's the air or what's going on, but I like it."

The rest of the Earthquakes have to like it too. They are out of the cellar in the Western Conference and looking forward to playing at home after two away matches.

Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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