Herculez's strength lifts Galaxy to victory
Playing in The Home Depot Center, the Los Angeles Galaxy used a decisive home-field advantage Wednesday to beat FC Dallas in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final 1-0 on a brilliant strike from Herculez Gomez.
The Galaxy won their second Dewar Trophy, thanks to Gomez's sixth goal in four Open Cup matches this year. L.A. also won in 2001 by beating the New England Revolution.
Both teams came out of the gate a little slow on Wednesday, which could be attributed to the fact that both teams were coming off of hard fought games over the weekend. Nerves might have played a hand in it, but both sides spent the first 15 minutes of the game feeling each other out.
But in the 17th minute the midfield started to open up and the scoring chances presented themselves. The first chance fell to FC Dallas when Ronnie O'Brien stripped Galaxy fullback Todd Dunivant of the ball then played a quick pass forward to Ramon Nunez. He found a streaking Roberto Mina, who got in behind the Galaxy defense and was free on a break away. Though, just before the Ecuadorian pulled the trigger, Galaxy defender Ugo Ihemelu caught him from behind and made a daring tackle in the box to clear the ball out for a corner kick.
The 24th minute belonged to the Galaxy, generating their first scoring chance of the game. Joseph Ngwenya dribbled through a pair of Dallas defenders before firing a shot wide left of Scott Garlick's goal.
First time unlucky, the Galaxy came back just a minute later and got on the board. Chris Albright won a ball on the end line, then sent a cross into the box. Gomez got vertical from eight yards out and met the ball with an acrobatic scissors kick, burying the ball into the back of the net.
The Hoops were denied by the woodwork in the 40th minute. The play initiated on the right side from a free kick. The Galaxy's first attempt at a clearance failed, and Bobby Rhine crossed the ball back in from the left where Clarence Goodson was lurking at the six-yard line. Goodson's header skipped off the top of the crossbar, and the Galaxy maintained their narrow margin.
Both teams came out the start the second half more apt to go forward, and three minutes into the second half, Galaxy veteran Cobi Jones made a weaving run through the Dallas defense. He managed to get a shot off from inside the penalty area, but Rhine had tracked him the whole way and got a boot in to block the shot.
FCD head coach Colin Clarke was the first to go to his bench bringing on two subs in the 54th minute. O'Brien left the field, hampered by a knock he took early in the first half. Midfielder Carey Talley's night also came to an end as Oscar Pareja and Aaron Pitchkolan came on for the away side.
Immediately following the sub, the Galaxy nearly doubled their lead. Ngwenya again dribbled into the Dallas penalty area, this time laying the ball off to Landon Donovan. He quickly turned and fired, missing just wide. Jones, standing near the back post, was just inches away from tapping the errant ball home.
A hard foul on Ngwenya in the 59th minute turned the game ugly. Goodson, who was guilty of the infraction, and Ngwenya got in a shoving match in the center circle. Players from both teams converged to intervene after Ngwenya and FCD's Mark Wilson had each ripped the other's shirt. The end result of the incident was yellow cards to Ngwenya, Goodson, and Wilson.
But the Galaxy composed themselves and went back on the attack. Shots from Dunivant and Pete Vagenas came in short succession, but neither found the mark, both going wide of the post.
Dallas used its third substitution in the 69th minute, bringing on their final offensive option off the bench, forward Abe Thompson.
The Galaxy continued to own the scoring chances in the second half. In the 74th minute, Gomez blew a golden opportunity to add a second goal to his account.
Hoops defender Greg Vanney played a lazy back pass to Garlick that Gomez intercepted. The Galaxy striker rounded the Dallas 'keeper and shot towards the empty net, but banged it squarely off the right post.
Vagenas forced a diving save from Garlick in the 82nd minute. The scoring chance started on the right flank when Jones played an early cross to Vagenas. He gathered the pass, cut to the middle and curled a shot towards the top corner. Only the outstretched hand of Garlick prevented the Galaxy from getting the insurance goal.
Minutes later Ngwenya's speed proved to be too much for the Dallas defense as he turned with the ball and raced past everyone for a breakaway. Garlick again kept his side in it, making the save, and clearing the ball out for a corner kick.
On the ensuing corner kick, the Galaxy went short to Donovan, who streaked into the Dallas penalty area and sent a wicked low cross in front of Garlick. Second-half FCD sub Steve Jolley slid and blocked it out for another corner kick.
Wilson had the last best chance for Dallas in stoppage time, hitting a dipping volley from just outside of the penalty area. Galaxy netminder Kevin Hartman got the slightest of touches to the ball and sent it over the crossbar. The Galaxy then closed up shop and won their first trophy since the 2002 MLS Cup.
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.