L.A. defense locks down Chivas USA

Playing without Landon Donovan for the second consecutive game, goalkeeper Kevin Hartman and the rest of the Los Angeles Galaxy defense held their opponents scoreless, capturing a 2-0 victory against Chivas USA in the second edition of the Super Clásico.

Unlike Wednesday night's scoreless draw against Columbus, Saturday's match was a wide-open affair, with both teams creating scoring chances from the opening whistle. In the end, it took the Galaxy 62 minutes to break through and take the lead, but after that, it was all Galaxy.

The first goal came from the head of Costa Rican international defender Pablo Chinchilla, who also teamed with Tyrone Marshall to anchor the center of the Galaxy back four. A late second-half strike from the Galaxy's surprise sniper Pete Vagenas provided the final blow.

From that point on it was a solid defensive effort that closed out the game, and after the match, Galaxy head coach Steve Sampson lauded the efforts of his defense.

"Chivas showed a lot more energy than I thought they would," said Sampson. "I thought Kevin Hartman and our back line played solid defense."

That they did, and as the game wore on in the second half, two defensive subs were made to ensure the victory. First on was Paul Broome, who started at left back for the Sampson last year. Then, to lock things down completely, Michael Umana came on, leaving the Galaxy with six defenders on the field for the final six minutes of the game.

Sampson, who has shown a propensity to send in offensive subs in the second half of games regardless of the score, explained his substitution pattern.

"Paul (Broome) is a player who can shut down Ezra (Hendrickson)," said the Galaxy boss. "And certainly Umana coming into the midfield was to secure the win."

The close of the second half wasn't really a true indication of how Chivas USA played all night though. In the first half they did a good job of pressuring the Galaxy and created a number of good opportunities and made Hartman earn his shutout. The way the defense reacted to the pressure was what impressed veteran defender Marshall.

"They had us on our heels a little bit. But we kept out shape, and we organized ourselves," said Marshall. "Second half, we came out and bottled things up."

The shutout was the third of the season for the Galaxy. For a team that had been so stingy last season when it came to opposing goals, the Galaxy this year had been having trouble keeping the ball out of their own net. Until this past week, it had been their high-octane offense that had been winning games for the Green and Gold.

But again next week -- and often in the coming months -- the Galaxy will be without one of the league's most potent attackers in Donovan. That's what made Saturday night's win without him that much more meaningful for the Galaxy.

"It's good for the defense to be able to reward the offense for the goals they've scored early for us," said Hartman. "It was good we won tonight. It was an away win, second shutout in a row, and we won without Landon."

Winning without Landon is something that the Galaxy are going to have to do this summer if they are going to keep pace with FC Dallas in the West. Saturday was a good stepping stone for this team to build some confidence that they can do just that.

But it was clear that the Galaxy are going to have to rely on their defense a lot more in the coming weeks to cope for what most likely will be an offensive dip during World Cup qualifying. Perhaps the most telling statement of all on Saturday was that it was a defender who not only shut down the opposing offense tonight, but also provided the Galaxy with the game-winning goal.

Greg Daurio 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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