The Los Angeles Galaxy overcame an early wonder goal and injury to their starting goalkeeper to earn a 1-1 draw with the Kansas City Wizards on Saturday night in front of an overflow crowd at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
Claudio Lopez's strike from beyond the halfway line put the Wizards on top, but from an assist by David Beckham, Landon Donovan evened in the 33rd minute, converting one of several Galaxy chances. Now unbeaten in five games, the Galaxy have 28 points on the season and remain in third place in MLS's Western Conference.
Both sides played with urgency through the opening 20 minutes, yet penetration of the opposing defenses proved difficult, although the Wizards youthful back four, minus veteran center back Jimmy Conrad (on duty with the U.S. national team in the CONCACAF Gold Cup) and suspended starter Lance Watson, proved more vulnerable.
It was Donovan who was ready to fully expose a poor series of clearances with a six-yard half-volley blast at Hartman from the right side. However, Hartman blocked with his chest and the ball was eventually cleared.
Little before, though, signaled the sublime that followed. Picking up an errant trap by Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez in the 26th minute, Lopez noticed he was alone and spied Los Angeles goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts well off his line.
"El Piojo" struck a driving lob with his educated left foot forcing the panicked Ricketts to turn and rush to his line like a center fielder who knew he was in trouble. As the crowd rose, Lopez's shot floated into the left upper corner of the net to give the Wizards the lead setting off a suitable celebration in the stadium.
The Galaxy suffered more than the lead on Lopez's fifth goal of the season and the Wizards' first in three matches as Ricketts was hurt on the play, suffering back spasms after crashing into his right post in the effort. Backup goalkeeper Josh Saunders entered for the Jamaican international in the 29th minute.
The events served to only inspire Los Angeles, coming in as MLS's hottest side, as Donovan leveled four minutes later. Running unfettered off a Beckham pass just inside the Wizards half, the reigning MLS scoring champion moved right to left and unleashed a perfectly placed low shot from 20 yards that saw its way under a blinded Hartman and into the lower left corner of the goal. The goal was Donovan's eighth of the season in 14 games.
Donovan returned again in the 44th minute again from Beckham. A 40-yard pass that beat a crowd of defenders found Donovan in behind the Wizards defense and bearing down on Hartman. The career MLS leader in nearly every goalkeeping category stuffed Donovan's attempt to keep the game level at halftime.
Outplayed in the first half, Kansas City turned it up in the second two strong chances to reclaim the lead. In the 50th minute, an unmarked Herculez Gomez struck a one-time shot wide at the back post off a Lopez feed.
Then substitute Saunders proved up to task minutes later as Lopez curled a pacy free kick over the wall from 22 yards in the 52nd minute. The 28-year-old leapt up to his left and to usher the ball over the bar for a resulting innocuous corner.
To stem K.C.'s rising tide, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena inserted former Wizards midfielder Chris Klein for forward Mike Magee in the 69th minute, moving Klein to right of the midfield and pushing Donovan up front.
The match evened out and save for a bending free kick from Lopez that hit off the Galaxy's post and then back to Gonzalez before being cleared, no strong chances for the win were created.
The Galaxy next face a friendly against FC Barcelona on Aug. 1 at The Home Depot Center before resuming league play Aug. 8 at New England. The Wizards head to FC Dallas Aug. 1.
Bob Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com.