Landon Donovan showed why his return to Major League Soccer has been so highly anticipated, making his Los Angeles Galaxy debut in high style Saturday night as he scored two goals and set up a third to lead his new club to a 3-1 victory against expansion side Real Salt Lake at The Home Depot Center.
Before the match, Donovan was welcomed by a warm ovation when his named was announced in the starting lineup. It didn't take long for the native Californian to give the crowd something to really cheer about either.
Just nine minutes into the match, Donovan found the back of the net from about 18 yards out. The goal was set up after a clever switch of play opened up Cobi Jones on the right flank, who then found Chris Albright making an overlapping run. Jovan Kirovski collected Albright's centering pass in the box before coolly laying the ball off to his new strike mate.
The goal for Donovan tied a franchise mark held by Jorge Salcedo as the quickest goal scored in a Galaxy debut.
Control of the match definitely was in favor of the home side, as Real struggled to generate any attack through the first quarter of the match. Their best opportunity early on came from a Leighton O'Brien cross from the right side that was headed over the bar by Salt Lake defender Matt Behncke. O'Brien had entered the match in the 10th minute for an injured Andy Williams.
In the 26th minute however, momentum seemed to be swinging in favor of the visiting side, as Dipsy Selolwane fired a shot from 22 yards out, forcing Kevin Hartman into a diving save.
Just three minutes later though, RSL would level the score after another Selolwane blast would stretch Hartman to his limits. Hartman made the save, but the ensuing rebound was knocked home by Jason Kreis, the first goal in RSL franchise history.
But just when it seemed like the two sides would head into the lockerroom knotted at a goal apiece, Donovan struck again. Guillermo Ramirez ran down the ball on the left and tried to put in a cross, only to see it deflected high into the air, eventually falling at the back post. Donovan quickly pounced, heading home from close range in front of Behncke.
The Galaxy opened the second half in much the same way as the first. They nearly stretched their lead in the 50th minute when Donovan sprung himself loose on the left side and sent a cross into an unmarked Vagenas. But all the Galaxy captain could manage with the empty net was hit the crossbar, keeping the scoreline at 2-1.
The chances continued to pile up for Los Angeles, as two golden opportunities for the Galaxy to score again came just one minute apart. The first came in the 61st minute when Donovan picked out a streaking Jones, but his shot went straight at Countess. Then a Galaxy corner kick pinballed around the RSL penalty area before second-half sub Mamba Chisoni put a foot to the ball, only to see his shot saved by a sprawling Countess.
In the 72nd minute the Galaxy would finally break through, as Donovan again would play a part in the Galaxy goal. After winning the ball in midfield he sent Jones free on the right, and he carried the ball into the RSL penalty area, eventually firing a shot that would beat Countess low to the back post. It was Jones' first goal since June 14, 2003.
The Galaxy wouldn't be content with a two-goal lead as they continued to dominate. Head coach Steve Sampson even used all three of his subs in the second half to bring on attacking players, but the three goals were enough in the end to rebound from the disappointing start to the season and start off the Landon Donovan era in style.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Real Salt Lake (0-0-1) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (0-1-0)
April 9, 2005 -- The Home Depot Center
LA -- Landon Donovan 1 (Jovan Kirovski 1) 9
RSL -- Jason Kreis 1 (unassisted) 29
LA -- Landon Donovan 2 (Guillermo Ramirez 1) 44
LA -- Cobi Jones 1 (Landon Donovan 1) 72
Real Salt Lake -- D.J. Countess, Rusty Pierce, Nelson Akwari, Eddie Pope, Matt Behncke (Luke Kreamalmeyer 46), Marlon Rojas, Brian Kamler, Andy Williams (Leighton O'Brien 10), Dipsy Selolwane (Chris Brown 76), Jason Kreis, Clint Mathis.
Substitutes Not Used: Brian Dunseth, Jay Nolly.
TOTAL SHOTS: 8 (Dipsy Selolwane 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Dipsy Selolwane 2); FOULS: 15 (Marlon Rojas 3); OFFSIDES: 5 (Jason Kreis 3); CORNER KICKS: 6 (Clint Mathis 5); SAVES: 7 (D.J. Countess 7)
Los Angeles Galaxy -- Kevin Hartman, Chris Albright, Ugo Ihemelu, Tyrone Marshall, Todd Dunivant, Paulo Nagamura (Mubarike Chisoni 46), Peter Vagenas, Landon Donovan, Guillermo Ramirez, Cobi Jones (Joseph Ngwenya 85), Jovan Kirovski (Ednaldo da Conceicao 74).
Substitutes Not Used: Paul Broome, Pablo Chinchilla, Steve Cronin, Michael Enfield, Ned Grabavoy, Michael Umana.
TOTAL SHOTS: 19 (Cobi Jones 3, Guillermo Ramirez 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 10 (3 tied with 2); FOULS: 14 (Tyrone Marshall 3); OFFSIDES: 7 (Landon Donovan 3); CORNER KICKS: 7 (Landon Donovan 6); SAVES: 4 (Kevin Hartman 3)
RSL -- Rusty Pierce (caution; Pushing, Holding) 24
RSL -- Nelson Akwari (caution; Pushing, Holding) 36
LA -- Tyrone Marshall (caution; Pushing, Holding) 38
RSL -- Leighton O'Brien (caution; Reckless Foul) 56
LA -- Todd Dunivant (caution; Pushing, Holding) 82
RSL -- Clint Mathis (caution; Reckless Foul) 87
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: -Chris Strickland; David Bragg
4th Official: Ramon Hernandez
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.