The Los Angles Galaxy showed that the quality of a championship team is measured beyond their record. Despite sitting at .500 in the MLS standings, the Galaxy made an impressive run through the U.S. Open Cup culminating Wednesday night in a 1-0 victory against FC Dallas on a highlight-reel goal by Herculez Gomez.
With the win at The Home Depot Center, the Galaxy earned their first piece of hardware since they won MLS Cup in 2002. The Galaxy were never really tested throughout the tournament, dispatching their first two opponents by 5-2 scores in both games. And even though the final was 1-0, the Galaxy didn't concede a serious shot on goal until second-half stoppage time. The Galaxy, on the other hand, peppered Scott Garlick's net with eight shots on frame.
The one shot that counted came from Gomez in the 25th minute. Gomez, who won the Sierra Mist Goal of the Week for his strike against Kansas City on Saturday, one-upped himself against FCD. Chris Albright provided the assist on a cross and Gomez did the rest. He jumped up to meet the ball, getting completely horizontal to the ground, then unleashed a powerful scissors kick into the back of the net.
"The exclamation point was the win, the goal was just the icing," said a champagne-soaked Gomez after the game. "I've got a great bunch of guys on my team. There was a point [in the second half] where I missed a wide-open goal, but they stuck with me and kept supporting me. This is a championship team. In the Open Cup, I don't think there was a better team than us."
For long stretches of this summer, the Green and Gold struggled. After a torrid 7-2 start, the Galaxy have fought to return to .500 record on the season. But veteran defender Tyrone Marshall is convinced those days are over.
"You look at our record, obviously it doesn't tell the tale of the Galaxy. We're at .500 right now, but we're better than [a] .500 [team]," Marshall said. "A lot of guys have been with national teams [throughout the summer]. When we have our full compliment of players we're a good team. When guys are not in [the lineup], it shows.
"Now it's getting down where everyone is healthy and we're back in the mix. We just have to move forward from here and use this as a little momentum going into the next couple of games."
What was more impressive than the goal by Gomez was the shutout by the entire Galaxy team. The last Galaxy shutout came over a month ago on Aug. 10 against Chivas USA. On the year, the Galaxy have only posted six clean sheets prior to Wednesday.
"We've had troubles all season long and the lack of concentration towards the end of the game. Tonight we didn't show that, we played with a lot more intelligence," head coach Steve Sampson said after the victory. "Dallas brought everything it could, sliding balls in from every single part of the attacking half of the field. Cobi Jones and Landon Donovan -- their experience led to the victory at the end. The guys played with a lot more concentration and a lot more wisdom than we have at previous matches."
Vindication was another word the Galaxy camp used to describe the win. Players and coaches have come under some fire from critics all year long for their inconsistent play, and Wednesday, the Galaxy silenced those critics, at least for a little while.
"We've only had one of these (Open Cup titles) at this club in its entire existence. We've been taking a lot of [abuse] from everybody about our inconsistency, but you can't measure the heart of a champion," said Galaxy captain Pete Vagenas. "We showed in big games, when everything is on the line, that this team has got something left. So, that being said, we are going to enjoy this thoroughly tonight and tomorrow before we put it behind us and move on."
The Galaxy won't get too far past this game though. Their next opponent on the regular-season schedule is Dallas, the very same team that they beat Wednesday.
So, the Galaxy will sip champagne, and celebrate into the night, but in the back of their minds, only half the job is done. The remainder of the regular season, and MLS Cup are still up for grabs, and the Galaxy have the chance to win a rare double.
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.