CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy struggled to turn their dominance into anything concrete, but Robbie Keane converted two late penalty kicks to give them all of the points against the Columbus Crew on Thursday night at StubHub Center.
Keane fired to the lower-right corner in the 85th minute and again in stoppage to forge a 2-1 victory for LA, which pressured Columbus' defense from start to finish but were headed for defeat after Bernardo Anor's looping header put the Crew ahead in the 78th minute.
Keane, who has seven goals this season, nearly scored the winner moments after his first strike, firing into the crossbar after failing to connect with Jose Villarreal on a breakaway in the 88th minute.
The Galaxy (8-7-3) claimed only their fourth win in their last 11 league games to maintain the fourth spot in the Western Conference, nine points off the lead. The Crew (5-8-5) are eighth in the East.
The Galaxy racked up huge advantages in shots (23-8, but just six on target), corner kicks (10-1) and possession (nearly 60 percent), but their final pass and final shot were inadequate, a recurring storyline the past month or so.
They tallied only from the spot, with the Crew protesting both calls by referee Sorin Stoica. On the first, Villarreal tumbled after taking a through ball from Marcelo Sarvas and pushing it past Crew goalkeeper Andy Greunebaum. Anor was called for pushing down Keane as he awaited a cross from Colin Clark to set up the second penalty.
The Crew went ahead when Anor, just inside the Galaxy box, got his head to Federico Higuain's free kick from near midfield, looping it into the upper-right corner.
The Galaxy was without Landon Donovan, off with the U.S. national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Hector Jimenez took his spot on the right side of midfield, the only change from the lineup in last weekend's 3-2 loss at San Jose. Gyasi Zardes moved to the right wing after Villarreal came on up top in the 61st minute.
Columbus coach Robert Warzycha shifted his lineup with Jairo Arrieta away with Costa Rica for the Gold Cup and midfielder Matias Sanchez's return from a yellow card-accumulation suspension. Josh Williams moved to his usual slot at right back after three games in central defense, and Danny O'Rourke moved from midfield to the backline, partnering Chad Marshall in the middle.
The Galaxy created more than a dozen half-chances in the first half, to perhaps three by the Crew -- the shot count was 13-1 -- but again struggled with the final pass or the finish. Keane, in the 39th minute, had the best opportunity, opening space by feinting O'Rourke out of position, then firing a rising shot that Columbus goalkeeper Gruenebaum parried over the crossbar.
OPTA CHALKBOARD: Where the Galaxy lined up to pound the Crew
Omar Gonzalez had three chances on headers, but he misdirected his shot from a free kick near the right corner in the 22nd minute, just missed the far post with a glancing header from a corner kick in the 29th, then -- early in the second half -- forced a diving save from Greunebaum from a corner kick in the 56th. Juninho fired through the box and just past the right post in the 24th, and Robbie Rogers fired well high with an open shot in the box in the 58th.
The Crew continually tried to send balls behind LA's defense for Dominic Oduro, but the Galaxy provided him little space and did well to cut off the passing lanes. The speedy forward had three of the Crew's shots, firing well over the crossbar in the 34th, straight at goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini in the 55th and forcing a save off the goal line by Todd Dunivant in the 88th.
Both clubs are back in action Sunday. The Galaxy are home against FC Dallas, and the Crew return to Columbus to take on the Portland Timbers.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Robbie Keane||Two goals -- clutch from the spot -- plus set up more than handful of other chances for himself and others.|
|2||Andy Gruenebaum||Crew goalkeeper made four saves to keep the Crew in it; could do nothing to stop the|
|3||Gyasi Zardes||Got into good positions time and again, but was unable to convert.|