CARSON, Calif. -- The Vancouver Whitecaps seemed to get the better of the tactical battle at the start of Saturday night's Western Conference showdown in Southern California, packing their midfield to match the LA Galaxy's new diamond.
What the 'Caps couldn't match was Robbie Keane's nose for the net. LA was the better side most of the way at StubHub Center, but the Irishman's instincts -- and a superb cross from Swede Stefan Ishizaki -- were the difference in a 1-0 decision.
Keane volleyed home Ishizaki's feed just 71 seconds into the second half, and the Galaxy reigned the rest of the way en route to their second successive shutout victory.
“It was just a great goal,” said Landon Donovan, who had three good looks at a potential 135th goal that would pull him ahead of Jeff Cunningham for sole possession of the MLS career goals record. “Great touch by Stefan, great run by Robbie, and a great cross. In a game like that, you need someone to make a play, and those two made a play, and it ended up being the difference.”
Ishizaki, still working toward full fitness and form, played his finest match since coming to MLS, spearheading the attack from atop the midfield diamond. Vancouver left little space to exploit, so when he took advantage of an opening just after the second half kickoff, he made it count.
Juninho played a ball in behind on the right flank and Ishizaki ran onto it, squared up with Jay DeMerit at the edge of the box, beat the Whitecaps defender to the right, and swung a ball onto Keane's path for a simple finish.
“I made a run in behind, really good touch gave me time, and the defender dropped off a little bit, so I could look up, see what was in the box,” Ishizaki said. “Robbie put his hand up and made a run, so I picked him out.”
Keane wasn't surprised when the ball arrived, even if the 'Caps were.
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“It was a tremendous ball,” said the Galaxy captain, who has three goals this year and 37 in 59 career MLS matches. “I just knew with someone like him sending the ball there's a great chance he's going to find me. ... I know if I go into a space, then more than likely he's going to find me in that space.”
The Whitecaps lacked the energy to come back, at least until bringing on fresh legs in the final 20 minutes, and even then they couldn't challenge LA goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
“I think they got worn out,” Donovan said. “They put a lot of energy in the first half, with the ball and defending, and eventually when our ball movement got better, we passed the ball better, it really wore them out.
“Their forwards were trying to chase our defenders, and you can't press against us like that for 90 minutes. You're going to wear out. We did a good job of making them work in the second half, and our only fault was that we needed to punish them more.”