The Los Angeles Galaxy concluded a four-match homestand with 12 points of a possible 12 and took over the Western Conference lead on Sunday night, but only through a 3-2 victory against the Colorado Rapids that didn't come in a conventional manner.
The two sides traded three penalty kicks in the final five minutes of the game, the Galaxy getting the better of the trio en route to the victory. But while the Galaxy came away with three points again, it wasn't in the same fashion as they'd done in the first three home victories.
Once again, the Galaxy were dominant -- Colorado mustering only one shot for the entire second half. That shot was Jeff Cunningham's equalizer, also from the penalty spot, just two minutes after Landon Donovan gave the home side the lead with the first of the Galaxy's two late penalties.
The fact that the Galaxy outshot Colorado 18-3 but only managed one goal from open play was a cause for concern for Galaxy coach Steve Sampson.
"We created a number of opportunities we should have put away," Sampson said. "We hope in the future those begin to fall for us."
Even the players recognized a difference in tonight's performance as compared to their last three wins.
"Soccer is all about finishing your opportunities," said Galaxy captain Pete Vagenas. "Today we were sort of snake-bitten."
Whether it was a run of bad luck, or poor finishing, Colorado always seemed to put a late boot in, or got a good save from goalkeeper Joe Cannon to keep the Galaxy at bay.
"It was a weird game," said Galaxy defender Chris Albright. "They did just enough to keep themselves in the game."
It was Albright who was just inches away from getting his first goal of the season on Sunday. Instead teammate Tyrone Marshall out-reached him for a bouncing ball in the area to net the Galaxy's first goal on a corner.
It was just minutes later that Colorado would find the first equalizer, yet another black mark on an otherwise impressive win.
"When we dominate a game like that we cannot lose our concentration," said Sampson. "It's good for the fans, it's good for the league. It's not so good for the coaches."
Despite a lack of finishing, and a lack of concentration defensively, the Galaxy did manage to muster a win. It was the way they won the contest that stole the show at the Home Depot Center.
Three penalties in such a short amount of time are certainly a rarity in soccer. The fact that all three came in the waning moments of the game was even more bizarre.
"I can't remember a finish like that," said Sampson. "I'd have to think long and hard, but I can't remember one right now."
Albright echoed that thought after the game, but felt all three of the referee's decisions were justified.
"Three penalties in that short a period of time is incredible," said Albright. "But I think all three were penalties."
Finding a way to win, even when things get a little strange is always a sign of a good team. Even after conceding the tying goal late in the game, Los Angeles continued to press in an effort to come out on top, and it paid off.
"I definitely feel we deserved to win," said Vagenas. "It's a good sign with a game like that, that we can come out on top."
For Donovan, who scored both of the Galaxy's late penalties, it was just a good present for his mom on Mother's Day. He joined Clint Dempsey atop the MLS scoring table with his fourth and fifth goals of the season.
"It was nice. It wasn't in the run of play but it was still a goal for Mother's Day. The second one is just gravy," said Donovan.
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.