Jovan Kirovski scored a pair of second-half goals as the Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the Dallas Burn 2-0 on Saturday night at a sold-out Home Depot Center. With the victory, Los Angeles assure themselves of finishing no lower than second place and of hosting their home leg of the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs on Saturday, October 30 at 7 p.m.
Kirovski nodded home a corner kick midway through the second half then hooked home a free kick five minutes from the end as the Galaxy kept alive their hopes of claiming the top seed in the Western Conference for the MLS Cup Playoffs and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
But the Burn entered the game in more dire straits, knowing that a loss to the Galaxy and a San Jose Earthquakes victory would eliminate them from postseason contention. But with a scoreless draw between the Quakes and the Kansas City Wizards to the north, the Burn ended the night just two points behind San Jose, with the teams facing off next weekend at the Cotton Bowl.
The first half saw both teams content to play in midfield, with neither team generating much in terms of attack, though the best scoring chances fell to the Galaxy. The Burn did find the back of the net after just six minutes, but Burn striker Jason Kreis was clearly offside.
A short flurry in the 15th minute gave Los Angeles their best scoring chances. First, Kirovski received a brilliant through pass at the top of the area and would have been in alone on Scott Garlick, but he was unable to control the pass and saw his first touch roll right to the Dallas 'keeper.
Just two minutes later, Alejandro Moreno found Alan Gordon -- who was making his first MLS start -- alone in the penalty area. Gordon turned and fired at the near post, but Garlick was again well positioned and punched away the shot.
Garlick's positioning again came to the rescue of the Burn on a 29th-minute corner kick. Kirovski sent a driven ball to the near post for center back Danny Califf to run onto, but his glancing header fell right into the arms of the waiting 'keeper.
The Burn's best opportunity of the half came in the 29th minute, when Bobby Rhine stripped the ball from the Galaxy defense and sent a hard shot to the near post. But L.A. 'keeper Kevin Hartman was up to the task and easily steered the ball away for a corner kick.
Dallas came out pressing the attack in the second half, forcing two quick saves from Hartman in the 51st and 53rd minutes off of Jason Kreis and Milton Reyes respectively.
The game again settled into a midfield battle until the 68th minute when the Galaxy finally broke the scoreless tie. Minutes after coming on as a substitute -- his first appearance in three games -- Andreas Herzog drove in a corner kick that was flicked to the back post by Kreis. Kirovski calmly headed the ball into the back of the net to give the Galaxy the lead.
Kirovski would strike again in the 85th minute off of a well-taken free kick. Substitute Joseph Ngwenya earned the kick when he dribbled up the right side before being taken down just outside the box by Milton Reyes. Kirovski then bent the ensuing free kick around the wall inside the near post as Garlick was far too late to arrive.
The Galaxy nearly added to their tally in the 89th minute when Ngwenya and Herzog combined for a series of creative passes, the end result a back heel by Herzog that beat Garlick, but was cleared off of the line by Burn defender Matt Behncke.
The Burn will need a victory against San Jose next Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET) to have any hope of making the playoffs, trailing the defending MLS Cup champion by two points for fourth place in the West. The Galaxy head to Kansas City next Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET) knowing that a victory would leave the teams level atop the conference, with home-field advantage all the way through the playoffs dependent on the final result.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Jovan Kirovski (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Dallas Burn (10-14-5) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (11-8-10)
October 09, 2004 -- The Home Depot Center
LA -- Jovan Kirovski 7 (unassisted) 68
LA -- Jovan Kirovski 8 (unassisted) 85
Dallas Burn -- Scott Garlick, Carey Talley, Matt Behncke, Steve Jolley, Milton Reyes, Ronnie O'Brien, Oscar Pareja (Ramon Nunez 71), Simo Valakari (Jordan Stone 87), Brad Davis (Toni Nhleko 57), Jason Kreis, Bobby Rhine.
Substitutes Not Used: Jeff Cassar, Clarence Goodson.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Milton Reyes 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 9 (3 tied with 2); FOULS: 19 (Ronnie O'Brien 6); OFFSIDES: 1 (Jason Kreis 1); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Brad Davis 4); SAVES: 6 (Scott Garlick 5)
Los Angeles Galaxy -- Kevin Hartman, Chris Albright, Danny Califf, Sasha Victorine, Paul Broome, Arturo Torres (Josh Gardner 79), Marcelo Saragosa, Peter Vagenas, Alejandro Moreno (Andreas Herzog 61), Jovan Kirovski, Alan Gordon (Joseph Ngwenya 73).
Substitutes Not Used: Chris Aloisi, Guillermo Gonzalez, Ned Grabavoy, Dan Popik, Scot Thompson.
TOTAL SHOTS: 17 (Arturo Torres 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 8 (3 tied with 2); FOULS: 11 (Danny Califf 3); OFFSIDES: 3 (Jovan Kirovski 2); CORNER KICKS: 7 (Jovan Kirovski 4); SAVES: 9 (Kevin Hartman 8)
DAL -- Milton Reyes (caution; Reckless Foul) 32
LA -- Chris Albright (caution; Reckless Foul) 34
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: -George Gansner; David Bragg
4th Official: Baldomero Toledo
Time of Game: 1:54
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.