Thanks to an inspired two-goal performance from Landon Donovan -- the second just moments after D.C. United had drawn level for the second time -- the Los Angeles Galaxy won away from Southern California for the first time in nearly 14 months in a 3-2 victory on Saturday night at RFK Stadium.
United twice fought back from deficits and nearly found a third equalizer in the dying minutes of the game, but still saw their four-game winning streak and six-game unbeaten run come to an end, while also being left alone in fourth place in the Eastern Conference at the end of the weekend.
The RFK faithful began to celebrate in the 17th minute when Christian Gomez found Jaime Moreno as he slipped past Chris Albright to curl a shot past Galaxy 'keeper Kevin Hartman, but the linesman's flag was up for offside and referee Jair Marrufo waved off the goal.
Despite spending little time in their attacking third, the Galaxy were gifted a shock lead in the 28th minute thanks to an unfortunate error by Bobby Boswell. As Albright roamed forward from his right back position to receive a square pass, he found Cobi Jones as the veteran winger floated to the right touchline.
Jones played a low first-time cross into the United six-yard box that Boswell tried to touch out to safety, but he misjudged the ball's pace and his effort deflected past a stunned Nick Rimando and straight into his own goal to give L.A. the early lead.
Though lacking their normal fluidity, United pushed forward in search of an equalizer, and got it from another great Gomez set piece in the 37th minute. After being fouled by Ned Grabavoy, the Argentinean served up a dipping, inswinging cross from the left channel that left Hartman in no man's land as Bryan Namoff arrived to ever so slightly flick the ball past the Galaxy netminder into the roof of the net.
L.A. struck back almost immediately with two great chances. First Donovan took it upon himself to test the D.C. defense singlehandedly, setting off on a 60-yard run from near the center circle. The U.S. international left Brandon Prideaux clutching at air before cutting past Boswell, but the rookie defender knocked Donovan off balance just enough disturb his shot and Rimando made the save comfortably.
But the D.C. goalkeeper barely had time to catch his breath before the Galaxy was at his doorstep again. This time Donovan set up Pete Vagenas for a blast from the top of the 18-yard box, but Rimando came up big again as he leaped to his right to parry the shot away.
Donovan got the second half started with a bang as he produced a sublime goal to give his side the lead again. Namoff had bumped Herculez Gomez to the turf as the two raced after a long ball, earning a booking and setting up a dangerous free kick near the top corner of the United area.
As he has done so many times at both the club and international level, Donovan stepped up and arced one of his trademark free kicks over the D.C. wall and into the net for a 2-1 lead.
But Moreno got the RFK crowd buzzing again in the 65th minute as he latched onto a precise chip into the box from attacking partner Gomez, then cut past second-half sub Ugo Ihemelu. Ihemelu's late challenge sent the wily Bolivian to the turf, and referee Marrufo quickly pointed to the spot.
Moreno dusted himself off and sent the penalty kick low to Hartman's left, and though the 'keeper guessed correctly and got a hand to the shot, he was unable to keep it out and United were level again.
But before the crowd could even take their seats, the Galaxy raced forward to regain the advantage immediately. Once again, Jones created trouble on the wing as he bore down on Dema Kovalenko before cutting inside to deliver an inswinging cross for Donovan, and the L.A. playmaker got inside of Prideaux at the back post to nod a simple finish past Rimando for his second goal of the match.
The dispirited D.C. supporters tried to cheer their team back into the match, but it seemed that United's rigorous August schedule was finally taking its toll as the home side looked jaded and weary as they chased the match.
But the defending champs almost willed their way to an equalizer in the 89th minute. Prideaux had ventured forward and found himself over the ball in the right side of the Galaxy box. With two defenders closing in, he lifted a cross to the far post, where Kovalenko contorted himself to whip a left-footed side volley on goal.
Hartman dived low to make the save, but coughed up a point-blank rebound that both Moreno and Todd Dunivant lunged after. Moreno got the first touch but it deflected off Dunivant's foot and ricocheted off the crossbar and away, preserving L.A.'s lead and breaking United hearts.
The relieved Galaxy worked to kill off the remaining moments, and assured themselves of a rare road victory when late sub Joseph Ngwenya drew a foul by Namoff as he shielded the ball from the United right back, and Marrufo produced a second yellow card to force the Black-and-Red to finish a man short.
It was a third road victory of the season for the Galaxy, but the first against a team other than Chivas USA, and the first outside of the Los Angeles area. The Galaxy had defeated Chivas USA at both The Home Depot Center as well as the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum; their win in the nation's capital was the first outside of southern California since June 27, 2004, when they defeated the Chicago Fire 1-0 at Soldier Field.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Los Angeles Galaxy (10-9-5) vs. D.C. United (11-7-5)
August 20, 2005 -- RFK Stadium
LA -- own goal (Bobby Boswell) 28
DC -- Bryan Namoff 1 (Christian Gomez 6) 37
LA -- Landon Donovan 8 (unassisted) 53
DC -- Jaime Moreno 10 (penalty kick) 66
LA -- Landon Donovan 9 (Cobi Jones 5) 67
Los Angeles Galaxy -- Kevin Hartman, Chris Albright, Pablo Chinchilla (Ugo Ihemelu 61), Tyrone Marshall, Todd Dunivant, Paulo Nagamura, Peter Vagenas, Ned Grabavoy (Jovan Kirovski 58), Landon Donovan, Cobi Jones (Joseph Ngwenya 76), Herculez Gomez.
Substitutes Not Used: Steve Cronin, Michael Umana.
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Landon Donovan 3, Paulo Nagamura 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Landon Donovan 3); FOULS: 11 (Todd Dunivant 4); OFFSIDES: 6 (3 tied with 2); CORNER KICKS: 1 (Landon Donovan 1); SAVES: 4 (Kevin Hartman 3)
D.C. United -- Nick Rimando, Bryan Namoff, Bobby Boswell, Brandon Prideaux, Dema Kovalenko, Brian Carroll, Christian Gomez, Clyde Simms (John Wilson 46), Joshua Gros (Jamil Walker 58), Santino Quaranta, Jaime Moreno.
Substitutes Not Used: Kenny Arena, Facundo Erpen, Shawn Kuykendall, Matt Nickell, Troy Perkins, Jason Thompson, Nick Van Sicklen.
TOTAL SHOTS: 17 (Jaime Moreno 3, Santino Quaranta 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Bryan Namoff 2); FOULS: 15 (Brandon Prideaux 5); OFFSIDES: 3 (3 tied with 1); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Christian Gomez 4); SAVES: 4 (Nick Rimando 4)
LA -- Peter Vagenas (caution; Reckless Foul) 28
DC -- Bryan Namoff (caution; Professional Foul) 52
LA -- Cobi Jones (caution; Dissent) 61
LA -- Ugo Ihemelu (caution; Professional Foul) 64
DC -- Bryan Namoff (caution; Dissent) 94+
DC -- Bryan Namoff (ejection; Second Caution) 94+
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: -Greg Barkey; Jorge De la Bandera
4th Official: Andrew Chapin
Time of Game: 1:54
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-86-degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.