Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle played their last game with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday before leaving for World Cup training camp. LA’s dynamic duo could be gone for six weeks or more and would liked to have bid farewell with three points.
Instead, the players left with an empty feeling after having no goals to show for their 90 minutes of effort. Toronto FC held the Galaxy to a scoreless draw at the Home Depot Center as the Galaxy dropped points at home for the first time all season.
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“It was a great crowd,” Donovan said. “It’s sad to send them home a little disappointed like that, but a lot of people stayed for Edson and my send-off and we really appreciate it.”
The Galaxy inched up one point in the standings as the club’s record stands at 7-0-2. However, their record at home is no longer spotless as their mark now sits at 4-0-1.
Part of the slip-up, players said, was the team's desire to grab one last victory before Donovan and Buddle left.
“That was part of it,” Galaxy left back Todd Dunivant said. “I thought we pushed maybe a little too much, a little desperate to get the result. We didn’t let the game flow and we seemed a little tense out there. It wasn’t our normal flow and it showed a little bit. It seemed a little hectic, a little frantic and the result was a lot of balls that were misplayed and they were countering a little bit.”
Toronto FC actually had several strong opportunities early on. Dwayne De Rosario pushed a point-blank shot wide of the goal five minutes in while Chad Barrett fired a shot on goal that ‘keeper Josh Saunders parried out for a corner kick. Saunders started for Donovan Ricketts but wasn't active very much as Barrett’s shot was the only he faced throughout the game.
The Galaxy, though, improved more throughout the second half and peppered Toronto’s goal with 11 shots.
“Our second half was real good and we had some chances there to get the goal,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “It was a much better second half for us than our first, but give Toronto credit. They played hard, they were very well-organized and we had to make a play to make a difference in the game and we didn’t.”
Donovan’s play improved from the first half to the second. Part of that was his placement on the field. Instead of playing higher on the field, Donovan moved centrally, and was often on the flanks after the intermission. Toronto’s tactics sort of dictated that move, however.
“Toronto really pulled in tight with their back line and it was difficult to play into [Donovan's] feet and definitely in the air wasn't the best situation for him,” Arena said. “They really collapsed their team really tight with eight players centrally. To really give Landon a bit of room, we had to stick him outside on the flanks. He was much more effective in the second half than in the first.”
Buddle came the closest to scoring, as he rattled a shot off the woodwork in the 66th minute. Donovan raced down the left side of the box and slipped a ball to Buddle, who re-directed it on frame but saw it bounce back out and eventually cleared away by Toronto’s defense.
The result wasn't disastrous – the Galaxy are still one of two teams yet to lose on the season – but two more points were there for the taking.
“We got a point at home," Buddle said. "We wanted to win, so it’s a little disappointing. At times I feel like we could have pushed and maybe showed our support a little better. We should have won but unfortunately the ball didn’t bounce our way.”
Now, though, Buddle will try and finish opportunities with the US national team and possibly ride his hot start through training camp successfully and on through South Africa.
Buddle felt the love from his fans, who gave him a special and unexpected send-off.
“It’s nice to see that they stuck around and saluted us," he said. "It was a first time for me and wonderful experience. I didn’t expect it. It probably always happens for Landon that way and I don’t know, it was great to see and I’m glad to be a part of that.”