It seemed an uneven matchup. The league-leading, tough-as-nails Los Angeles Galaxy visited the offense- and confidence-lacking New England Revolution.
If the Revs had any chance, it was to make the game a hideous affair. And they did just that.
New England surprised the Galaxy with a pair of second-half goals and won 2-0 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.
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“We knew it was going to be an ugly game, and it was uglier than we thought it was going to be,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said. “Ultimately they were better at ugly than we were.”
New England’s goals were the second and third Los Angeles have allowed on the road. The Galaxy were without two key players, as Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez both missed the match. Donovan rested after a long trip back from South Africa and the World Cup, while Gonzalez was suspended for the game.
Donovan’s absence affected the team, but Dunivant said that was not the reason for the result.
“Landon obviously would help, but we didn’t do a good enough job of keeping the ball and possessing it,” he said. “We kind of got sucked into their game a little bit. It was difficult playing on wet turf. We never really caught up to the speed of that. Our passes weren’t sharp enough and that played into their hands and it turned into an ugly game and it kind of nullified the difference in quality between the teams.”
While Donovan has missed time before due to national team duty, Gonzalez’s absence was a first. Since he was selected in the first round of the 2009 SuperDraft, Gonzalez had started every league game for the club. But Saturday was the team’s first game without him since the end of the 2008 season.
How did Gonzalez’s absence affect the team?
“I don’t think it did, to be honest,” Dunivant said. “I thought Leonardo and Gregg [Berhalter] did a really good job, they won almost everything in the air. Nothing off their long balls made a difference. There were two plays, one off the set piece where we gave them a second chance off the handball and [goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts] got screened a little bit and the ball got through.
"That happens sometimes. We just can’t get in that situation.”
New England, who had been outscored 9-0 in their last three games, came out looking to break down the Galaxy with some long passes from the back, but the Galaxy was up for the challenge.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of defending their long balls," Dunivant said. "Everything was going up to Joseph, and they were trying to win second balls off of him. For the most part we did well, but we gave up a set piece and it cost us. Once they got that, they got a second one and they were off and running.”
The loss was the Galaxy’s second of the regular season but also their second in four days. The Galaxy fell 2-0 at Seattle in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal match. Having played Sunday (a 3-1 win over Seattle at Home Depot Center), Wednesday and Saturday affected the team, and Dunivant said squad will be excited to get back home and return to a more normal schedule, with a game at D.C. United on July 18 to prepare for.
“This week was a tough week," Dunivant said. "We lost to Seattle in the Open Cup and then we come here and we lose. It’s a disappointing road trip and uncharacteristic of us."