Makeshift lineup and all, entering stoppage time at Crew Stadium the LA Galaxy were close to nabbing a point in Columbus.
Robbie Keane was not in the starting lineup while David Beckham was not even in Ohio. Landon Donovan came on in the 62nd minute, but the Galaxy were still on the verge of heading back to LA with a draw.
Apparently, one point on the road was not good enough – Chad Barrett struck for a dramatic game-winning goal the 93rd minute as the Galaxy beat Columbus 1-0 on Saturday.
“We were fortunate to get that goal at the end, and I give Landon [Donovan] and Barrett a lot of credit for teaming up on that,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “That last 10 minutes got crazy. We hit the wall physically and the Crew created some chances, making [goalkeeper Josh] Saunders come up big, but I think on the night we played well.”
The match against Columbus helped ease the sting of losing Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League match in Costa Rica and perhaps also helped send the club into next week’s crucial CCL matchup vs. Morelia with a boost in morale.
It also helped put the Galaxy one step closer to clinching their second consecutive Supporters’ Shield title. The Galaxy moved to 61 points and could conceivably clinch the honor within two matches.
Having been able to accomplish both at Crew Stadium made it more meaningful.
“This is not an easy place to win, I know that for sure,” former Crew defender Frankie Hejduk said. “To battle back with the week we had, and get the goal at the end there says a lot about the heart and the character of this LA Galaxy team. This is what championship teams are made of and we’re right on the path to getting there.”
Hejduk, who spent the majority of his MLS career defending the Crew’s colors, returned to face his former team for the first time. Hejduk donned the captain’s armband for the match.
“Obviously it was an emotional day for me, an emotional game,” he said. “Whenever you spend eight years of your life somewhere and won some championships and three supporters shields, and come back and play against them it’s a little bit weird.”
Strange or not, the Galaxy hit the field with a unique lineup. The trip to Costa Rica, coupled with a trip to Crew Stadium and Wednesday’s matchup with Morelia, required Arena to reach deep into his roster.
“We got a real good effort out of a bunch of players,” Arena said.
In the end, it was Barrett and Donovan who combined for the match-winner as the goal came against the run of play.
“Just being opportunistic is pretty much what it comes down to,” Barrett said. “It was a header back in, I was running back from the previous attacking play and Julius [James] had a little mix up, Landon hit a great shot on goal and [William] Hesmer made a great save and it fell right to me at the back post.”
The hosts had made it difficult for the Galaxy and were knocking on the door for their own goal before the Galaxy stole the match.
“They were really starting to pile it on at the end and coming into that game was really tough, really fast tempo,” Barrett said. “Columbus really went for it. They made a lot of attacking substitutions. They were really starting to get exposed at the back since they were going forward so much. Josh Saunders made two unbelievable saves; the team played amazing.”