CARSON, Calif. – For the first time in 2011, the LA Galaxy trailed at home heading into the second half of a match. But like often times this season, the Galaxy simply found a way to win.
Down a goal to Real Salt Lake at the break, the Galaxy scored two remarkably strange tallies to turn it around in the second half and escape with a gritty 2-1 victory, taking a giant step towards wrapping up their second consecutive Supporters’ Shield.
“We’ve won in all kinds of ways this year and it’s really important,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “Come the last [CONCACAF Champions League] game against Motagua or the playoffs, if you go down a goal, you need to know how to win games. It would have been wholly unjust if we didn’t get something out of that game. Credit to our guys for persevering and getting a great result.”
The victory comes during a part of their calendar that could have decimated other clubs. Saturday’s match was the club’s eighth game since Sept. 5, a stretch that included both regular season and CCL matches.
Two of those games were played in hostile and challenging environments as the Galaxy fell at Morelia and Alajuelense. Still, LA overcame those losses and beat Morelia at The Home Depot Center on Wednesday to stay very much alive in CCL play.
Despite having to reach deep down their bench to fill out lineups, the Galaxy have gone a more-than-respectable 5-1-2 in that span. And if they notch their sixth win since Sept. 5 in all competitions – and fifth straight in MLS – on Tuesday in New York, they will secure the Supporters’ Shield.
Saturday against RSL, things did not quite get out to a great start for the Galaxy. The club did well to dictate the pace of the match in the first half but allowed RSL to surge and create dangerous situations.
“Our biggest mistake on the night was giving them some attacking restarts,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “That’s where their chances came in the first half and we needed to be a little bit better with that because they’re a big team physically. We didn’t want to get into too many situations, but unfortunately, we did at the end of the half.”
On one of those chances, Javier Morales found Fabián Espíndola inside the box on a corner kick in the 45th minute to put RSL ahead, and the Galaxy then had to enter the break in the rare situation of being down a goal at home.
Players did not hang their heads, however.
“We’ve been 1-0 down in the first half,” said David Beckham. “We came in here and it was disappointing, but we knew we were playing well, we knew that we were passing the ball around well, and we knew that we’d get chances. It was just about putting them away. … Our character showed.”
As such, the Galaxy came back and answered. Beckham knocked a ball forward to Chad Barrett, who got around Jámison Olave and somehow poked a ball across the goal line.
Beckham said he was excited about the assist but was uncertain of what had happened.
“I don’t know how it went in – I have no idea,” Beckham admitted. “I just know it was another assist for me.”
Barrett, too, said he just tried to create something and took advantage of a possible RSL breakdown.
“I think it was just miscommunication between [Olave] and [‘keeper Nick] Rimando and I saw the opportunity to put my toe on it,” he said. “[Rimando’s] hands were down and I just lifted it over.”
The game-winning goal was equally as strange, as Nat Borchers knocked a ball into his own net in the 72nd minute after a series of passes and crosses by the Galaxy deep in RSL’s third.
“They’re not going to be on any highlight films this week, but two goals that went over the line, they all count,” Arena said.
Also carrying weight is the victory. Should the Galaxy secure the Supporters’ Shield, it would help set up a stretch where the club could rest, recover and prepare for the playoffs.
After Tuesday’s marquee contest against the Red Bulls in the Big Apple, the Galaxy next play on Oct. 16 against Chivas USA before closing out the season against Houston on Oct. 23, with a trip to Honduras for a CCL match against Motagua sandwiched in-between.
The Galaxy currently lead chasers Seattle Sounders in the Shield race by seven points with three games to play for each. Should LA beat New York, or if both LA and Seattle tie in their next league matches, the trophy will stay with the current holders.
“It would have been nice to [claim the Shield on Saturday],” Donovan said. “If we win in New York, we’re there. … We’re close, but we’re not there yet.”