CARSON, Calif. – While nobody tried to claim the LA Galaxy was closing in on 2011 form quite yet, the club certainly brought back some of what made last season such a magical year on Sunday night.
Solid defensive play, the ability to overcome absences and a scrappy goal helped propel the Galaxy to a 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers at The Home Depot Center.
It wasn’t groundbreaking, but it was certainly a solid step forward.
“I’m not going to make the statement that it looked like last year yet,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “If it looked like last year, we’d have a few more wins under our belt. It’s progress and hopefully we can move forward.”
WATCH: Full match highlights
The Galaxy tasted victory for the first time since April 21 and climbed out of last place in the Western Conference. And although any victory likely would have given LA a jolt of confidence, that they went about this match in a manner reminiscent of last season was perhaps significant.
“We got back to doing things that make a difference,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “It wasn’t pretty but we made a lot of real good plays on both sides of the ball that make a difference.
“I can’t look at any one guy and say ‘He didn’t perform well and he didn’t give it everything he had.’ It’s a good building block. Let’s not get carried away, it’s one win, but a good win and everyone feels good about it.”
Josh Saunders picked up shutout – the club’s first of the season – as he made his return to action. Saunders last played on April 21, when he made a last-minute, penalty-kick save to help the club defeat Colorado. His presence seemed to give teammates a lift, but it was his standout saves that mattered the most.
Twice he turned Kris Boyd away. First, Saunders made a save with his face in the ninth minute, then he made a diving save from a long-distance shot in the 26th minute.
“Two big saves like that is what you need in games like this,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said. “We didn’t give them a lot of chances, but when we did, he bailed us out and that’s what you need out of your goalkeeper.”
Saunders wound up with four saves but said it was the team’s effort that not only helped keep the Timbers off the scoreboard but helped the club take all three points from the match.
“We battled through the game. We just kept believing that we’re going to start winning some games,” Saunders said. “We battled, we had some struggles early on, we were able to pull through it and I can’t say enough about what the guys did on the field.”
The Galaxy had a few opportunities to break open the scoring in the first hour – Donovan hit the post in the 15th minute and pushed a 20-yard shot over the crossbar in the 56th minute – but the Galaxy finally broke through in the 61st minute when David Beckham found Dunivant alone on the far post on a corner kick.
“David obviously serves in an incredible set piece,” Dunivant said. “He put the ball in the back post. We kind of had talked about it halftime. We’d had a few to the front post and I said to try the back post. I found a little space back there and was able to nod it home.”
Portland were unable to make much noise over the remainder of the match as the Galaxy clamped down and nabbed the result, three points that should give the club hope that more wins will soon follow.
“Last season we played a lot of games like this where we won 1-nil and we kept the other teams in shutouts,” Beckham said. “We need more performances like this and were capable of it, so hopefully this will be our springboard.”