HEREDIA, Costa Rica – The LA Galaxy counted themselves fortunate to escape Costa Rica with a point Thursday night, although that seemed the fairest result in a vigorous clash that neither side deserved to lose.
Two questionable officiating decisions might have been enough to sink LA in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against Herediano, leaving them a deficit to dig out from in next week's rematch at the Home Depot Center.
Mike Magee scored a perfectly good goal in the 67th minute that was waved off when linesman Kedlee Powell flagged him as offside, and Herediano were awarded a penalty kick in the closing minutes after referee Courtney Campbell rewarded Ismael Gómez's dive by pointing to the spot.
Gómez missed his spot kick, clanging the ball off the crossbar in the 87th minute, and the Galaxy pronounced themselves pleased with the 0-0 scoreline.
“Oh, yeah, of course [it was satisfying], especially when they get a penalty kick in the last few minutes of the game,” captain Robbie Keane said. “Of course, you have to be happy. We should have got a goal ourselves, which clearly wasn't offside. I was right in line, so I knew it wasn't.
“One of those things, but all in all, we can't complain too much.”
LA were happy with the performance of the Jamaican crew, those two incidents aside, and even they couldn't claim they were more deserving of three points than their hosts.
“I thought we were the better team, to be honest with you,” Keane assessed. “Considering we're playing in their stadium and on their [artificial] pitch, that we're obviously not used to. I thought we were kind of in control most of the game.”
Magee nearly put the Galaxy ahead in the 52nd minute, when he put a Keane feed off the crossbar – “I thought it was just a tap-in, and that last tap, it kind of took a weird bounce, but I've got to concentrate better,” he acknowledged – and he expertly finished 15 minutes later. That one didn't count.
“I don't know what the linesman was doing,” he said. “It was pretty disheartening.”
The penalty call could have been far more damaging. Franklin and Gómez were tugging at each other on the left side of the box – nothing egregious, mind you – when the Herediano midfielder flopped to the turf.
Magee called it “pretty blatant ... the guy decided he got shot, so he went down,” and Franklin noted that he's “got to be a little bit smarter.”
“It's late in the game, the ref is maybe looking to make a call, and I maybe pulled him a little bit, but he kind of dove a lot,” Franklin said. “It is what it is, but I've just got to be a little bit smarter in that situation.”
Carlo Cudicini “saw that [Gómez] was a bit nervous, so I tried to mess up his concentration,” and head coach Bruce Arena said his goalkeeper “distracted” the shooter. Justice, it seemed.
“Keeping it 0-0 out here was a dream,” Magee said. “We always want three points, but knowing we have to go back to the Home Depot [Center] and just win a game is more than you can ask for.”