CARSON, Calif. -- Samuel couldn't have picked a better moment -- nor a more unlikely situation -- to score his first goal for the LA Galaxy, one that gives them the advantage heading into next week's second leg at Club Tijuana in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series.
The Brazilian striker, acquired on an offseason loan from Fluminense, was in the right spot at the right time when Robbie Keane was unable to pull down a chip into the box from Marcelo Sarvas in the 11th minute. The ball bounced off Keane's leg and rolled past defender Javier Gandolfi, leaving Samuel a simple finish from about 10 yards.
It sends the Galaxy to Estadio Caliente next Tuesday night with a vital 1-0 advantage.
“It was a good poacher's goal,” Landon Donovan said. “He does that in training. He's always around the goal, and it was good for him. An important goal. He played very well tonight.”
Samuel scored several goals during the preseason schedule, and he came close to hitting the net twice in LA's 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake in last Saturday night's league opener.
“He's done well,” said head coach Bruce Arena. “I think he's adjusted well, and he's very opportunistic around the goal. We've seen it in preseason, and tonight a similar kind of goal. He's got a nose for the goal, and he's just going to get better as he understands our team and our league a little bit better.”
Samuel said he was ready for anything when Sarvas sent the chip into box, climaxing a sequence that began when Tijuana's Joe Corona stumbled over the ball at midfield.
“I saw the play coming,” Samuel said through a translator. “I saw it come to Robbie, and I felt I had to be ready. I saw it come off of him, off his knee, and I was right there ready to score.
“Of course, I was expecting [the ball]. With a player like Robbie Keane, you have to be ready for anything that happens, and I was ready for it.”
Keane protested, tongue firmly in cheek, that he'd meant to play the ball to Samuel.
“Of course,” he said. “C'mon, man, you know me. You watch training every day.”
He was impressed with Samuel's finish.
“For any striker when you come to a new team, it's always important to try to get off the mark as soon as possible,” Keane said. “I think Samuel is only going to get stronger and stronger.”
Samuel still has work to do improving his fitness. Once that's in place, he suggests, watch out.
“I still have a lot to give,” he said. “Every game I feel more in shape, I'm learning more. That's why they didn't play me [more than 70] minutes. I still get tired. I'm still building up that momentum.”