The LA Galaxy fielded something akin to a first-choice lineup and dominated from start to finish Tuesday night, but they exited the US Open Cup just as they have the two previous years, with a loss to the Carolina RailHawks.
The Galaxy – with Robbie Keane in the starting lineup and Landon Donovan coming off the bench in the second half – outshot the NASL club, 31-6, and took 11 corner kicks, but they couldn't put one of nearly two dozen opportunities away in a 1-0 overtime defeat.
"Well, you have to give them a lot of credit," Donovan told media in Cary, N.C., following the fifth-round showdown. "I think 99 times out of 100, we win that game. They had everything go their way tonight. They played well, they defended well, their goalie had one of the best performances I've ever seen, and they got the goal that they needed.
"We can’t fault our effort. We gave everything, and everyone's seen or has been part of games like that in soccer. It's a crazy, cruel game sometimes, and that's the way it went tonight."
The Galaxy had more than a dozen good chances to score, but RailHawks goalkeeper Scott Goodwin made eight saves – six of them big-time stops, including a crucial one-on-one stop against Donovan in the 83rd minute – and Daniel Jackson finished a 105th-minute breakaway to give the RailHawks a quarterfinal assignment against FC Dallas, a 3-2 overtime winner at Houston.
“When we come here it’s always a game that’s going to be a battle," said associate head coach Dave Sarachan, who spoke in place of head coach Bruce Arena at the postgame news conference. "Colin [Clarke, the RailHawks' coach] does a good job getting their guys upward. We had enough chances to win the game. When you have that many shots on goal and chances and don't put them away, then you keep teams in it. And that team fought like crazy, kept us at a zero, and they made one play. This was a one-play night. It’s the way soccer is sometimes.”
Keane was frustrated by the Galaxy's struggles in the final third.
"Did we deserve to win? Of course, we did, no question," he said. "You know, if you don't dig deep and seek things out, if you don't seek the game out, they'll always go out in the counterattack, and that was the case. ... Ball just didn’t get in the back of the net, and that’s what it’s all about.
"To win games, you have to put the ball in the back of the net. We certainly had plenty of chances, but credit to the goalkeeper. He played probably one of the best games he’s had."
Sarachan thought "it felt like an NHL hockey game."
"That must have been, I swear, 30 blocked shots tonight," Sarachan said. "Guys diving in front of balls, crosses picked out, so that's a testament to the group of fighting and digging in, but the goalkeeper had a good night.”
Donovan called it a "perfect game" for the Galaxy, "except for hitting the net."
"Sometimes you do everything right, and the goalie makes a great save," he said. "That’s the way it goes, but we played well. Our energy was good, our commitment was good, our effort was good, and sometimes you just tip your cap to the other team.”