Robbie Keane made a triumphant return to the LA Galaxy starting XI after participating in Euro 2016, scoring a stunning early goal to send LA on their way to their first win in eight league matches (0-2-5 in their previous seven) -- a 2-0 result over visiting Vancouver at StubHub Center on Monday night.
LA holding midfielder Jeff Larentowicz got the Galaxy's second goal right after the halftime break, as the Whitecaps argued he pushed off a defender before heading home a Steven Gerrard corner. Gerrard finished with two assists on the night, taking him to a total of seven in 12 appearances this season, good for second best in MLS.
The Whitecaps arguably played well enough to deserve a better fate, but they were never quite dangerous enough in attack with the influential Kekuta Manneh surprisingly left out of the matchday roster (due to a coach's decision, according to the club). Center forward Octavio Rivero, who's rumored to be in the midst of a transfer deal, was also not in the 18-man squad.
Vancouver outshot LA 26-9, but with only four of those shots finishing on target, the likes of forwards Erik Hurtado and then Blas Perez just couldn't find a way to seriously threaten a stout Galaxy back line. They failed to break through despite seeing LA go down to 10 men after Nigel De Jong was sent off with 16 minutes left for a studs-up tackle on Perez.
- 12' -- LA -- Robbie Keane (Steven Gerrard)
- 47' -- LA -- Jeff Larentowicz (Steven Gerrard)
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1. KEANE & ZARDES RETURN: While Keane was at Euro 2016, Gyasi Zardes was making his return from representing the USA at the 2016 Copa America. Both immediately provided a significant bump in quality with Keane scoring an AT&T Goal of the Week candidate and Zardes proving one of LA's best performers throughout the match, often roaming centrally from his left wing position.
The last game in which Keane scored was also the last the Galaxy won. The lead they have now is just the second since May 28 #LAvVAN— Kevin Baxter (@kbaxter11) July 5, 2016
2. GERRARD AS SET-UP MAN: The move of lining the Englishman up at central attacking midfield in a 4-2-3-1 continues to bring out the best of his passing abilities. It was from there that he led Keane into position for his goal with a nifty first-touch ball. While his second helper came off a corner delivery, Gerrard was also in position to be dangerous on a couple of shots from outside the area.
3. WHITECAPS NEED A SCORER: Until the Manneh and Rivero situations are cleared up, what's obvious is that Vancouver need a player who can find the back of the net. Although Christian Bolanos and Nicolas Mezquida were able to get the Whitecaps upfield and into dangerous positions, they were missing that final outlet to finish off their many attacking forays.