CARSON, Calif. – It certainly was not a bad time for Giovani dos Santos to score his first MLS postseason goal.
Dos Santos handed the LA Galaxy a slender 1-0 lead over the Colorado Rapids at the midway point of the Western Conference Semifinals of the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. The Mexican international headed home the lone tally of the game in the 55th minute to give the Galaxy the slight advantage heading into the second leg in Colorado next Sunday.
The deflected effort gives dos Santos a combined 15 goals and 13 assists in regular and postseason play this year, and his performances along with those of target man Alan Gordon has left no room for Robbie Keane in the starting lineup.
While Bruce Arena would not say after the match whether Keane is back to full fitness from a hip injury, the Galaxy head coach admitted that he is happy with the side he has fielded through the first two games of the playoffs.
“Coming back from an injury and having a team that played a good game on Wednesday and deciding not to change the lineup,” were the reasons Arena gave for Keane once again having to settle for a substitute's role. “I think Alan Gordon has played well and deserved to get the start today. The decision was made that this was the right team to start in this game today. I can promise you Robbie is not happy at it.”
Gordon is also enjoying his time on the field and the relationship he is beginning to form with dos Santos.
“He’s a great player. My job is to occupy the center backs, be a physical presence and allow him some space underneath,” Gordon said. “I think that we connected, a few times, pretty well together in doing that. The more we play together the better it gets.”
For Landon Donovan, the numbers dos Santos has posted this season only tell half the story.
“He’s not necessarily the Gio you saw at points during the year where he was scoring a goal and getting two assists or scoring two goals,” Donovan said. “His work rate has been terrific. He put in a lot of work over the last two games this week. When he comes back and defends, when he gets in good spots for us, when he puts the other team under pressure, it really helps us.”
The Galaxy will need another busy night on both sides of the ball from sos Santos when they travels to Commerce City, Colorado, next Sunday for the second leg.
The Rapids became just the fifth team in MLS history to finish the regular season undefeated on their home turf with an 11-0-6 record. That run included conceding just seven goals for a home goals-against average of 0.41, which is an MLS record.
“We go into a venue that’s difficult. You’re playing at altitude,” Arena said about the return leg. “I think, typically, you never play the same game there as you do at home because of the environmental conditions, so we will be somewhat different.”