Kempin gets first career clean sheet as Galaxy finish road trip unbeaten

WASHINGTON – Jon Kempin will get the official credit for his first career shutout in the media guides, agate pages, and game logs that record the LA Galaxy’s 23rd and final MLS trip to RFK Stadium.

Yet even Kempin, at age 24 with only seven career MLS starts, knows Saturday’s 0-0 draw at D.C. United was the kind of grind-it-out performance that everyone had a part in.

“Credit to the defense all night,” said Kempin after Galaxy drew to complete a four-match road trip unbeaten (3-0-1). “They were throwing arms and legs out all over the place.”

With Senegalese 'keeper Clement Diop away on international duty and Brian Rowe recovering from a groin injury, the regular for LA's Galaxy II USL side made six saves in his first MLS start since Sept. 27, 2015. 

Kempin's stops, plus the crossbar’s 72nd-minute denial of Luciano Acosta and Ashley Cole’s stoppage-time, goal-line block of Ian Harkes' shot, helped LA preserve their third shutout of the year on a night when their usually-dependable attack lagged.

“The game got really stretched,” said center back Dave Romney. “They obviously had some chances that were very, very close. But Jon made some great saves. Ashley made a great save. Everyone was kind of doing the extra effort.”

Of course, Saturday's performance comes within the context of a D.C. side that has failed to score in nine of 14 games in 2017.

Even so, Kempin said there was reason to take pride in the clean sheet, partly because the quality of United’s effort Saturday was better than the end result.

“I think if you look any of their games that they’ve played, they’ve always had chances,” Kempin said. “Maybe the goals don’t go in, which we kind of had trouble with at the beginning of the year as well.… [But] They definitely have some quality there.”

Kempin’s best moments came on either side of halftime. He pushed Lloyd Sam’s effort from a tight angle wide of the far post in the 43rd minute.

Then in the 50th minute, he mishandled Taylor Kemp’s ferocious free kick, but reacted swiftly to thwart Jared Jeffrey’s rebound attempt.

“I felt comfortable,” said Kempin, who was with Sporting Kansas City the last time he saw action on an MLS pitch. “I’ve been in this situation before. And all the guys on the coaching staff gave me confidence going into the game. I felt like it was just a normal game.”

Then came Cole’s late intervention, when he wisely drifted near the right post as United attacked from the other wing. When the ball fell to Harkes, Cole deflected the shot wide off his thigh.

“He’s got tons of daylight, and I was thinking, 'Oh geez, we’re kind of screwed here',” Romney admitted. “And then Ashley makes a really good play.”