It didn’t look good 4 minutes into the knockout round game at the Home Depot Center against the Vancouver White Caps. The White Caps took advantage of a long run down the left flank, and a short cutback ball was redirected perfectly to the far post by Darren Mattocks. It was the worst possible start in the win or go home contest.
But the big names responded for the Galaxy at home in this must win.
The Galaxy had more chances in the first half, including a plea for a penalty and a dangerous David Beckham free kick curled over the wall on frame and deflected by the Vancouver keeper, both at the stroke of halftime. It was 1-0 Vancouver at the half.
But after the 67th minute the game burst open. After minutes of straight possession and nonstop chances for the Galaxy, Vancouver raced forward on a counter, but the 3 players countering against the two Galaxy center-backs and Joe Saunders couldn’t convert their 3 point blank chances. Robbie Keane then pushed forward to earn a corner on their own counter, it was taken short, and the cross inside the top of the 18 was met my Mike Magee on a late run. He volleyed the perfect ball on his right foot professionally just inside the left post.
A minute later in the 70th minute Robbie Keane made a cheeky turn to get in on goal, and his point blank opportunity across the face of goal was saved.
Then in the 71st minute Landon Donovan made a run straight up the middle, and his run in behind the Argentine center-back Bonjour earned a penalty as the half a step earned was enough to gain advantage and go down. Bonjour had been subbed in literally 1 minute prior to committing the penalty for Jay Demerit, the White caps captain and best defender, who came off immediately after the first goal from Magee.
Donovan stepped up, squatted in preparation at the spot, and then slotted it home to the right of the keeper who dove left to put the Galaxy up 2 goals to 1 in a matter of minutes.
The problems crested and avalanched all at once for the White Caps, who were in the driver’s seat, despite playing in a defensive shell since they earned the early goal. Even their assistant coach Paul Ritchie was sent off by the center official in the 75th minute.
Robbie Keane continued his scorching form the whole game. He was not only the game’s most dangerous attacker, but he was also best playmaker as he created smart and clever opportunities for his teammates. David Beckham checked back to the ball and swung in service after service. Despite most of those balls not beating the first defender, his energy was promising. And Donovan earned the penalty and finished the deal, furthering his lead as the MLS’ All time leading playoff goal scorer.
The Galaxy face the San Jose Earthquakes in the first leg of their Conference Semifinal matchup on Sunday at 6pm. The game will be televised on ESPN2.