Galaxy defeat Whitecaps in tough Western Conference battle

July 21, 2013

Carson, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Galaxy overcame the absences of Landon Donovan (U.S. MNT duty), Robbie Keane (hip injury), and Robbie Rogers (hamstring injury), to earn a tough 2-1 victory Saturday night over the Vancouver Whitecaps at the StubHub Center.

For the Galaxy's crucial game against their Western Conference foe, coach Bruce Arena started the defensive back four with recently-acquired Pablo Mastroeni, and youngsters Gyasi Zardes and Jose Villarreal up top.

LA got off to a great start as Marcelo Sarvas nearly scored in the 2nd minute of play, and Hector Jimenez's subsequent header was stopped only by an unbelievable goal-saving effort from Brad Rusin of the Whitecaps.

Jimenez's bad luck continued in the 9th minute when his great shot from 25 yards out went over the goalkeeper's head and hit the crossbar.

Soccer can be a funny game in which the team that deserves a goal and controls the game might actually be the team that gives up a score.

This paradox was apparent in the 19th minute when Vancouver's Russell Teibert somehow redirected an off-target pass from his teammate onto the run of Camilo Da Silva Sanvezzo.  As goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini decided to come off his line, Camilo shot with his right foot past Cudicini for a 1-0 Vancouver lead.

In the 29th minute, LA's Juninho took a free-kick that was directed for Gonzalez, who then headed the ball towards goal.  The ball went over the heads of everybody except for Villarreal.  Villarreal tapped the ball into goal past Brad Knighton.

However, much confusion ensued for both the teams and fans, as the referees discussed whether the goal would count or be invalidated due to Villarreal being offside. Finally, the referees decided that the ball did not touch Zardes, and therefore, Villarreal was not offside when he touched the ball. As a result, the game was tied at 1-1.

As the second half began, Galaxy fans thought they might get the ultimate substitute as David Beckham was shown on the big screen to a stadium roar. Sadly though he wasn't coming into the game -- too bad for LA, as it has been clear that the Galaxy have missed his production on the field this year, especially with set pieces.

However, the Galaxy's youth movement was eager to prove their talents as Villarreal's score was bettered by Zardes in the 57th minute with a superb goal.

On the play, Todd Dunivant initially sent a long ball over the defense and down the sideline to Zardes.  Zardes tracked the ball down before it went out-of-bounds, and as the Vancouver defender approached, Zardes flicked it past the defender and shot to the near post.  The ball skipped past Knighton for a 2-1 Galaxy lead and Zardes' third goal of the season.

The Whitecaps nearly tied the game in the 73rd minute when Kekuta Manneh passed around the Galaxy defense to Kenny Miller, whose shot was saved by a stretched-out Cudicini.

Bruce Arena made defensive substitutions in the second half to ensure that Vancouver didn't get any more quality opportunities similar to Miller's shot, and Arena's gameplan and selection of players proved enough for a 2-1 LA win.

In fact, in a Western Conference with the top 6 teams in a close struggle for positioning, Bruce Arena has done a masterful job of keeping the Galaxy in the race while dealing with injuries, player absences due to international duty, and numerous heartbreaking late-game defeats.

At the beginning of the season, Landon Donovan was out, Robbie Keane was called to Ireland's national team for World Cup qualifiers, and Omar Gonzalez played for the U.S. National Team. As the season has progressed, the Galaxy have lost some close games with last-minute goals in New York, San Jose, Dallas, Real Salt Lake, and most recently, at Portland. Still, Arena has kept the team focused and steadily improving.

After the game, Arena stated that he was "pleased" with a good team performance and that no late goals were conceded.  Also, Zardes told the media that he feels that the game is "starting to slow down" somewhat for him as his game experience progresses.

The Galaxy have an away game at Colorado next weekend before participating in the International Champions Cup with a game against Real Madrid in Arizona on August 1st, and then against either Everton or Juventus on August 3rd at Dodger Stadium.

By Brian Kowalski
Staff Reporter for The Daily Sports Herald

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