Galaxy edge Puntarenas in friendly

Birchall scores lone goal in victory over vaunted Costa Rican side

FULLERTON, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Galaxy continued their unbeaten preseason with a 1-0 victory over Puntarenas FC of Costa Rica in an international friendly on Wednesday at Cal State Fullerton.

The final score was misleading in that the Galaxy, which has not lost in five preseason matches (the majority of them scrimmages) was in control almost the entire way.

The Galaxy, which had been unfortunate in not finding the net, finally broke the scoreless tie in the 88th minute on a shot by Chris Birchall from just outside the penalty area. It was set by a pass from rookie Michael Stephens, their No. 1 draft pick.

Puntarenas didn't show any offensive spark until the second half, when a goal was disallowed by an offside call seven minutes in and had a mini-breakaway stopped in the 83rd minute, but aside from that the game pretty much was all Galaxy, which was unlucky, to say the least, in not finding the net.

Bryan Jordan, a second-half substitute, had two great chances in the second half, first from 22 yards in the 65th minute and then 15 minutes later when his 16-yarder from right in front unfortunately went well over the net.

The first half, in particular, was an exercise in futility for the Costa Rican side which did not mount more than three ventures into the Galaxy's half of the field. Los Angeles, on the other hand, pressured the Puntarenas goal almost from the start.

The game wasn't even a minute old, in fact, when the Galaxy had their first scoring opportunity. Tristan Bowen, an unheralded third-year forward starting on the wing, sent in a perfect cross to Mike Magee, who was unmarked right in front of the net. Magee's header, however, was high over the crossbar.

It barely was 15 minutes later when Bowen was at it again. Bowen, the first player in MLS history to be signed directly from his club's youth academy, let fly with a left-footed shot from 20 yards that was headed for the far corner of the net but instead caromed off the crossbar. The Galaxy almost scored again in the 17th minute when Edson Buddle, who scored three goals in last Friday's 5-2 victory over San Diego State in a scrimmage at the Home Depot Center, had his header blocked by the Puntarenas defensive wall.

Juninho, one of three Brazilians -- the others being Alex and Leonardo -- then was wide from 25 yards just two minutes later.

The pressure continued almost non-stop. Magee had another strong scoring chance turned away by Puntarenas goalkeeper Bryan Zamora in the 24th minute, and another header by Magee was slapped away on a one-handed save by Zamora six minutes later.

Puntarenas had one decent chance in the 28th minute, but they didn't even record a shot. Ricardo Garcia attempted to get behind the Galaxy defense after a long ball down the field, but Alex ran him down from behind and won possession to stop the threat.

The Galaxy finished the first half with 10 shots and five corner kicks.

Larry Morgan is a contributor to MLSnet.com.