Galaxy edge Puntarenas in friendly

Birchall scores lone goal in victory over Costa Rican side

Chris Birchall vs. AC Milan

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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.