Stephens the next "other guy" to step up for LA

Galaxy rookie the latest to fill the Buddle-Donovan void

 

The Los Angeles Galaxy’s 2010 campaign is quickly becoming the same old story, except the only ones tired of it are the other 15 clubs in the league.

The latest victims in the Galaxy’s monumental run were the defending Supporters Shield champions as the Galaxy won 2-0 away to the Columbus Crew on Saturday.

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With the win, the Galaxy are now 9-0-2 and have an eye-popping 29 points out of a possible 33.

“It’s a huge win for us to get it on the road against an undefeated team,” Galaxy midfielder Michael Stephens told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “They’re not in our conference but it’s still a very important win for us and it keeps us unbeaten . . . so it’s a good thing to get the win.”

After laying claim to yet another victim, the Galaxy are now the last team to not have a loss yet this season. The Galaxy lead the Western Conference by double digits and have the best defensive record in the league. While four other clubs entered the weekend without road victories, the Galaxy have not allowed a goal in six games and have five wins and a draw to show for it. Additionally, the Galaxy boast a 456-minute scoreless streak.

Add it all together and you have the best team in MLS, right?

“I’d like to think so but I’d say that even if we didn’t win (Saturday),” Stephens said. “I’m confident in this team. I think (Saturday) was just another win and showing that we’re a good team.”

Making the victory more significant was the absence of Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle. The World Cup-bound duo missed their second consecutive match due to international duty.

Yet the Galaxy continue finding offense from all sources. Against Columbus, Stephens and Tristan Bowen each scored their first ever MLS goals.

“It just shows the depth on this roster as well as a good team philosophy,” Stephens said. “This team is going to defend and work hard no matter who is on the field.”

Stephens opened up the scoring in the 10th minute. Chris Birchall lifted a ball over Columbus’ defense from the right side of the box to the far post. Stephens settled and ripped a shot past William Hesmer and into the back of the net.

“I had a lot of space so as soon as I saw the ball coming over the top, I wanted to shoot it. I knew I had time,” Stephens said.

For Stephens, the goal was significant as it was his first professional goal. That it gave the Galaxy a lead in a game of such magnitude was important but not the most meaningful thing about it.

“Most important… was the importance of the goal,” Stephens said. “Coming in here, being on the road, putting us ahead early in the game, but whether it would have been me or someone else, getting the goal was the biggest thing.”

The goal helped throw Columbus off their game plan but it wasn’t necessarily something the Galaxy were looking for.

“We didn’t necessarily talk about that,” Stephens said. “We’re a good defensive team and in games where we do get early goals we’ve shown we can hold onto those leads. It was great to get an early goal and top it off with another one late in the game.”

Bowen scored in the 89th minute after taking a pass from Chris Klein on a counterattack. The Galaxy’s success against Columbus showed that one of the team’s greatest strength was their work rate and ability to play as a unit no matter who is available for the match, Stephens said.

“We’re a tough team to play against. The goals will come and we’ll be able to win games,” Stephens said.” It’s more of a team thing than just losing (Donovan and Buddle). Obviously they are two of our best players and produce a lot of goals but other guys are stepping up.”