The Houston Dynamo posed an early-season test for the Galaxy as the two Western Conference powers met for a tilt at Robertson Stadium.
If this was a test, then someone provided the Galaxy with the answers. Houston was no match for Los Angeles as the visitors silenced the hosts with a pair of first-half strikes by Edson Buddle in the Galaxy’s 2-0 victory.
Watch the full match highlights.
The Dynamo had some bite and were active, but overall the game was all Galaxy.
Just how were the defending Western champs able to dismantle Houston?
Elegant Edson: Once again, Buddle was the focal point of the attack. If the Galaxy are preparing for life without Landon Donovan, then Buddle is showing he is ready to shoulder the offensive load. Buddle’s finishes were each splendid in their own way.
Offense was a question mark entering the season, and the need for a second scorer was obvious. Donovan will be gone come mid-May as World Cup duty looms for the Galaxy skipper, but Buddle seems to be answering the call loud and clear.
The Landín Factor: Brian Ching typically gives Galaxy defenders reason to worry but on Saturday, the club didn't need to fear the U.S. international. Ching hurt his hamstring against Real Salt Lake and Luis Ángel Landín started in his place. The Mexican designated player did nothing to make anyone forget about Ching. Instead he chopped down LA defender Omar Gonzalez from behind and was sent off.
Landín wasn't much of a factor before the red card and he left Houston in a hole. Buddle scored moments after the sending-off and the match was essentially over.
Too Tight? Not Quite: Another non-factor was Houston’s tight field. Robertson Stadium is about five yards narrower than the Home Depot Center and the dimensions concerned the Galaxy so much that the club moved in the lines on their training field to simulate the size. Turns out the tight field wasn't tight enough to constrict the Galaxy’s attack.
Franklin Factor: Sean Franklin moved into the midfield at the end of the Galaxy’s 2-0 win over Chivas USA. Earlier that game, he sent a pinpoint cross to Buddle, who buried the ball into the back of the net. On Saturday, he started the game at right midfield, with second-year man A.J. DeLaGarza slotted at right back. Franklin was just as strong in the midfield as he has been at right back. His versatility gives the team another weapon, as long as DeLaGarza continues developing.
Injured Returns: Galaxy coach Bruce Arena may not have all of his players at his disposal quite yet, but two players made their returns in Houston. Alan Gordon and Jovan Kirovski had been training with the team at full speed but didn't dress until Saturday’s match. Both two players made late-game appearances against the Dynamo.
Neither contributed much to the game, which was already well in hand by the time both stepped onto the field as substitutes. But having two healthy bodies back on the bench will be a welcome sight for the coaching staff. The two players could be in the mix to start against Real Salt Lake next weekend.