CARSON, Calif. – If the Los Angeles Galaxy catch fire and finish the season as strong as they started it, Saturday’s match against Columbus will have been the turning point.
Facing tough competition from a hard-charging Crew side, the Galaxy returned to their dominant ways and easily dispatched of the Eastern Conference foes by a 3-1 score. But the game also marked David Beckham’s return from injury as the Englishman made his season debut.
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“That was a perfect situation for me really,” said Beckham, who came on in the 70th minute with the Galaxy up 3-0. “The players had done so well through the game and it made it easier for me to come on. The pace was still a high tempo but it obviously calmed down. We’d kind of won the game by then and we played hard. It was a perfect situation for me to come on.”
Beckham could have been performing at his finest and it would not have made a difference. By the time Beckham stepped onto the field, the Galaxy held a commanding lead over their would-be dethroners. Edson Buddle, Dema Kovalenko and Jovan Kirovski saw to that as each scored a goal in the match.
Buddle’s goal, in the 13th minute, helped Los Angeles get off to a near-perfect start. The Galaxy had been giving up early goals, particularly at home, as they’d allowed five goals in the first 20 minutes in their last three league games at The Home Depot Center.
“It’s a much-improved performance by our team,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “Hopefully it gives us the confidence to continue to move forward and try to be a better team as we go into post-season play.”
Kovalenko scored a rare goal towards the end of the first half when he finished off a sequence from the middle of the penalty area. The goal was his first since 2008 and just his fourth since 2006.
“It feels good,” Kovalenko said of his goal. “It’s been a while but honestly I don’t care. … I’m just happy we got three points because it’s a big game, a huge game and big win. We beat a good team [Saturday] and we should be happy.”
Kirovski’s goal came 10 minutes into the second half and all but put the game away. The only intrigue afterward was whether or not Beckham would get into the match. He had been warming up without any apparent setbacks from the ever-increasing intensity on the training field.
While he warmed up behind the bench, Arena and Beckham had a brief exchange.
“He came up to me and he said ‘How about 10 to 15 minutes? We want to get a good 10 to 15 minutes,’" Beckham recounted, "and I was like, ‘Well how about 20-25?’ So he kind of listened to me and we met in the middle and he put me on for 20 minutes.”
Ultimately, the Galaxy were able to not only welcome back their star midfielder but also put some distance between themselves and their closest competitors. Columbus and Real Salt Lake are each now three points back of Los Angeles while FC Dallas are six points out.
“We want to get the Supporters' Shield and we want to win at home,” said Buddle, who was removed due to cramps. “Every game is important and we have to move on. We can’t just dwell on this game and definitely made a little statement. Hopefully we got things right and hopefully we can have the same type of game next week."
And the Galaxy did not want to think about what may have happened had they been unable to send Columbus home with a loss.
“We led the league all year and we wanted to hold onto that,” Buddle said. “Who knows what the mood would have been like if we would have lost that game and Columbus would have taken the lead?”