CARSON, Calif. – Having earned a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday was important, LA Galaxy coaches and players said. But what mattered most wasn’t the three points the Galaxy added to their season total.
“The performance was more important [Saturday] than anything else,” David Beckham said. “We wanted the three points of course, but after the embarrassment of last week, the performance was the important thing – and the character – and I think we showed that.”
The Galaxy overcame their 4-1 loss at Real Salt Lake by scrapping, clawing and edging their way to a shutout victory over the previously undefeated Union. The Galaxy got a first-half goal from Leonardo and overcame a red card to Chris Birchall.
All along the way, the Galaxy met and overcame challenges, in particular when the club went down to 10 men.
“The back four did a really good job organizing us, David and Juninho’s work ethic were great in the middle – closing down lanes, tackling – and in the right moments we went for it and got some chances,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “If you drew up how you want to play when you’re down a man, that was ideal.”
Team defending was important, but so too was individual awareness.
“Our experienced guys did well in the second half, understanding what needed to be done to get the three points,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “Landon I thought played very well. … Landon’s experience, David and [Juan Pablo Angel’s], I think was a big factor in the game.”
The Galaxy also overcame a minor hurdle that could have snowballed into a major issue. In a 1-1 draw against New England and their loss to RSL, the Galaxy gave up goals in the first three minutes of the match, all but tossing out their game plan for the game in both instances.
Philadelphia had a few early set pieces but the Galaxy defense stood firm, cleared the balls away and eventually took control of the match.
“We came out at the start of the game better than we did last game. We needed that, we needed a good start to the game,” Beckham said. “We started with a hard tempo and continued that, even when we went down to 10 men. We needed to show even more character and I think we did that.”
Beckham was influential in the match. Playing centrally, he dictated the pace and sprayed passes throughout the field. He also set up the game’s lone goal, sending in a free kick to the middle of the box that Leonardo knocked in off the left post.
“I know when I put it in the right areas, we can score from it,” Beckham said. “It’s something we practice week in and week out in training. If I put it in the right area, I know we’ve got either Omar [Gonzalez] or Leonardo. They’re brave players. They stick their head on it.”
However, the Galaxy were dealt a tough blow when Birchall saw red in the 53rd minute. Birchall said he wasn’t intending on hurting Carlos Ruiz when he fell into him but said he understood the difficult position he put his team in.
“All I can remember is he took a touch in the midfield, I tackled him and as he’s falling over I stumbled into him and he’s obviously thought it was on purpose. It wasn’t intentional. I just couldn’t get out of the way,” he said.
After the dust settled and the Galaxy had collected their three points, Birchall said he addressed his teammates.
“That’s exactly what this team’s about. When one player goes off, the team spirit is so high and we fight for each other,” he said. “I said to the guys when we all came in, I apologized for what happened and thanks for fighting and getting a good result. If it was someone else we’d all do the same.”