CARSON, Calif. – Five days earlier, the LA Galaxy were the victim of a late game collapse. but on Thursday night, LA was on the other side of the coin as they roared back from a late deficit thanks to a pair of Robbie Keane penalty kicks to defeat the Columbus Crew 2-1 at StubHub Center.
The Irish forward played the role of hero on Independence Day, but after imploring his men to show some testicular fortitude following the defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes days earlier, he was pleased with the response.
“Of course after the result on [Saturday] it’s important to get a win no matter which way we did it,” Keane said. “We’re certainly the better team, there’s no question about it when you win down a goal with ten minutes to go.”
And what does the victory do for the team’s confidence?
“I think we would have been completely shattered, to be honest our heads would have been down [had LA had lost],” said Keane “But, because you do win a game, it’s amazing how confidence can get you through games and get through a few more days. The fact that we’ve got the three points is huge.”
Goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, who had a calm night with Columbus forcing just two saves, was quick to agree with the Galaxy captain.
“Football gives and football takes away stuff. We lost a crazy game on Saturday and we won a crazy one today,” said Cudicini. “Although today, the win was deserved, we created so many chances and made it a bit difficult for us.”
Had LA’s finishing been a little sharper than the result may not have been in doubt as the Galaxy dominated the stat sheet with 23 shots compared to just eight for Columbus. However, time and time again, LA missed the mark as just six of their attempts were on target.
After going down in the 78th minute when Bernardo Anor looped a header over Carlo Cudicini and under the crossbar, the Galaxy’s fate seemed sealed. Not only was Anor’s goal the 14th that LA had conceded in the final 15 minutes of games this season, but club was a winless 0-6-0 when allowing the first goal.
However, Bruce Arena’s squad dug in and pushed forward, undeterred as they used a little bit of wile and a pair of timely spot kicks to roar back. The first goal came in the 86th minute as Keane slotted a penalty that was given a minute earlier after Jose Villarreal made a run in the box and was taken down by Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum. During his second year in MLS, Villarreal has perfected the act of drawing contact from a goalkeeper as he drew penalties in almost identical situations against FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo earlier year.
“As a forward, you have those cheeky things in your pocket and you got to pull them out on some games,” said Villarreal. “It worked here with this ‘keeper and it was got the penalty. It was good to get the win.”
Several minutes later in the second minute of stoppage time, the Galaxy were awarded a second penalty when Anor shoved Robbie Keane in the box causing referee Sorin Stoica to point to the spot yet again. Unfazed by the magnitude of the moment, Keane stepped up to the spot once again and calmly fired his shot into the back of the net to seal the victory.
Although many including Arena and center back Omar Gonzalez admitted that LA may have gotten away with a fortunate break on the final penalty, Keane was adamant that it was just.
“The second one I’m looking at the ball and someone comes into the back of you. If someone runs into the back of you without you knowing the fact is you’re going to fall over,” said Keane. “I didn't see him behind me when I wanted to take the ball down and he just ran into me. When you’re in the penalty box you obviously have to be very careful.”
The Galaxy will immediately turn their intentions to their match against FC Dallas, who will arrive at StubHub Center on Sunday after a disappointing scoreless draw with Chivas USA at home on Thursday. In a tightly bunched Western Conference playoff race every point will begin to count a little more as the Galaxy look to turn a poor run in June into a successful July.
“It’s great that we got those three points, they were much needed and now we can get some more wins and start a streak because that’s something that we need,” said Gonzalez. “A few more wins could put us in even better positioning. Now it’s time to start thinking about playoffs. This is the fun time of the year.
“I guess [that] June gloom is by the beach and maybe it was for us too,” Gonzalez added referencing the club’s 1-3-1 record in June. “It wasn’t such a good month for us, now it’s time for us to turn it around.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com