The LA Galaxy's goalkeeper controversy is controversial no more.
Jaime Penedo, in his third straight start across all competitions for the reigning MLS Cup champions, made it clear he's No. 1 in LA's nets with a superb display Saturday night at Vancouver, capped by a Save-of-the-Year candidate that secured their first victory away from Southern California since mid-May.
The Panamanian netminder's spectacular stop on Jordan Harvey in the 82nd minute, right after Kekuta Manneh fired off the right post, helped give the Galaxy (12-9-4) a 1-0 triumph at BC Place, back-to-back victories for only the third time this season, and second place in the Western Conference, just five points behind Real Salt Lake.
Landon Donovan called his teammate “Superman.”
Penedo was intelligent and aggressive coming off his line, making five saves and expertly marshaling his area to limit the Whitecaps' chances, and in doing so appeared to cement his place between the pipes, ahead of previous No. 1 Carlo Cudicini, who again wasn't part of the 18-man game roster.
“I'm not saying I'm the No. 1,” Penedo told media after the victory. “There are four goalkeepers that are working hard, and I have to work hard and learn. That's what I have to do.”
He did everything required Saturday, when the Galaxy took a quick lead on a Donovan bomb, dominated the rest of the first half, then withstood Vancouver's onslaught after the break to post their first shutout since July 7.
Key to all of it was Penedo's save on Harvey.
Leonardo headed away a Vancouver corner kick, and Manneh collected it about 10 yards or so outside the box, then blasted a bending shot that caromed off the right post and fell back into the center of the box. Penedo dived well past the post trying to get to the shot, so Harvey had an open net to shoot at -- or would have, had the ball fallen to him more gently.
Instead, he had to pull it down with an upraised leg, then find the balance to shoot, which he did while falling to the turf. Penedo picked himself off the ground and flung himself across his net, sprawling and reaching to paw away Harvey's shot seemingly off the goal-line.
Penedo said only it was a “fast play,” that he was “able to react” and that it “gave us three points.” His teammates were more flattering.
“In a game like this, you're expecting to need one big play from a defender or a goalie, or someone's going to need to make a play, because they were putting us under some pressure at the end,” Donovan said on the Galaxy's post-game telecast. “Fortunately, the first one hit the post. I was standing right behind it. I've played a lot of soccer games in my life, and when I see a play like that, I can't remember a time where a goal didn't occur after [that kind of rebound].
“It seemed like he just came out of nowhere, kind of like Superman, and extended his arm and made an unbelievable save.”