CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy are hitting their stride and that’s reason for teams across Major League Soccer to take notice.
LA notched their second consecutive victory on Saturday afternoon with a 3-1 win over the Portland Timbers that featured a brace from Robbie Keane and a goal from Gyasi Zardes. Fresh off their early week drubbing of Seattle Sounders FC, the Galaxy added to an impressive run of form that has seen LA win seven of their last 11 games with just a single defeat in that span.
Heading into a hectic August slate, Saturday’s comprehensive win over the Timbers was reason for celebration for the Galaxy.
“We’re in good position at the moment with the way that we’re playing. We’re very clinical in front of goal and everything is starting to click,” said Keane. “I think we’re in better shape certainly in the past four games, because before we were just scraping results and sometimes you have to do that. It’s not bad, we’ve certainly in the last four or five games, we’ve been probably the best we’ve been.”
Crucial to the Galaxy’s victory was their ability to stretch out a Timbers side that looks to pack the center of the park. With the Timbers seeking to create offense through midfielder Diego Valeri, the Galaxy countered by pressuring Portland’s fill backs with probing runs forward by Landon Donovan and Stefan Ishizaki as well as outside backs Robbie Rogers and Dan Gargan.
Although the Galaxy fell behind early on a deflected free kick finish by Valeri in the 14th minute, LA held true to their game plan, which bore fruit in first half stoppage time when Rogers exploited space down the left flank and launched a pinpoint cross to Zardes for LA’s opener.
The Galaxy’s first come-from-behind victory was sealed in the 73rd minute when LA once again went down the flanks as this time Donovan found Keane in the penalty area to put the Galaxy ahead for good.
“We played them three times already so we know them well. They have a lot of attacking players, but their attacking players don’t defend,” said Donovan. “That’s why we’ve been so successful lately. Everybody is defending and we knew that if we got the ball wide, their wide guys were going to track back much, and we were going to get a lot of space. We got a lot of room wide, created a lot of chances from wide positions, scoring a couple great goals.”
Added Zardes, “We figured out where the space was, and we exploited their defense and their midfield. They were more compact in size so we stretched them out.”
With the victory, the Galaxy continued their climb up the Western Conference standings, moving to second with the win. After a 2013 season that was peppered with false dawns of championship form, Donovan expects bigger and better things from the 2014 edition of the Galaxy.
“We can be a better team than we were last year. I think we are much more experienced in a lot of different positions. We struggled on getting results early on, but the results are coming, and if we keep doing this, we are going to move up the table,” said Donovan. “Who knows how far we can go. We are just going to go week-by-week and putting points on the board. We will never know where we will end up.”
But while Donovan was measured with his response, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena exuded a quiet confidence about his team’s chances in the second half of the season.
“We have the best defensive record in the league. We are probably in the top three or four in attacking categories. We are getting healthier,” said Arena with a smirk. “I give the team a B plus [at the All-Star break]. The coach [meanwhile gets] a C minus, goes with my grade point average in college.”