CARSON, Calif. – Brazilian forward Samuel opened his LA Galaxy account and Gyasi Zardes scored the game-winner as the LA Galaxy defeated Armenian club FC Shirak 2-1 in front of 12,447 fans at StubHub Center on Saturday.
The reigning Armenian league champions took the lead in the 35th minute on a goal from Serge Deble. However, LA pulled level in the 42nd minute when the Brazilian striker Samuel pounced on a loose ball in the box and fired a shot into the back of the net. But it was Zardes’ turn to play the hero in the 75th minute when he launched a confident strike beyond the penalty area that sailed past the Shirak goalkeeper Artur Harutyunyan and into the net.
Shirak controlled the tempo early in what was a back-and-forth first half. In the 17th minute, the Galaxy nearly pulled ahead early when Rob Friend headed a Marcelo Sarvas pass down for an oncoming Landon Donovan who saw his shot curl just wide of net.
Shirak made the Galaxy pay in the 35th minute when Davit Harkobyan played a through-ball to Deble down the right flank. The Ivorian touched the ball past a charging Jaime Penedo and fired a shot into an empty net for the opening goal. Samuel equalized less than 10 minutes later when Landon Donovan fired a free kick that was knocked down by Omar Gonzalez to the foot of the Brazilian who calmly placed a shot by Harutyunyan.
LA trotted out a completely different lineup in the second half with Bruce Arena making further changes just past the hour mark. One of those substitutes, trialist James Riley, was forced to come to the rescue in the 70th minute when he cleared a dangerous chance from inside the eight-yard box.
Although Shirak continued to threaten, it was the Galaxy that took the lead 25 minutes from full time. The goal came in the 75th minute when second half substitute Baggio Hušidić saw his shot blocked by a Shirak defender, which fell perfectly for Zardes, who confidently slotted a shot from 20 yards into the back of the net for the game-winner.
Shirak threw numbers forward in search of a late equalizer, but saw their attempt at a comeback extinguished in the waning moments when a shot from Aram Muradyan was saved by Brian Perk.
Bruce Arena’s squad was without three 2013 regulars for Saturday’s victory as midfielder Robbie Rogers missed out due to a left ankle sprain, Todd Dunivant was unavailable due to a hamstring issue and Robbie Keane is still returning from offseason surgery.
The Galaxy will return to action on Tuesday when they play a closed-door scrimmage against Liga MX side Pumas UNAM in Mexico City before returning to California and taking on the San Jose Earthquakes in the Central California Clásico in Fresno on Saturday.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com