In a game that, according to Bruce Arena, should never have been played, the Los Angeles Galaxy staved off a furious Boca Juniors squad and got a late winner to beat the South American giants by 1-0 at the Home Depot Center on Sunday.
Josh Saunders was the star of the match for the Galaxy, as the club’s backup goalkeeper made 13 saves – nine in the second half, and many of them diving stops off blistering long-range shots.
The match, though, counted nothing towards their regular-season record, and the Galaxy coach said one of the bright spots of the match was escaping relatively unharmed.
“This is an exhibition we didn’t need, in all honesty,” Arena said. “We have a bunch of injuries and some fatigue. To get through this without an injury was good.”
Boca Juniors showed the Galaxy a bit of their quality. Even though the Buenos Aires side were down several stars, including World Cup-bound Martín Palermo, injured midfielder Juan Román Riquelme and Paraguayan international Claudio Morel. Still, los Xeneizes showed why they've won 31 domestic championships and seven Copa Libertadores titles.
Several Boca Juniors players tested Saunders from long range, but the veteran was game. Saunders made several highlight-reel saves, including two in a three-minute span midway through the second half. In the 65th minute, Gastón Rossi ripped a shot from distance but Saunders dived and parried the ball away. Three minutes later, Lucas Viatri powered a header on goal but Saunders did well to make another save.
The constant pressure and overall management of the match by Boca Juniors showed they were the better side, even though the score did not reflect it, Boca’s Javier García insisted.
“Our style is superior,” García said. “We played a better game, created far more chances while they only had their one. They didn’t look to take control of the ball.”
Inferior or not, the Galaxy did what needed to be done to get the result. Saunders made the plays in goal and Tristan Bowen, Mike Magee and Michael Stephens combined on one stellar passing sequence for the game’s only goal.
“We fought for 90 minutes and we got a goal right at the end," Bowen said of his 83rd-minute goal. "Sean played a ball to me and I brought it down. I turned and played a ball to Mike and just continued to run into the ball and Mike Magee played a ball across. [Stephens] dummied it and all I had to do was put it in the net.”
The victory was something for the Galaxy to rally around. The club will play at Columbus next weekend, facing former Boca standout Guillermo Barros Schelotto. But now the Galaxy have two consecutive wins since Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle left for World Cup camp.
A win over Boca can only do good things for the team’s confidence, Saunders said.
“For an international team that’s as world-renowned as Boca is, to beat them is great for us,” Saunders said. “It’s middle of the season and a lot of the players haven’t necessarily played a lot got to play tonight and we got a result out of it.”
And even if the match was unnecessary, the more than 18,000 in attendance witnessed an entertaining match.
“I think everyone really enjoyed it,” Saunders said. “I think the fans enjoyed so all in all it was a good time.”