The LA Galaxy were decidedly shorthanded on Sunday without Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Juninho, and seemed to roll into Toyota Park on Sunday on fumes.
But those fumes were more than enough to conjure up a clutch victory.
The Galaxy closed out their longest road trip of the season with a convincing 2-1 win over Chicago, a happy end to three taxing games in nine days.
“It’s important because we had five of our first seven goals… on the road. Whenever you can get points on the road, it’s important,” Galaxy manager Bruce Arena said. “The three points were critically important. At this stage of the season, with what we’ve dealt with – with injuries and the road games and the situations we’ve had to deal with – and to… have 12 points after seven games isn’t bad.”
Chad Barrett and Omar Gonzalez did the damage for the visitors, scoring on either side of halftime. Chicago, who pulled two goals back before succumbing to Portland 4-2 on Thursday, tried to rally late on a goal from Dominic Oduro, but the Galaxy defense was able to hold.
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“It was a good win. I thought that they played very well for large portions of the game,” Arena said. “Obviously the game got a little hectic the last 10 minutes of the match, but it’s good to walk out of here with three points.”
As a result of the absences to key players, Arena tapped into the club’s depth and the team performed well.
“We didn’t have a lot of guys eligible to play,” Arena said. “Guys stepped up (Sunday) that haven’t been playing regularly like Paolo Cardozo, Miguel Lopez, Mike Stephens and Frankie Hejduk. We’re happy Omar was able to make an appearance; he played well… and obviously the second goal was an important goal.”
The victory, though, did not come without a price. Both Paolo Cardozo and Leonardo picked up injuries in the second half, and Leonardo, Arena said, “has an injury that will put him out for the rest of the year.”
The club, though, did get some good returns from players who had not contributed for portions of the season. Barrett’s goal was his first in a Galaxy uniform and gave the Galaxy an early lead. Barrett and Lopez started with Ángel on the bench.
Even with playing together for the first time, Barrett and Lopez struck up a quick understanding and it resulted in a goal.
“The whole plan was to stay high because Miguel likes to float underneath,” Barrett said. “He got out wide and I was able to get near the box and I didn’t think I could get near post so I made sure (to) get in a spot where (he) could hit me. The ball was served in a real tight spot and I had a good first touch and I wanted to make sure I slotted it on the ground to the far post on goal.”
Gonzalez, meanwhile, missed the first three games of the year with injury but has done well since returning. The Galaxy defense allowed one goal in the Galaxy’s first three games with Gonzalez in the center of defense.
“It’s my third or fourth game back and to get a game-winning goal is great, especially getting it off a header. It’s something I worked hard at during the offseason,” Gonzalez said. “It’s good to get the game-winner because it’s been a long road trip and we’ve scooped up nine points in five games.”