CARSON, Calif. – In what was his final home game until July, LA Galaxy captain Landon Donovan did what he does best.
Donovan accounted for the only goal in the LA Galaxy’s 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday as the LA piled up their third consecutive victory.
“It was nice. … At the end, fans were chanting ‘USA’ and kind of wishing me well, and it’s nice,” said Donovan, who is part of the United States national team’s Gold Cup roster. “It’s always a bummer when you have to leave for weeks during the season, but it’s part of it and I know they’ll be watching on TV.”
The goal was Donovan’s eighth of the season, tops in MLS. It also helped the Galaxy get into a rhythm defensively. The club was able to protect the lead over the second half and closed out the game in solid manner, allowing Houston just one shot on goal.
The way to stop Houston was simple: Cut down on their service.
“That was a point of emphasis for sure,” Donovan said. “A big part of their game is getting wide and putting it in front of the goal. We wanted to make sure every time [Brad Davis] touched the ball we got around him.”
Even before the Galaxy got their goal, the hosts did well to keep the visitors from getting into an offensive rhythm.
“In the first half, especially, we did a good job of keeping the ball and putting them on their heels where Davis and [Colin] Clark had to do a lot more defending than they did attacking,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said. “That was to our advantage.”
Houston started Will Bruin and Koke up top. With Davis out left and Clark on the right, the Dynamo tried to find their strikers, but more often than not, whatever balls made it into the middle were gobbled up by Omar Gonzalez or AJ DeLaGarza.
“They had a physical team and we kind of knew that we had to prevent their service first and foremost,” Dunivant said. “If we did that, their big guys wouldn’t get service and they didn’t have a lot of opportunities because of it.”
Having come off a 1-0 victory over Chivas USA in the SuperClásico, the Galaxy had limited time to get ready for Houston. Circumstances could have been different, but the club focused on what their rivals did best and went from there.
“We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare this week. When you play a team like Houston, [which creates] a lot of chances off set pieces and crosses, you’d like to have time to prepare and understand what they do,” Donovan said. “But we knew if we stayed behind the ball and limited their set pieces, that it was very unlikely they were going to score.”
The Galaxy got their only goal of the game from a bit of an unlikely source. Chris Birchall, who started in place of the absent David Beckham, ripped a shot from well outside the box late in the first half.
The shot hit Lovel Palmer's arm but did not appear headed towards Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall.
“I think that was going to be a throw-in,” Donovan said. “It worked out.”
Donovan took the spot kick and easily collected his eighth goal of the season.
And while the Galaxy put the clamps on their opponents and walked away with the victory, the score could have been a little more in favor of the hosts.
“We had 17 shots, but you have to get more on the target,” Donovan said. “We did a good job of getting to the final third but our final pass or our final touch let us down a lot. If we were a little cleaner and made a better pass or a better choice, I think we would have scored two or three goals.”
Postgame Interview: Landon Donovan