Robert Mora/LA Galaxy

Central Figure

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Chris Birchall has exactly one MLS goal to his credit since he signed with the club in July of 2009. He also has just three assists.

He missed getting his name on the score sheet again in Thursday night’s 2-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls in Game Two of their Western Conference Semifinals Series at The Home Depot Center, but it would be a mistake to underestimate his contributions to the hard-earned triumph.

The 27-year-old, pressed into starting duty in central midfield because of the one-game suspension of Juninho for his part in last Sunday’s brawl following the series opener, was one of the unsung heroes in the rematch despite being credited with only one shot attempt and one foul committed.

Birchall doesn’t get the recognition of a David Beckham or a Landon Donovan nor does he possess the flashy skills of his more publicized teammates, but what he does offer is strong defensive play in the center of the park, something the Galaxy were counting on Thursday.

“Chris Birchall was an absolute beast,” raved the Galaxy’s Mike Magee, who scored Thursday’s tying goal in the 42nd minute after the Red Bulls has taken a 1-0 lead on Luke Rodgers’ goal in the fourth minute of play. “I think it took him and all of us in the midfield about 10 minutes to get our bearings, but as you can see he had (Thierry) Henry and about four other guys buzzing around in the middle of the field.

“He did an amazing job doing it by himself. You can’t say enough good things about what Birchy did tonight.”

Magee said he wasn’t surprised at all by Birchall’s standout effort.

“I’ve seen Birchy play for three years,” Magee said, “and he’s an amazing player and a guy that would be starting day in and day out for any other team.”

Birchall, who played the final seven minutes of last Sunday’s 1-0 victory, got the word earlier this week from head coach Bruce Arena that he would be in the starting lineup and was thrilled he was back in the center of midfield, where he admitted he thrives.

“I just enjoy playing, especially playing my favorite position,” he said. “For me, my game is completely different. It’s just win tackles, be aggressive and give the balls to David and Landon and Mike Magee, players that can do something with it.

“When we have that combination, we’re a very good team.”

Birchall said he paid no attention to the so-called critics in the press who said the Galaxy would be in trouble without Juninho’s presence in midfield.

“To be honest,” Birchall said, “I didn’t listen to any of the press before. I’m not one of those who watches the pre-match things or anything like that. It’s up to those people to say that. It really doesn’t bother me.

“All I can do is go out and try and give the best I can, and hopefully I’ve done that tonight.”

The Galaxy will face Real Salt Lake on Sunday, November 6 at 6pm PT in the Western Conference Championship at The Home Depot Center. Tickets are on sale now! BUY NOW