COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Josh Saunders’ 91st minute penalty kick stop allowed two first half Galaxy goals to stand as Los Angeles collected all three points in a 2-1 win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Saturday night.
The opening 45 minutes set the tone for the victory as a leaky Rapids back line opened the door for Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, David Beckham and a potent Galaxy attack to strike twice in the first half. Though all signs pointed to a landslide victory after the opening 45, Omar Cummings’ fantastic 63rd minute strike set up a dramatic finish in the closing seconds of the match.
With the Rapids desperately looking for the equalizer and energized by a frenzied home crowd, a take-down of Rapids substitute Andre Akpan resulted in referee Ramon Hernandez pointing to the spot despite pleas from the Galaxy. But on the ensuing penalty, Saunders guessed correctly by diving left and driving away Cummings’ penalty attempt, allowing the Galaxy to claim their second straight victory thanks to two first-half strikes.
In the 21st minute, David Beckham’s pinpoint free kick found an unmarked Mike Magee, who flicked the ball on. Rapids defender Marvell Wynne inadvertently touched the ball into the back of his own net for the opening tally, giving the Galaxy an early 1-0 edge.
In the closing stags of the half, Robbie Keane’s through ball found Landon Donovan blowing by Rapids right back Kosuke Kimura, and the US international made no mistake on a classy short-angle finish to send the Galaxy up 2-0 at the half.
But in the second half, Omar Cummings fended off David Lopes for 15 yards and laced one home for his third goal of the season, immediately awakening a once-dormant crowd.
However, he Rapids would be denied a share of the points as the Galaxy held on despite a flurry of late opportunities for the home side, including Saunders’ save.
The match started brightly for the home team – it took less than five minutes for the Rapids to strike fear into the Galaxy as Brian Mullan’s clever through ball found Omar Cummings, who centered it for a wide open Tony Cascio. However, the rookie whiffed on the close-range shot.
But in the 9th minute, the Galaxy began to plant a solid foot into the match. Donovan found himself all alone in the center of the penalty box for an open header, however, the Galaxy captain inexcusably missed goal on a clear-cut opportunity right in front of net. Donovan’s pace drew Rapids keeper Matt Pickens off his line for a sliding clearance two minutes later as the Galaxy spent the majority of the first half successfully finding holes in Colorado’s back line.
Following the two goals and the halftime whistle, Pickens needed to be at his best to steer a Beckham blast from just outside the penalty box and over the crossbar.
Edson Buddle’s 59th minute header required another stop from a busy Pickens, as the Galaxy continued to maintain pressure on the Rapids in the second half despite the lopsided score. However, it would be the defense that would save the day as LA survived despite being outpossessed 62 percent to 38.
The Galaxy (3-3-0) next host FC Dallas next Saturday, while the Rapids (3-4-0) stay at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to battle Chivas USA next Saturday as well.
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.