CARSON, Calif. – A defensive standoff was settled on a rare error at the back, with Jose Villarreal stripping fellow rookie Matt Hedges and feeding Juninho to start the LA Galaxy on a 2-0 triumph Sunday afternoon over visiting FC Dallas at The Home Depot Center.
Juninho provided a 66th-minute lead and Todd Dunivant added a second in the 84th as LA (12-11-4) climbed above .500 for the first time this season, pulling within three points of second-place Seattle and third-place Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference.
FC Dallas (8-12-8) watched their three-game winning streak end and remain five points behind Vancouver in the battle for the final Western Conference playoff berth.
The Galaxy, who were again missing captain Landon Donovan, out with a hamstring strain, have lost just one of 10 competitive matches and are now 9-3-2 in MLS play since mid-June.
Villarreal, who had come on in the 59th minute, took the ball away from Hedges about 15 yards outside the Dallas box, raced past goalkeeper Kevin Hartman on the left side of the box, then rolled the ball into the goalmouth for Juninho to finish.
Dunivant doubled the advantage after feeding Robbie Keane in the Dallas box from the left flank. The 2011 Best XI left back raced forward as Keane played the ball wide to Michael Stephens, whose penetrating pass left Dunivant one-on-one with Hartman from the left.
The game was mostly a tight defensive clash, with both teams' backlines in superb form – and Hedges enjoying a fine game until the giveaway.
The Galaxy dictated play nearly all of the first half, moving the ball around the field through intricate passing sequences and longer balls by Beckham but they struggled to turn the advantage into something concrete.
Hartman stretched to snag a Beckham free kick in the sixth minute, but LA's other best chances – a Mike Magee header moments after the free kick and a Marcelo Sarvas shot following a quick four-pass sequence in the 10th – ended with shots right at the Dallas 'keeper.
The visitors struggled to find attacking space and got through just twice in the first half-hour, then started finding space after swapping left winger Brek Shea and right winger Fabian Castillo.
Castillo twice got into LA's box after that, and David Ferreira's diagonal ball into the area in the 38th minute provided a dangerous opportunity, but goalkeeper Josh Saunders tracked it down, knocked the ball away and caught Castillo on the leg.
Castillo received treatment behind the net, returned to the game, then exited, limping, for Blas Perez – making his first appearance after missing 12 games – in the 41st minute.
Dallas' best chance arrived in the 61st minute, when Jackson fed Ferreira on a counterattack into LA's box. Ferreira beat Sean Franklin, but Saunders cleared the ball away.
The Galaxy return to CONCACAF Champions League play Wednesday night at The Home Depot Center against the Puerto Rico Islanders, then face Vancouver at home next Saturday night. Dallas are home next Sunday against Seattle.