Photo by ISIPhotos.com
BY KAYLA KNAPP
CARSON, Calif.—The Los Angeles Galaxy continued their lifetime series domination of the Vancouver Whitecaps, posting a comfortable 2-0 victory at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night.
The Whitecaps have never beaten the Galaxy, and they never looked close to pulling that off at any point during the game—they only had two shots throughout the 90 minutes.
Juninho continued his hot streak, scoring with a rocket from 28 yards out, to give the Galaxy a 1-0 lead near the end of the first half. The Brazilian has now scored six goals in the last five games. David Beckham added an insurance goal in the 79th minute with a perfect free kick that completely froze Vancouver goalkeeper Brad Knighton.
The victory moved Los Angeles into a tie with the Seattle Sounders for third place in the Western Conference, with the Sounders facing FC Dallas on Sunday.
The game got off to a slow start, with little to no offensive action in almost the entire first half. The first sign of life came in the 32nd minute when Robbie Keane scored, but was called offside.
The Galaxy's opening goal came in the 42nd minute when Hector Jimenez crossed the ball in to Robbie Keane from the touchline, who one-timed it to Juninho. The Brazilian then let a 28 yard shot rip, and the ball flew into the upper 90, easily beating Knighton.
"They’re a good team, a physical team and they like to battle so it was important that we got the goal when we did," Keane said of Juninho's timely strike.
"You've got to give Vancouver a lot of credit, they really threw a lot into the first half and closed us down, especially in the middle third," Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said after the win. "Kicked us a little bit, made it difficult for us, so I think the Juninho’s goal was huge. In the second half I thought you could see the energy that Vancouver put into the first half fatigued them, because they kind of looked to me like they hit the wall a little bit.”
The second half was all Los Angeles, with Vancouver rarely crossing over in to the final third—the Galaxy's backline hardly had any work to do all night.
Beckham sealed the deal in the 79th minute when he placed his free kick perfectly into the upper left corner, freezing Knighton and giving the Galaxy a 2-0 lead with a little more than 10 minutes to go.
"I knew if I put it in the corner, the keeper wasn’t getting there, simple as that," Beckham said of his seventh goal of the season. "And I hit it well. I knew once I hit it and I caught it well it was going in."
That would be all Los Angeles would need, as the Galaxy picked up all three points against a Vancouver Whitecaps side that looked rather lifeless all night.
"Consistently winning games, we haven’t done that really this year until now," Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez said of their solid form over the last two weeks. "We just have to keep it going, keep on playing well and just make a good run."
While Saturday night's win extended the Galaxy's unbeaten streak to six games, Vancouver's losing skid was brought to four. The Whitecaps are in danger of falling out of their playoff spot as the season comes into the final stretch.
"We know that every game is now important," Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit said after the loss. "As we move in, we have no gimmes, we have no games that we can take for granted and now it’s up to us to get ourselves out of this."
Vancouver failed to gain any ground on the defending MLS Cup champions, staying firmly in fifth place in the West–still in playoff position, but with FC Dallas creeping up behind them.
"The games become very big for us now," Vancouver head coach Martin Rennie said after the match. "Fortunately because we’ve done fairly well up to this point, we’re in a good position, but we must now find our form and now’s the time to find it because if we’re going to do anything in the season, you’re going to have to be at your best at the end."
ARENA DISCUSSES WILHELMSSON
As the Galaxy make their run up the table leading to the playoffs, an important development regarding Swedish international Christian Wilhelmsson was made late Saturday night, with Arena acknowledging the team's interest.
“Christian is a player that we’re interested in that we have in training with us right now," Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said in a statement after the match. "Should an official arrangement be reached we will make an appropriate announcement at that time.”