Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By MARK EDWARD HORNISH
LOS ANGELES — The LA Galaxy and the New England Revolution are two teams headed in the opposite direction. The Galaxy, unbeaten in their last seven matches, made it eight, crushing the hapless Revolution, 5-1.
The home side was led by a pair of braces – two goals from Robbie Keane, and two from Gyasi Zardes, with a second half set piece score from Stefan Ishizaki thrown in for good measure.
“There is never a doubt in our minds that Robbie will produce goals for us,” said LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “Whether it’s directly from him, or assisting, we know he is going to be in and around the goal and be dangerous. So it was just a matter of time he hit the back of the net again.”
New England, meanwhile, was looking to right a ship that has been taking on water fast after a sparkling start to the season. The Revs opened the campaign with five straight wins, including a 5-0 mauling of league leading Seattle Sounders. But now they have lost their sixth straight, and turned in what surely must their worst performance of the season.
Keane started the scoring in the 10th minute with a lovely long range curler from outside the area, beating New England goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth high and wide.
The Irish international added to his tally late in the match when he pounced on a howler of a back pass by the hapless New England midfield and and drove home the final goal of the night. It was a statement evening for Keane, who, despite scoring his eight and ninth goals on the season, was not named to the MLS Fan XI earlier in the day.
“In the last few games that is certainly the case, but I don’t think that we’ve been playing great to be honest with you,” Keane said. “We’ve been scraping by games, but tonight was certainly our most convincing performance for a long time.”
While Keane looked sharp, it was Zardes who drew rapt admiration, scoring his 4th and 5th goals in five games. Both goals came on smart runs into the box, and both goals were assisted by Keane, who seems increasingly comfortable sharing the ball with Zardes.
“I definitely have been listening to Robbie (Keane),” Zardes said. He’s constantly talking to me, even throughout the game. He’s giving me little tips on what he’s going to do, and he told me to pay attention to the first ball once you’re running through. We worked on it in practice and we did it in the game. When Robbie (Keane) gets the ball at his feet, I know he’ll find me.”
The twenty-two year old now has scored six goals on eight shots this season, a far cry from last season’s embarrassing 4 goals on 79 shots campaign. While he may not be in the mix for this season’s all-star game, it is easy to imagine that Zardes will be on Jurgen Klinsmann’s radar in the near future.
“He’s grown as a player, more confident,” Arena said of Zardes. “We put him in a difficult position in the second half, having to play out on the right and I thought he was excellent. He played on both sides of the ball so we’re real pleased with him. He is getting a lot more confident, and he has been a really good player over the last couple of months.”
The game was marred by two red cards in the first half – AJ Soares was sent off by referee Carlos Salazar for a vicious studs-up spike to the knee of Juninho.
But the Galaxy advantage lasted only seven minutes, when Dan Gargan took down Teal Bunbury in the penalty area and was sent off for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Lee Nguyen converted the penalty kick, which brought New England back to within a goal at the halfway mark.
If New England entertained any thoughts in the locker room at halftime that they still had a chance in the game, the Galaxy put that notion to rest very quickly. The Galaxy scored in the 47th minute, and took over the match for the remainder of the night.
“It is a disappointing game all the way around,” Revolution head coach Jay Heaps said. “You give up two goals, and the first one you just tip your hat, but the second and third goal to me are the two that really broke our back, and you can’t do that, it is just not good enough. We as a staff have to get better, we as a group have to get better; we have a quick turnaround so we have to move on.”
The Galaxy almost made it six on the evening, when late substitution Chandler Hoffman found space in front of the Revolution goal, and got off a dangerous shot, but was denied by Shuttleworth shortly before the final whistle blew.
With the three points, the Galaxy now jump into the playoff mix, taking over third place in the Western Conference and still with two games in hand on the rest of the league.
Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan however was cautious in his optimism.
“We are getting there but we are not quite there yet,” Donovan said. “We still I have, I believe, the best defender in the league coming back. We haven’t played with him for a long time now. That’s a big plus. All of our defenders have been excellent this year.
“So, from a defensive stand point, I think we have been as good as any team in the league. When we are moving well and we are fluid and attacking well, that makes us really hard to beat. If we connect those pieces together, then we are going to be hard to beat.”
The Galaxy have a challenging road ahead in the next two weeks. They will face Sporting KC on the road on Saturday, followed by the much anticipated summer friendly hosting Manchester United at the Rose Bowl next Wednesday. As if that isn’t enough, LA will take on the Sounders five days later in Seattle on a rare Monday night match.
The New England Revolution leave Los Angeles with much soul searching to do, and little time to do it. Their play went tonight from inexplicable to inexcusable. They head now to Texas to take on FC Dallas on Saturday.
Here are the game highlights: