It isn’t normal for a home team to come away from a tie content while the visiting team leaves disappointed, but that was the case after the Galaxy’s comeback to tie the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night.
Landon Donovan’s brace, set up by two beautiful David Beckham assists, helped give the Galaxy some hope after some rough results in recent weeks.
Speaking of rough results, the Dynamo keep looking for a win despite playing yet another game where it could have easily bagged three points. Houston has to feel like two more points slipped away after taking the lead twice in this match.
SBI Correspondents Nathan Henderson-James and Alex Swaim watched the match and filed their takes on the game:
A gritty tie signals hope for the Galaxy
BY NATHAN HENDERSON JAMES
Well, that wasn’t terrible.
On paper, this game looked like death for a Galaxy squad trying to figure out how to support the Beckham-Donovan show with offensive creativity or defensive bite. Houston, despite its lack of wins, is still a two-time defending league champion guided by a nucleus that has played together for years. With two more injuries (Ely Allen and Alvaro Pires) and a goalkeeper playing hurt, I was prepared for a replay of some of the more dire games from 2007.
But a funny thing happened on the way down flashback lane.
A gritty, determined team showed up with just enough offensive flair to put last year’s best defense to the test. True the first half was totally dominated by Houston. The G’s defensive weaknesses were repeatedly exposed and only Cronin, stealing moments from last year’s U.S. Open Cup 14-save victory over the Red Bulls, kept the scoreline as close as it was.
But it simply didn’t feel as awful as any of the eye-bleeders I suffered through, Tammy Wynette-style, last year. My notes from half-time tell the tale: "Not the worst defensive effort ever" and "Verdict: Not horrible."
Despite Ruud Gullit’s man-crush on Alan Gordon, which can be the only explanation for starting a man with feet of stone and the creativity of a lemming in the midfield, and despite the inability of Josh Tudela to have an impact on the left side of the field, I was actually entertained throughout the first half. Even being outplayed by the Dynamo, the G’s managed good looks and great chances. At the end of the first half I was in the best mood I’ve ever been in with the Galaxy trailing 1-0.
And then, to my surprised delight, a game broke out.
The Beckham-Donovan Connection was in full force in the second half. The first goal, with Landon’s header to the near post off a perfect Becks cross has to be Goal Of The Week. A brilliant Beckham run that baffled Wade Barrett and enabled another perfect cross, one that nutmegged Patrick Ianni, set-up a far-post-crashing Donovan for the second.
Sure the G’s continue to look shaky on set pieces, especially corners, and were continually victimized by their inability to mark and shut down space, two things that Houston will always punish you for, but this team showed something that was sorely lacking all last year: 90 minutes of fight and resolve.
Credit Gullit for the half-time substitutions. Randolph as left winger brought terrier-like speed and tenacity, even if his crosses still hit defenders as often as they get into the box. Joe Franchino impressed me in his return to Los Angeles, bringing bite to a midfield that hasn’t had any for years. Xavier and Vanney in the middle still scare me, but the craftiness factor increased exponentially. And any time you take Gordon off the field, it’s like adding an offensive player. (I bet the G’s could play with 10 on the field just as well as 11 if the 11th player was Gordon. Probably better. There’d be more space for runs and offensive build-ups would have to find someplace else to go and die.)
Walking to my car I took stock. Simply put, I can’t remember the last time I felt this good about dropping points at home to a conference rival. Well done, guys, well done.
Oh, one last thing. Does anyone else think that the referee wasn’t ready for prime time? He looked like a very determined 6-year-old learning to ride a bike without training wheels. "No dad, I CAN DO IT MYSELF!" And then he plows into a tree. Put the training wheels back on and get me a grown-up ref.
More dropped points for the champions
BY ALEX SWAIM
What a subpar week for the Dynamo.
Another game they dominated (less so in the second half) ends in a draw, where the team missed more than their share of chances. Seriously, where were Brian Ching and Dwayne DeRosario on Franco Caraccio’s beautiful play to get around Steve Cronin and almost put the ball in from the corner flag? This is the game where Caraccio showed he can play at the MLS level – and should only get better – but the team’s stars have to at the lest follow up on the attacks all game long. Mix that play with the crossbar/Cronin goalkeeping combo, and you get a scoreline that doesn’t reflect the play. Oh, and I’m in the Wade Barrett should have shot camp, if you were wondering.
On the other half of the ball, play was solid. Patrick Ianni proved he can, at the very least, be a good sub off the benches. His goal line clearance in the 90th minute saved a point. Sure, he got beaten twice by Landon Donovan, but I don’t see anything he could have done better. Bobby Boswell didn’t get beaten (though he was not tested much), but I still don’t like how he quits chasing plays once he’s decided they’re gone. Tony Caig had a second game in a row where he looked like a serviceable backup. Rico Clark did a great job as well, though he got forward less than if Eddie Robinson was playing.
Credit for the draw goes to the entire LA team, all three-and-a-half of them. Donovan, David Beckham, Cronin, and one half of Joey Franchino played very well. After Donovan fell down from running into Ianni’s back, he played angry and found two pinpoint Beckham crosses. He never gave the Dynamo a chance to stop him on those goals. Cronin kept the game from being 4-0 before Donovan scored his first. Franchino’s introduction after halftime kept the game from being a series of Dynamo attacks. The rest of the alloted players sufficiently clogged the box and booted upfield. The Galaxy earned their point.
Speaking of points, the Dynamo have three points on four games. They’re last in the West and second to last in the league. Who’s last? D.C. United. Both Houston and DC are too good to not be in the playoffs by the end of the season. Form in soccer comes and goes, and it will return to both of these squads before too long. With 26 games left to play, I’m not worried.
I’m more worried about MLS meddling in the team’s affairs. Robinson got the suspension he deserved, but these punishments are still quite inconsistent from instance to instance. Clark’s nine games still seems absurd, but I suppose punishment-as-a-message over punishment-as-a-consequence is going to be the norm for Don Garber’s tenure.
And I can’t figure out who’s trying to squeeze money out of the city on the stadium deal: is it AEG because they don’t want to pay, or is it Garber because he doesn’t want Houston’s low-subsidy deal being used as a precedent in other cities. All I can tell you is that it didn’t work, unless it was done to secure the Mayor’s reputation as a tough businessman when he runs for state office. If it’s done within the next month, I’m willing to believe that. In any case I don’t think MLS will move the team after adding Golden Boy into ownership, the promotion value for them in the Houston area is worth too much for them to not make a suburban deal first.