By ADAM SERRANO
FULLERTON, Calif.– Trinidad & Tobago international Chris Birchall delivered a late game-winning blast to help the Los Angeles Galaxy defeat Costa Rican side Puntarenas, 1-0, in an exhibition match on Wednesday at Cal-State Fullerton.
The Galaxy dominated play for most of the match, but didn't break through until the 88th minute, when Chris Birchall fired home a shot from distance off a beautiful pass from rookie Michael Stephens.
"I hit the ball off a great spot and was played a great one-two ball with Mikey Stephens who has really been a fantastic rookie so far," said Birchall. "I felt like I had to get the shot off or I would have been tackled and lucky for me, it came off."
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena considered the match a good exercise and valuable experience ahead of a busy 2010 that will see the Galaxy compete in the CONCACAF Champions League.
"I think we played well in this match, these are practice games and you can't really read that too much into it as we're just looking to make progress throughout this preseason," said Arena. We played a team that played with a road mentality that you'll typically see in the Champions League, a defensive and countering mentality that is a real test for our attacking players. Overall, it was a great opportunity for our team."
The game began with the Galaxy controlling possession against the Costa Ricans. In the very first minute of a beautiful cross from Edson Buddle who found Mike Magee, but the midfielder's header went just wide. The domination by the Galaxy continued in the 16th minute as midfielder Tristen Bowen fired a beautiful shot from distance that hit the cross bar. Despite dominating possession in the first half, the Galaxy were kept off the board by impressive play by Costa Rican Goalkeeper Bryan Zamora.
The second half was a different story, as Puntarenas dominated the start of the half. The Costa Rican side nearly broke through in the 52nd minute as winger Pedro Leal fed midfielder Ricardo Garcia for a goal, but it was ruled offside. In the 57th, Puntarenas continued their push forward as Garcia broke free of the Galaxy's defense only to see the shot go wide of Ricketts net. The Galaxy responded in the 79th as second half sub Bryan Jordan nearly put Los Angeles on the board with a clever combination play and a shot that was saved by Puntarenas keeper Olger Ruiz.
The Galaxy finally broke through with a wonderful strike from distance by Birchall in the 88th. Birchall started the the attack by feeding the former UCLA Bruin Stephens who found his teammate up field and fired it past the Puntarenas keeper.
Other than the notable absences of David Beckham and Landon Donovan, the Galaxy were also missing Chris Klein and Todd Dunivant on Wednesday as the pair were in Washington, D.C. for the CBA negotiations.
The club will continue its preseason training on Friday after a day off on Thursday. In addition, a source tells SBI that the Galaxy will take on rival Chivas USA in a closed door scrimmage during the weekend.
The Galaxy will finish up their preseason preparation on March 21st against Salvadoran club, C.D. Aguila ahead of the club's season opener on March 27th against the New England Revolution.