Photo by Michael Stephens/ISIphotos.com
BY ADAM SERRANO
Another match, another shut out for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
A memorable performance by Josh Saunders and a late goal by Tristan Bowen were the difference on Sunday night as the Galaxy defeated Argentine giant Boca Juniors, 1-0, in front of 18,267 at the Home Depot Center.
The goal came in the 83rd minute when second half substitution Mike Magee played a fantastic ball to midfielder Michael Stephens, who dummied a Boca Juniors defender and delivered the ball back to Bowen. The Galaxy striker was able to smash the ball into the back of Boca goalkeeper Javier Garcia's net. For Bowen, who is expecting to see increased minutes with Edson Buddle away on international duty, the goal against such a legendary club was invaluable to his confidence.
"Bruce (Arena) put a lot of trust in me and I'm getting a lot of information from the guys who have more experience and they are making my job a lot easier," said Bowen. "Everyone is getting more minutes and the guys who haven't played many minutes need step up and we did a great job."
Although the 19-year-old Bowen gave the Galaxy the win, the star on the night was back-up goalkeeper Josh Saunders who was omnipresent whenever Boca broke through the Galaxy back line. Making a total of 13 saves on the night, Saunders showed why he is often called upon to start matches against some of the World's elite clubs.
Throughout the match Boca Juniors provided constant action for Saunders as the Argentinean giants controlled possession. Time and time again however, the Galaxy goalkeeper provided highlight quality saves stopping any chance that came his way. His best save came in the 68th Minute when off a corner kick, Boca Juniors forward Lucas Viatri got passed the defense and headed a ball that forced a diving one handed save by Saunders.
"I faced a lot of stuff that was in front of me so I broke down the play and just reacted to it, I attribute my success to just good training habits because I face shots like that everyday," said Saunders. "It was a lot of fun actually, I walked off the field with a big smile on my face tonight, it was good for the fans and just an all around great time."
Although the Galaxy faced Boca Juniors on only two days rest after their victory at FC Dallas on Thursday, the match was critical for Galaxy reserves like Chris Klein and Eddie Lewis to get some time on the field as the club continues to deal without a host of players absent due to injury and international duty. One such reserve who saw significant time tonight was midfielder Clint Mathis, who earned 80 minutes against Boca Juniors. Following the match, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena admitted that although the match may have come at the wrong time, it was a valuable exercise for his men.
"For a number of guys it was good to get some minutes, but in all honesty this was a exhibition that we didn't need because we have a bunch of injuries and fatigue," said Arena. "To get through this without an injury is good and some guys needed the minutes so fair enough."
The Galaxy may have earned the result, but Boca was confident that they were the better side on the field. The ball control style of the South Americans was able to constantly break through the defense of the Galaxy as the South Americans spent a significant portion of the match camped in the Galaxy end. Although Josh Saunders made a total of 13 saves, Boca Juniors created many more chances finishing the match with a total of 24 shots.
"Our play was superior tonight as we created a lot of chances while they only had their one," said Boca Juniors goalkeeper Javier Garcia. "They didn't look to take control of the ball and did not pose a significant threat."
Los Angeles will now prepare for its biggest test of the year as the club travels to face the Eastern Conference leading Columbus Crew on Saturday at Crew Stadium. Boca Juniors continues its Pacific tour on Wednesday when the club takes on the Seattle Sounders before finishing their North American tour against U.S. Division 2 side Portland Timbers on Saturday.