BY ADAM SERRANO
The Los Angeles Galaxy have been searching for their early season form and on Saturday night against the best team in the Eastern Conference, they may have rediscovered that magic.
The Galaxy struck for three goals from Edson Buddle, Jovan Kirovski and Dema Kovalenko to defeat a listless Columbus Crew side 3-1 at the Home Depot Center. Along with a dominating victory, Los Angeles welcomed back midfielder David Beckham who went twenty minutes in his season debut. Energetic throughout, the Galaxy created a number of chances that overwhelmed the East leaders. After a number of uneven performances, head coach Bruce Arena felt that his club had plenty to build on from this victory.
“I was pleased with our performance in the first half. I think our team played quite well in the first half. Obviously, two good goals, and the third goal was certainly important," said Arena. "It was a much improved performance by our team tonight, and it hopefully gives us the confidence to continue to move forward and try to be a better team as we get into postseason play.”
In the 13th minute Buddle, who entered the match nursing a hamstring injury would strike first for the Galaxy off a pinpoint cross from Sean Franklin. Buddle would leave the half as a precautionary measure due to leg cramps. The Galaxy's midfield which had been a point of contention in recent weeks shined with the return of their creative midfielder Juninho. Partnered with the tenacious Kovalenko, the Brazilian provided attackers with ample space that the Crew defense could not clamp down on.
The Galaxy would add a second just 22 minutes later as Kovalenko fired in a shot from close distance. Kirovski would score the third just 10 minutes after the start of the second half. For a club that had hit a "complacent patch" to come out energized against one of the best clubs in the league
""For a while there we weren’t competitive and tonight we were very competitive," said Donovan. "The 50-50 plays we came out on top of. We had more desire than they did, and that makes a difference. We have enough quality players to make plays, we just have to compete that way."
Throughout the match, the Crew frequently struggled to close down on an active Galaxy that frequently tested the Columbus defense. Down by only one in the 20th minute, Columbus had a golden opportunity to equalize when a defensive miscue forced a reaction save by Donovan Ricketts off a Steven Lenhart shot.
After their early miss, the Crew did not threaten the Galaxy net until the 85th minute when Andres Mendoza to scored his first career MLS goal.Following the match, head coach Robert Warzycha tried to find the positives in a disappointing result.
"We didn't play bad because we tried to play, but the Galaxy did what they had to do and they came out on top," said Warzycha. "A loss is a loss, its not the first one and its not the last one, now we have some games at home and we're going to have to win."
Perhaps the biggest story of the night was the return of Beckham to the field after a three-month injury layoff from a torn achilles. Beckham entered in the 70th minute of play for Juninho to immense applause with the club enjoying a 3-0 lead. He sought to get involved immediately, but rust was clearly apparent after a long spell away from the field.
His rust became evident after a clumsy challenge on Columbus' Emmanuel Ekpo earned the midfielder a yellow card just four minutes after coming on. Despite battling the effects of a long spell away from the field, Beckham was positive about his appearance.
"That was a perfect situation for me really, the players had done so well through the game and it made it easier for me to come on," said Beckham. "I feel like I could have played 90 minutes tonight, but after 10 minutes I felt like I was dying out there, but I felt good after that and was able to finish strong."
The victory allows the Galaxy to retain sole possession of the top spot in MLS, an honor which they have not ceded all season. Bruce Arena's club welcome last place D.C. United next Saturday as they continue a three match homestand. Columbus returns home to welcome the surging Seattle Sounders. For Donovan, the addition of Beckham after such a comprehensive victory may be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Galaxy.
"We believe that with all the additions that other teams have made getting him back healthy would be the best addition that any team could possibly make."