By MARK EDWARD HORNISH
CARSON, Calif. — As a part of his ongoing farewell tour, Landon Donovan received a Tiffany’s tie pin and an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City from the New York Red Bulls prior to the match. After Donovan’s record-setting performance dissecting the New York defense, the Red Bulls might want to include a note: “Come to the Big Apple, but please don’t bring your soccer cleats.”
Donovan scored once and had three assists as the Los Angeles Galaxy romped past the New York Red Bulls, 4-0, before a sellout crowd of 25,102 at the Stub Hub Center on a balmy Sunday night.
Donovan’s three assists brings his MLS career total to 135, tying Steve Ralston’s record, and gives him 18 on the season, tops in the league.
“To get an assist record, you have to have a lot of people scoring goals. It’s not just putting the ball in the right place, it’s people finishing,” Donovan said. “They scored three very good goals tonight. I’ve had a lot of guys score a lot of goals on my behalf, so it’s a credit to all of them, too.”
Donovan’s goal doubled the Galaxy lead in the 50th minute. Omar Gonzales sent a long ball into the New York penalty area, and when Red Bulls defender Chris Duvall lost control of the ball off his chest, Donovan was waiting to pounce. Donovan sprinted in behind Duvall, grabbed the ball, and rifled off a shot to beat New York goal keeper Luis Robles wide.
The goal is Donovan’s 10th of the season, and marks the eighth time in his career he’s reached double digits in goals scored. It also adds to Donovan’s all time MLS goals record, which now stands at 144.
The Galaxy’s first goal — assisted, as ever, by Donovan — came of a Robbie Keane wonder strike in the 8th minute. Donovan split two defenders and carried the ball fifty yards into New York territory, found Keane at the opposite end of the 18, and the Irish international did the rest. Keane juked NYRB defender Roy Miller to create space wide of the goal mouth, and then chipped a charging Luis Robles to feather the ball into the far side netting.
“Classic Robbie Keane,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena after the match. “Two important goals tonight. Obviously that first one was spectacular. Overall, a very good game.”
Keane and Donovan connected again late in the game. Donovan lofted a long ball from midfield to send Keane in deep behind the New York defense. Keane beat Robles, then Sakagya, then Robles again before poking the ball home for the game’s final tally and Donovan’s record-tying assist. The goal is Keane’s 17th on the season, to go with 16 assists.
Gyasi Zardes added a goal to the rout, taking a flawless wall pass from Donovan and beating Robles low and wide. The goal was the Galaxy’s third of the night, and coming in the 69th minute, it effectively put the game out of reach. It is Zardes’ 16th goal on the season.
It was not always easy for the Galaxy. The Red Bulls came out of starting gates with a fury, initiating several on-field scraps in the first few minutes, and despite conceding the opening goal, had the better of the Galaxy for much of the first half.
The heroics of Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo kept the Red Bulls from taking control of the scoreboard. Penedo charged out and stuffed MLS Golden Boot leader Bradley Wright-Phillips twice from close range in the first half, and added a spectacular leaping save just before the half on an Eric Anderson strike to maintain the Galaxy lead.
“Over the last six weeks, he’s played very well,” Arena said about his Panamanian net-minder. “He’s improved in every area. His confidence has improved, his feet have gotten better, he’s very good coming off his line. Tonight he made a bunch of key saves to prevent the Red Bulls from getting back in the game.”
The Red Bulls faded in the second half however, and became spectators to the Galaxy’s, and Landon Donovan’s, spectacular run of form.
“I think they really died in the second half,” said Donovan. “They couldn’t match our energy, and the way we pressed just wore them down. They couldn’t hang.”
The Red Bulls now drop into fifth in the Eastern Conference, with only a point separating them from sixth place Toronto and playoff oblivion. New York will welcome Houston Dynamo on Saturday afternoon in New Jersey.
The Galaxy, meanwhile, keep pace with the Seattle Sounders for first place in the Western Conference and in the Supporter’s Shield race. Both teams sit on 57 points with four matches to play, two of them against one another.
For Donovan, this run of form may be among the best of his career, but he was quick to share credit.
“I’ve always tried to be a guy who makes the right play,” Donovan said when asked what it meant to reach the assist record. “If that means making the pass that leads to the right pass that scores the goal, if that means making the pass that leads to the goal, if that means shooting when you need to shoot, I try to make the right decision in those moments.
“More often then not, when I’ve made the right decision, guys have gotten in good spots and scored. That’s something I’m proud of. I always wanted to be that type of player. I didn’t want to be one dimensional. I wanted to have all different parts to my game. I hope that showed.”
The Galaxy will stay in Los Angeles and host Michael Bradley and a resurgent Toronto FC on Saturday night.
Here are the match highlights: