By MARK EDWARD HORNISH
CARSON, Calif. — The crushing heatwave in Southern California gave way this weekend to the first blush of autumn, and with it came hints of playoff soccer at StubHub Center.
FC Dallas, firmly cemented in fourth place in the Western Conference, came to Los Angeles looking to end the Galaxy’s four-game home winning streak.
For 83 minutes it looked like they might leave with at least a point. But Alan Gordon headed home a curling Robbie Keane cross in the dying minutes of the match to grab the 2-1 victory.
The result sent the Galaxy into a tie with the Seattle Sounders for first place in both the Western Conference and the Supporters’ Shield race.
Gordon has now scored five goals in nine appearances for the Galaxy since returning to the club in late August.
“There wasn’t much for me to do, honestly,” said Gordon about the goal. “It was a pretty good ball. I just got my head on it. Trying to be in the right places is the most import thing, because I know we have a lot of guys who can deliver those balls.”
After a lively first half that saw no goals despite ample chances, team captains Blas Perez and Robbie Keane traded tallies eight minutes apart to open the scoring.
Perez climbed over Galaxy defender Dan Gargan in the 54th minute to head home an Andres Escobar cross, beating goalkeeper Jaime Penedo high and wide to give Dallas the lead and momentarily suck the life out of a raucous stadium.
The Galaxy answered back minutes later, when Keane beat goalkeeper Raul Fernandez low and wide to tie the match. Gyasi Zardes deserved much of the credit on the goal, tracking back from inside the goal area to steal the ball from Dallas midfielder Victor Ulloa and square it to Keane, who finished from the penalty spot.
“He could probably hear me up in the stands I was shouting so loud,” said Keane when asked about Zardes’ effort to get his teammate the ball. “But he knocked it off nicely. It was a nice touch by him. It had a nice pace so I was able to hit it first time.”
The Galaxy increased pressure on FC Dallas late, and when Gordon scored on a low bouncing header the entire bench followed him as he leaped into the stands to celebrate.
The goal extended a remarkable turnaround for Gordon. In mid-August, he was at the far end of the bench for the moribund San Jose Earthquakes. Two months later, he finds himself a key player for a team with very real Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup aspirations.
“I don’t look back. I only look forward,” said Gordon, who was drafted by the Galaxy in 2004. “We’re winning games. That’s all that matters. I’m lucky, I’m thankful, and I’m enjoying every minute.”
Despite the loss, FC Dallas acquitted themselves well, falling only seven minutes shy of being the first team to take points in Carson since early August. Their playoff positioning did not change, as they remain six points clear of fifth place Portland and only four points behind Real Salt Lake.
The Galaxy can celebrate a sparkling run of form that has put them squarely in the center of the MLS postseason silverware hunt.
“Our guys didn’t lose their composure,” said head coach Bruce Arena after the match. “Obviously a big goal in the 85th minute by Gordon. A great win against a team that was very well organized, played very well defensively, and didn’t make it easy for us. I think it’s one of our better wins on the year.”
Looking forward, the Galaxy await the arrival of Thierry Henry, Bradley Wright-Phillips, and the New York Red Bulls in a nationally televised matchup on Sept. 28.
FC Dallas hosts the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday night in Texas.
They will certainly have the Galaxy in their supporters’ section.