By MARK EDWARD HORNISH
CARSON, Calif. — Though it may only last for 12 hours, the Los Angeles Galaxy have reached the summit of the Major League Soccer mountain.
The Galaxy rolled past Toronto FC, 3-0, behind a brace of first-half goals from Robbie Keane on a hot indian summer night Saturday at the Stub Hub Center. In the process, the Galaxy pulled ahead in the Supporter’s Shield race and took over first place in the Western Conference.
Both Galaxy goals featured the high pass count buildup that has become the team’s trademark this season. The first goal came after 10 consecutive Galaxy passes, and the second goal following 22.
It was the latter goal that will surely make the highlight reels next week. After a steady progression of passes up the field, Keane pulled down a long A.J. DeLaGarza cross and fired a stunning volley to the far post to beat Toronto FC goalkeeper Joe Bendik, who was frozen on his line and could make no attempt on the ball.
“It was nice. It’s always nice to score goals,” Keane said after the match. “But the important thing is the three points.”
Galaxy legend-in-the-making Landon Donovan was also credited with an assist on the goal, which quietly gave him the MLS all-time assist record, surpassing Steve Ralston. It was Donovan’s 136th regular season assist of his career.
“You know, to be honest, it wasn’t on my radar at the start of the season,” said Donovan when asked about the assist record. “It wasn’t overly realistic in my mind. But when the team plays like this, it was just natural. When you have players like we have on this team, I just put the ball in the right spot and those guys do the rest.”
Donovan was subbed off in the 84th minute and received a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 24,064.
Keane opened the scoring in the 22nd minute when he found space at the Toronto six-yard line and alertly poked home a Marcelo Sarvas feed. Keane’s brace accounted for his 18th and 19th goals on the season, and when considered along with his 14 season assists, surely puts the Irish international in the conversation for league MVP.
Asked about his chances at the MVP award, though, Keane was reticent.
“It’s not my job or my decision to make,” he said. “My job is the team, to do my job for the team. Score goals, create goals. I can’t worry or concentrate on other things apart from that. Trust me, the last thing on my mind is the MVP.”
Alan Gordon added a tally just before the final whistle, firing off a rocket from 35 yards to beat Bendik to the upper 90. It was Gordon’s sixth goal on the season off the bench.
There was some bad news for the Galaxy, as their full back injury parade continued. Robbie Rogers, who has revitalized his career with his move from the midfield to left back, was subbed off in only the 16th minute of play. His status is unclear.
He was replaced by James Riley, who played his first minutes since late March, when he went down with a knee injury. The Galaxy have also spent the majority of the season without the services of Todd Dunivant, who has suffered not one but two injuries this season, and who appears to be done for the season.
“I was hesitant about putting him in that early in the game,” said Arena when asked about Riley. “The thinking was, he’d probably have to come off at some point in the second half. But he hung in there, and that’s terrific. To be able to give us seventy five minutes or so on a night where we needed it, that’s big.”
It was a discouraging night for TFC. Heralded designated player Michael Bradley hardly factored in the match, and while Jermaine Defoe looked lively in his 30-minute stint, he could not help the Reds put anything on frame in the second half.
If Toronto intend to reach the post season with their pricey acquisitions, Greg Vanney’s coaching staff will have to hurry. They now sit outside the playoffs, on 40 points, three back of Columbus Crew, with four games left to play.
Toronto head home to host the Houston Dynamo in a midweek match on Wednesday, followed by a trip to New Jersey to face the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
The Galaxy, meanwhile, now sit on 60 points, a three-point edge of Seattle Sounders, pending the outcome of tomorrow’s game. The Sounders host the Colorado Rapids Sunday.
The Galaxy travel to Frisco, Texas to take on FC Dallas next Sunday in a nationally televised match.
Here are the match highlights: