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Landon Donovan goal, assist lead LA Galaxy past Sporting KC

Apr 21, 2013, 1:29 AM EDT

2012 MLS Cup - Houston Dynamo v Los Angeles Galaxy Getty Images

When Sporting Kansas City came out with their typical intensity, viewers were in for an early show at Home Depot Center, last year’s first place finishers in the East intent on going toe-to-toe with MLS’s two-time defending champions. But with Sporting making no changes from the team that played in New Jersey mid-week, you also knew they were likely to get caught. Eventually they’d slow down. Eventually they’d fade. Eventually their quick turnaround would catch up with them.

And two times on Saturday, it did. In the first half, Los Angeles’s league-best counterattack was on display while halting Sporting’s scoreless streak at 546 minutes, Marcelo Sarvas easily tapping in a Landon Donovan pass sent across the six. In the second half, another counter doubled LA’s lead, with Donovan recording his first goal of the year to give the Galaxy their 2-0 win.

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The final score could have been much worse. As Donovan noted post-match, the Galaxy’s early execution in the final third was lacking, players like Jack McBean one touch away from ending Kansas City’s streak much earlier. By match’s end, the Galaxy were countering at will, with one standout chance ending when Robbie Keane embarrassingly dribbled into Jimmy Nielsen, killing a one-on-one.

Although Kansas City entered the much-hyped showdown unbeaten in five, the game only highlighted the gap between the Galaxy, who again looked like the best team in the league, and Sporting, a team that’s failed to meet expectations in recent postseasons. In a game billed as a battle of powers, Kansas City were decidedly the less powerful, their early energy fading proving ultimately ineffectual.

Kansas City finished the match with only two shots on goal. According to ESPN stats guru Pete Carr, they were held to a season-low three completed crosses. In the first half, they only had three touches in the Galaxy penalty area (LA had 17). The match’s was more lopsided than its final score.

Fatigue was certainly a factor, the Galaxy on full rest while Kansas City was playing their second match in four days, but it’s not too naïve to note teams have to face a number of challenges on their way to championships. Sometimes they’re injured. Sometimes they’re fatigued. Other times it’s bad luck. Often the ability to overcome a particular hurdle is less important than the willingness to transcend any hurdle. Kansas City has yet to get to that point.

Having won two straight titles, LA’s clearly there, though on a night when Landon Donovan notched a goal and an assist, it’s worth nothing what obstacles they’ve already overcome this season. They were famously without their captain throughout the preseason, and they’ve also elected to keep their third designated player spot open until the summer, declining to immediately replace David Beckham. These aren’t the same, enormous challenges they faced last year after a slow start highlighted the absence of Omar Gonzalez, but most teams in the league would be seriously derailed after a shakeup within their top talent (look at Seattle).

After Saturday’s win, LA has 11 points in six games, good for second in the West. They also have a productive Donovan, something that wasn’t necessarily the case during his season’s first appearances. Playing in midfield while Keane and McBean started up top, Donovan was the key to LA’s decisive counterattacking, both springing the team out of their end as well as making long runs to join the attacks. Although he confessed post-match that he was tired while running onto his goal, Donovan looks to have shaken off the rust.

It was all part of one of the most convincing team performances of the season, one that should give pundits pause before filling out their weekly rankings of power. Dallas has the league’s best record, and teams like Houston and Sporting have more points, but is there really any doubt which team is Major League Soccer’s best? After Saturday, there shouldn’t be.

  1. jpan007 - Apr 21, 2013 at 1:59 AM

    keep up the good work LD

  2. creek0512 - Apr 21, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    Can’t help but wonder how much better this match would have been if SKC hadn’t gotten boned by the schedule makers.

  3. dreadpirate82 - Apr 21, 2013 at 7:26 PM

    Galaxy owned this one. It was a helluva fun start, but Sporting couldn’t keep up as it progressed. I know the announcers showed admiration for Vermes keeping the same lineup from Wednesday, but did it harm his side’s chances to win this one? Not saying some lineup changes would have changed anything. Just seems unnecessarily stubborn to me. He could be trying to instill toughness in his team. I would have liked to see a few other guys get a chance, injecting some fresh legs into the mix.

    And even though Galaxy had this one in the bag, that first goal is a clear handball. The ball was deflected to go over his head when it hit his outstretched arm and popped it forward into his path. It doesn’t happen without his hand knocking it forward. Clear handball. The video in the other post is not conclusive, but the other replays are clear. Poor job by Rosell and Sinovic allowing Sarvas into the six yard box unchecked, however.

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