Bruce Arena’s Los Angeles Galaxy finally put it all together on Saturday against Peter Vermes’s Sporting Kansas City and prevailed, 2-0, at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
With the victory, the Galaxy improve to 3-1-2 (11 points) on the year but are still off the pace set by FC Dallas in the MLS Western Conference despite having a couple of games in hand. Here are six things we learned from Saturday’s contest between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Sporting Kansas City.
1. Landon Donovan’s return to form continues
The return to form of Landon Donovan was on showcase on Saturday night against Sporting. Donovan recorded an assist to Marcelo Sarvas in the 27th minute while opening his scoring account in the 74th minute of play.
Still, Donovan argues that he hasn’t shaken off his preseason form just yet.
“I’m almost there,” Donovan told MLSSoccer.com’s Scott French. “Just a little bit more sharpness, but I felt almost back to normal. I felt like I was very close to 100 percent tonight. Don’t count the old guy out just yet. I still got a little bit more to give.”
Uh oh. Look out, you youngsters playing for Real Salt Lake. LA’s No. 10 is calling you out.
“It wasn’t that long of an absence but Landon’s a great player, always has been always will be,” said Sporting forward Graham Zusi. “I don’t think you saw him miss a beat out there. He was a key on both of their goals and he’s looking like Landon of old.”
2. Marcelo Sarvas comes up big
Sarvas scored in the 27th minute, but it wasn’t just his goal that was a big talking point. According to the Opta Chalkboard, Sarvas had an 82 percent pass success rate, won 10 tackles and amassed 15 recoveries. The likes of Benny Feilhaber, Paulo Nagamura and Oriol Rosell had no answer for the Brazilliance that is Marcelo at the top of his game.
“I stole the ball in the midfield and Landon was running to the left of me. I passed to him and ran inside. He put [the ball] back and I had an open goal to score,” Sarvas said of his goal. “We are playing very well, even against Monterey when we lost 2-1 we played 75 minutes of a good performance. We knew we should come out today, press them and try to score. We had about five or six real good chances to score and I think the team did very well tonight.”
3. A.J. DeLaGarza brings back the old back line in blazing glory
The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that Leonardo is more and more of a liability to the team. With Leo out due to suspension, A.J. DeLaGarza was placed in the center back position, and the historically successful back line combo of Sean Franklin, DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez and Todd Dunivant was back for another swing at the Sporting pinata.
DeLaGarza only had four interceptions and six clearances but every one of those plays denied a chance for a look at goal for the visitors. It’s clutch performances from players like DeLaGarza that keep the Los Angeles Galaxy in contention for all the honors this season.
4. Greg Cochrane’s entrance changed the face of the game
Midway through the second half, midfielder Greg Cochrane filled in for Jack McBean, who had another tough night with his finishing and ball possession. This was a solid move by Bruce Arena, as it allowed Donovan to slide up top with Keane. It eventually led to the goal in the 74th minute that put the match out of reach for Sporting.
5. A confidence-boosting clean sheet
Hands down, this was a massive boost in terms of the Galaxy’s confidence. For the last several games, the team had been giving up goals late. But with Donovan now close to fitness, it’s gonna be business as usual for the defending MLS Cup Champs. Now, can they make it a habit?
“That was our primary focus tonight, coming in and getting a shutout,” defender Todd Dunivant told reporters. “We have [not] given up a lot of chances, but we’ve given up goals and that comes down to concentration and you kind of make your own luck so tonight we wanted to do that, and the backline and the whole team was very solid.”
“Solid, all around,” DeLaGarza added. “Everyone was working, shutting down crosses, obviously Graham [Zusi] can put in a good ball, but everyone in front of us did their job and it made it easy for Omar and I and we were cleaning up those chances that they did have.”
6. This Sporting team needs Kei Kamara
Now even though Sporting Kansas City, for the most part, are doing fine without Kei Kamara, the absence of the former Sporting swingman now at Norwich are being felt. Kamara broke Galaxy hearts in the prior meeting with his goal and slow-motion celebration in the 40th minute of play. With Kamara lost to the EPL, the team has been forced to turn to Claudio Bieler and he was stopped on a dime by LA’s defense. The Galaxy did a very good job in neutralizing Kansas City’s main man and will look to now point their crosshairs at a certain Alvaro Saborio next week.