The LA Galaxy needed a big win, and that's exactly what they got, as two goals from Robbie Keane and a third from MLS newcomer Marcelo Sarvas paced them past D.C. United 3-1 in front of 18,466 at the Home Depot Center on Sunday evening.
Keane scored on either side of halftime and Sarvas added his tally late in the match. Rookie Nick De Leon pulled one back for D.C. just moments from the end to avoid the shut out.
HIGHLIGHT: Nick DeLeon scores his first MLS goal
The Galaxy made just two changes from the lineup that fell 2-1 to Toronto FC in the CONCACAF Quarterfinals on Wednesday, as Andrew Boyens and Chad Barrett replaced Tommy Meyer and Edson Buddle.
Meanwhile, United boss Ben Olsen chose to place both of his Designated Players – Hamdi Salihi and Branko Boskovic – on the bench to start the match.
Despite Keane’s later heroics, it was United who nearly got on the board first when, in the eighth minute, Dwayne De Rosario fired a wind-aided shot from beyond the halfway mark that sailed just left of Josh Saunders' net.
Five minutes later, the Galaxy began to press ahead in search of the opening goal. Keane drove into the box, but was furious when a penalty kick was not awarded by referee Baldomero Toledo after the ball seemed to deflect off the arm of D.C. United midfielder Andy Najar. Moments later, David Beckham launched a shot from the edge of the box that sailed just over the United crossbar.
LA continued to pile on the pressure and in the 20th minute, Mike Magee blew past D.C. defender Robbie Russell but had his effort knocked away by 'keeper Joe Willis. Willis was forced to come up big again in the 34th, when he denied Keane of a clear scoring opportunity.
D.C. found their footing as the half wound down, making several forays into the Galaxy’s final third, the finest coming in the 44th minute as Maicon Santos fired a De Rosario cross well over the net.
The Galaxy finally broke the deadlock moments before the end of the first half. Magee fired a cross into the box to defender Todd Dunivant, whose header found Keane waiting on the near post, and this time, the forward struck pay-dirt.
The Galaxy continued to pressure D.C.’s net at the outset of the second half, but poor finishing prevented the defending champs from taking a commanding two-goal lead until Keane appeared in the 69th minute. Donovan dispossessed Boskovic in midfield before playing the ball across to Keane, who fired from 16 yards out past Willis for his first brace in MLS.
D.C. had a chance to pull one back just minutes later off a corner kick, when second-half sub Emiliano Dudar, who earlier missed a chance to equalize, had a dangerous shot tipped over the bar by Saunders.
The Galaxy sealed the match in 85th minute, when Sarvas headed in a goal from close range.
Unwilling to go away quitely, United answered immediately through De Leon in the 86th minute, as he whipped in a shot from 16 yards out that struck the far post before going in.
After playing their fourth game in the span of two weeks, the Galaxy will now enjoy a two-week bye before resuming MLS play on April 7 against Sporting KC at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.
Meanwhile, D.C. United will stay out west and play Vancouver Whitecaps next Saturday at BC Place.
Lineups and boxscore (MLSsoccer.com)
Opta Chalkboard (MLSsoccer.com)