Alan Gordon insists he is merely a reserve player and his role is to provide a spark off the bench. He did more than that for the Galaxy on Friday night — he started a postgame fireworks show.
It took more than 90 minutes for the Galaxy to break through. Early in stoppage time, Gordon leaped high over a defender to head a feed from Robbie Keane into the far corner of the goal and lift the Galaxy to a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo before a crowd of 20,195 at StubHub Center in Carson.
Gordon replaced forward Jose Villareal in the 69th minute and immediately set up a scoring chance with a break down the right wing, but the play was broken up by Houston's Nathan Sturgis.
"When you play with somebody long enough you pick up on their tendencies and you know if Robbie's not going to shoot it he's going to look for me on the back post and he played a wonderful ball," Gordon said of his game-winner.
The Galaxy snapped a five-game winless streak that included a 4-0 loss Sunday at Orlando City — the Galaxy's most lopsided defeat in almost two years.
"We have a lot of talent here and we're starting to get healthy bodies back, which makes everyone's job a little easier," Gordon said, adding that Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena brought him in "to play multiple roles and I'm here to help this team win."
Keane, who scored in the third minute of the teams' last meeting — a 1-1 draw on March 21 — received a rousing ovation after replacing Vayrynen in the 56th minute. The Irish striker, last year's league most valuable player, had missed the previous seven games with a groin injury suffered during an April 4 loss at Vancouver.
Robbie Rogers was out with an ankle injury and also missing was Bradford Jamieson, who is with the U.S. under-20 national squad.
"Alan made an unbelievable header on that ball, and nine times out of 10 he's going to score," Keane said. "He has the accuracy to loop it over the goalie and that's just what he did. It's nice to get back in the swing of things. We moved the ball around well but the most important thing tonight was the win."
Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo made his first save in the sixth minute on a header by Will Bruin from 10 yards out. Three minutes later, Penedo sprinted off his line to stop Bruin on a breakaway.
In the 15th minute, Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes got free to the left of the goal but shot wide. Omar Gonzalez nearly scored on a header off Stefan Ishizaki's corner kick in the 30th minute, but the ball deflected off a defender.
The Galaxy's best chance of the first half came in the 44th minute when midfielder Mika Vayrynen's shot was tipped inches over the crossbar by Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric.
Houston, which entered the contest sixth in the Western Conference — two points ahead of the Galaxy — dropped to 4-5-4.
"It's important for us to win these games — we've messed up a lot of these this season so this was a real good sign tonight," Arena said.
"As for Robbie, he looked good but we have to see how he recovers over the next few days."
The Galaxy (4-4-5) won for the first time since their 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City on April 18 and extended their home unbeaten streak to 26 games in all competitions dating back to last year's season opener.