When the Galaxy traded Ezra Hendrickson and Gavin Glinton to the Dallas Burn earlier this month, it raised quite a few eyebrows among the Los Angeles faithful.
Hendrickson, after all, had been one of the mainstays of the team’s drive to the Major League Soccer championship last season, and Glinton showed all sorts of promise.
As part of the five-player trade, however, the Galaxy obtained Antonio Martinez, and the 26-year-old Carson-born midfielder Wednesday night started to repay Galaxy Coach Sigi Schmid for bringing him home.
Martinez scored the first goal and Alexi Lalas added the eventual game-winner as Los Angeles edged the Columbus Crew, 2-1, in front of a surprising midweek crowd of 21,806 at the Home Depot Center. The win improved the Galaxy’s record to 4-6-7 heading into this weekend’s All-Star game.
The Crew, meanwhile, playing without injured striker Brian McBride, dropped to 5-7-5.
Martinez, making his debut, took just under 45 minutes to notch his first goal in a Galaxy uniform.
Fans unfamiliar with the league might have been forgiven for believing that the Crew was the home team in the first half.
Columbus attacked with far more urgency and was much more willing to shoot than Los Angeles.
The Crew took 17 shots overall compared to 10 for the Galaxy, and yet it was the Galaxy that took a 1-0 lead into the locker room at the half.
The goal came in the final minute of the half and was due to an excellent effort by Martinez. Taking a pass from Cobi Jones, Martinez waltzed past defender Chad McCarty and angled a shot past goalkeeper Tom Presthus from close range.
Tearing off his jersey -- ignoring FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s pointless admonition against such behavior -- Martinez raced to the Galaxy bench to be swamped by his relatively new teammates.
“It was great for the team,” Martinez said of the goal. “We weren’t playing very well. They were taking it to us a little bit in the first half and that goal probably took their confidence away.
“And then after Alexi’s goal, we knew the game was over.”
With the lead in hand, the Galaxy played better in the second half and deserved to go further ahead when Lalas scored on a sharp downward header off a Simon Elliott free kick in the 52nd minute after a foul on Jones by Mike Clark.
It was one of all too many fouls in an intense and hard-fought game.
Referee Noel Kenny called no fewer than 41 fouls and dished out five yellow cards, four of them to the Crew.
Neither team was pleased by the constant interruptions in the flow of the game.
Schmid, however, was pleased at the outcome in what is proving to be a roller-coaster of a season.
“The players are unhappy because they know we didn’t play well,” he said, “but right now we just had to get three points. We’ve got to start building three points upon three points upon three points.
“I know we’ll play better next Wednesday in the Open Cup and I know we’ll play better the next time we play Columbus.”