Herculez Gomez continues to make this a season to remember -- for himself and, incidentally, for the Galaxy.
It was Gomez’s opportunistic goal Wednesday night that earned the Galaxy the fourth trophy in its 10-year history and its first under Coach Steve Sampson when it defeated FC Dallas, 1-0, to win the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the nation’s oldest soccer competition.
The Galaxy, which had been beaten by Dallas, 4-1, in an MLS game at Frisco, Texas, a week earlier, was clearly the better team this time at the Home Depot Center. It was more creative than usual in its attacking play, albeit squandering half a dozen scoring chances, and defended en masse.
Despite the best efforts of Roberto Mina and Ramon Nunez, Dallas’ most lively and dangerous players in the absence through injury of Carlos Ruiz and Eddie Johnson, the Galaxy managed a rare shutout.
Inspired by Cobi Jones’ tireless work, the team responded with one of its most complete performances of the season and won a second Open Cup to go with the one it won under Sigi Schmid in 2001.
The Galaxy took a 1-0 lead into intermission after taking advantage of some lax defending by Dallas in the 25th minute.
Landon Donovan sent a pass through the penalty area intended for Chris Albright to the right of the Dallas net, but the ball was intercepted by defender David Wagenfuhr.
Albright did not give up on the play, however, and muscled Wagenfuhr off the ball before hooking it back into the center, where Gomez sent the ball past goalkeeper Scott Garlick from 12 yards.
It was Gomez’s sixth goal in this year’s Open Cup, tying him for tournament top-scoring honors with Melvin Tarley of the Minnesota Thunder.
Earlier, forward Joseph Ngwenya, showing flashes of the dribbling form he displayed late in 2004, danced past two defenders before unleashing a shot that scraped the outside of the left post.
Ngwenya was also involved in another near-miss 10 minutes into the second half when he dribbled between three defenders before reversing the direction of the play with a pass to Donovan, whose own shot also sliced just wide of the left post.
The closest the Galaxy came to doubling its lead, however, was when Dallas defender Greg Vanney made a careless back pass that Gomez intercepted, only to slam the ball against the foot of the left post.
A couple of first-class saves by Garlick late in the game kept Dallas in it until the final whistle, but the visitors could find no way to grab the tying goal and had to settle for the runner-up medal.
The Galaxy, meanwhile, has the Cup.