Galaxy starts fast, holds on and wins, 6-5
FRISCO, Texas -- In a season already replete with curious twists and inexplicable turns, the Galaxy headed off in an almost bizarre new direction Tuesday night.
The highlight, to select but one of many, came in the 84th minute, when Landon Donovan danced through the FC Dallas defense, rounded goalkeeper Dario Sala and stuck the ball in the back of the net.
It was the Galaxy’s fifth goal of the match and gave it a 5-3 lead in what turned out to be an extraordinary 6-5 SuperLiga victory that advanced Los Angeles to the tournament semifinals, with the $1-million first prize still within reach.
After scoring, Donovan ran toward the sideline and drew his index finger across his throat in a slashing motion, saying to the fans and the world at large, “Game over.”
It wasn’t. There were three more goals to be scored, three of an astonishing six that were scored in the final 18 minutes of regulation and stoppage time.
“I should have known better,” Donovan said of his gesture. “At that point in the game they were still throwing people forward. But that’s all right. We won.”
The late goal glut was almost as incredible as the four goals the Galaxy scored in game’s first 17 minutes and 21 seconds.
After that initial onslaught, the match appeared over. But Dallas staged a remarkable comeback in the second half and three times pulled within one goal of the Galaxy.
So fierce was the fight by the Dallas players that only some exceptional saves by Galaxy goalkeeper Joe Cannon and referee Kevin Stott’s final whistle prevented the home team from providing the sellout crowd of 21,576 at Pizza Hut Park with a memorable victory.
The fans had come to see David Beckham. What they saw instead was everything that an all-out, end-to-end attacking game can be.
Alan Gordon scored twice for the Galaxy and Chris Klein, Kevin Harmse, Carlos Pavon and Donovan each had one goal.
Arturo Alvarez scored twice for Dallas, and Juan Toja, Carlos Ruiz and Abe Thompson each had one goal.
One shot by Thompson hit the L.A. crossbar. A superb bicycle kick “goal” by Ruiz was nullified by an offside call. Several Dallas shots, particularly one by Dallas forward Dominic Oduro, were brilliantly saved by Cannon.
Dallas had an overwhelming 25-8 advantage in shots taken, but the Galaxy scored on six of its eight shots. That 75% success rate was the difference.
Defenses were left in tatters at both ends of the field, and both coaches were left stunned by what they had witnessed.
“I’m not too sure how we did it, but scoring six goals against Dallas at [their] home is very difficult to do,” Galaxy Coach Frank Yallop said. “Conceding five wasn’t good.”
“I was very disappointed and ashamed of our team’s performance in the first half, especially the first 20 minutes,” Dallas Coach Steve Morrow said. “In the second half, they tried to come back, but when you go four-nil down it makes it very, very hard to get back in a game like this”
The start of the match was definitely eye opening. The Galaxy has struggled to score this season -- Tuesday’s victory was only its fourth in the last 16 games in all competitions -- but for a while it seemed that every time a Los Angeles player touched the ball it found the back of the Dallas net.
The last time the Galaxy did so much damage in so little time in Dallas was nine years ago, in June of 1998, when L.A. walloped the then-Dallas Burn, 8-1, in a Major League Soccer regular-season game.
The Galaxy produced Tuesday’s offensive fireworks while missing not only Beckham, because of his bad left ankle, but also without Cobi Jones, Kyle Martino and Chris Albright, all first-team players who are recovering from assorted injuries.