Galaxy can’t close the deal on Columbus

Times Staff Writer

Perhaps it was the heat that caused Saturday’s Galaxy meltdown.

Or perhaps it was the lack of heat -- the quality of the bench not being high enough to put any pressure on the starters.

Whatever the reason, Major League Soccer’s Western Conference leader saw a two-goal lead evaporate against the Columbus Crew, then squandered a one-goal advantage and had to settle for a 3-3 tie at the Home Depot Center.

The game’s most glaring miss -- among several -- was committed by none other than David Beckham when he skied a shot from eight yards high over the crossbar in the 90th minute.


Beckham dropped to his knees in disbelief, holding his head in his hands.

“Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t,” Beckham said. “Tonight it was one of those nights when it didn’t. It’s obviously disappointing not to finish the game off there.

“I felt like the grass gave way just as I struck the ball. I don’t know. I’ll have to watch the video. But to put it over [the crossbar] from that distance, something must have” gone wrong.

Still, the sellout crowd got its money’s worth in goals, starting with Landon Donovan’s first of two in the fourth minute.


Columbus goalkeeper Wil Hesmer -- or, from the Crew’s point of view, referee Mark Geiger -- was at fault. Beckham volleyed the ball in from the right touchline and Hesmer and Donovan both went for it. With Donovan charging into him, Hesmer couldn’t hold on and Donovan tapped the loose ball into the net.

Geiger saw nothing wrong with Donovan’s challenge and the goal, Donovan’s league-leading 10th of the season, stood.

The Galaxy doubled its lead a couple of minutes into the second half when red-hot striker Edson Buddle scored his ninth goal of the year, all of them in the last six games.

Buddle, Galaxy Coach Ruud Gullit said, had become a “true professional,” adding that he was “very pleased” with the in-form striker.

Gullit was less pleased when the Galaxy allowed Columbus back into the game, with Brad Evans scoring in the 67th minute and Guillermo Barros Schelotto tying the score on a penalty kick four minutes later after Chris Klein upended Robbie Rogers.

The Galaxy (6-4-3) regained the lead after a penalty kick of its own in the 83rd minute when Crew defender Danny O’Rourke was judged to have fouled Beckham. Donovan scored from the spot to take his MLS-high total to 11 goals.

But again the Crew (7-4-2) came back, and tied it on Steven Lenhart’s 88th-minute goal when the Galaxy defense failed to clear the ball after a cross from a free kick. Beckham’s miss ended the evening’s drama.

“We need to learn how to finish games off,” Beckham said. “Coming in at halftime we were disappointed because we were only one-zero up and it should have been probably three or four.


“But it’s a point and we move forward.”

Said Gullit: “We had a lot of chances to finish it off. It’s hard to find something positive.”

Then he did, anyway.

“In the beginning of the season, we lost these games in the last couple of minutes. Toronto was one example. New York also. So at least we got something out of it, but we could have killed the game earlier.”