Galaxy, Chivas pay for error of their ways
Odd, weird, strange, unusual.
Or, to put it another way, error, error, error, error.
Sunday afternoon’s 2-2 Major League Soccer tie between Chivas USA and the Galaxy was not your ordinary MLS playoff game. Not by a long shot.
Four goals were scored, and every one of them was the result of a mistake rather than a spectacular play.
Chivas took the lead, and the Galaxy tied it. The Galaxy went ahead, and Chivas tied it. The near-sellout crowd of 25,218 at the Home Depot Center was left with mixed feelings.
Neither team won, but neither team lost. Now it all comes down to next Sunday, when the second game in the two-game, total-goals series is played at 4:30 p.m. in the same stadium.
The story line from Game 1? To be continued.
“It was definitely weird from a playoff standpoint,” Chivas USA midfielder Sacha Kljestan said. “Usually in the playoffs everyone’s kind of fine-tuned defensively.”
Said Galaxy midfielder Chris Klein: “That was an odd game. You look at the goals and it was just kind of one of those days.”
Added Chivas Coach Preki: “I guess it was a fun game for the spectators, not so much for the coaches.”
Chivas had been shut out in three regular-season games by the Galaxy but this time scored a mere 3 minutes 11 seconds into the game.
A bad exchange of passes between the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan and Mike Magee allowed Kljestan to intercept the ball and send a cross-field pass to Maicon Santos. The Brazilian striker cut inside defender Omar Gonzalez and fired a left-foot shot that went just inside the right post.
“You have to give Santos some credit, it was an excellent finish,” Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said.
“After that, I don’t know what to tell you,” Preki said. “The ball twice bounced badly for us and all of a sudden we were 2-1 down and we couldn’t get out of the funk. I think mentally we were in shock.”
Magee tied the score in the 14th minute when Donovan looped a pass into the Chivas penalty area, where Colombian defender Yamith Cuesta failed to control the ball. Magee pounced and tapped it in from close range.
“It was a difficult moment,” Cuesta said.
Next, it was Santos’ turn to err. In trying to play the ball in midfield he contrived to kick it back toward his net. Donovan, alert as always, raced in, beat defender Carey Talley to the ball and steered it past goalkeeper Zach Thornton, again from only a few yards.
“Very weird,” Donovan said.
There was some question of whether Donovan had handled the ball, perhaps accidentally, but referee Kevin Stott saw no infraction.
“If anything, I thought it hit Talley’s hand,” Donovan said. “It was bouncing around, so it’s hard to know.”
The goal came in the 41st minute and Chivas, which had beaten the Galaxy only three times in 19 games before Sunday, appeared headed for another loss.
Five minutes into the second half, however, it was Gonzalez’s turn to be the goat. He passed the ball back toward Ricketts but failed to spot Chivas forward Maykel Galindo, who beat the goalkeeper to the ball and directed it into the open net.
There were no more goals, but only because Ricketts made two excellent saves, first diving to his left to turn away a volley by midfielder Paulo Nagamura and then making a desperate foot save on Santos.
“He’s made big saves for them all season and tonight he made a couple of huge ones,” Kljestan said.
“I think it was a fair result for both teams,” Nagamura said.
“We made a few mistakes and it cost us, and I’m sure they would say the same,” he said.
David Beckham, a lively figure in his first MLS playoff game, was satisfied with the result.
“I think what we take from the game is the fact that when we went 1-0 down we came back and we showed character,” he said.
Donovan had the last word.
“I think if you’d told us before the year that we had one game at home to advance to the conference finals, we’d take that in a heartbeat,” he said.