The second half of the season began Saturday night, and the Galaxy looked more like the reigning MLS Cup champions and less like the injury-riddled team that had posted an even record in its first 17 games.
Getting healthier by the week, the Galaxy showed what could be in store for the next several months, scoring two goals in the first half and three more in the second, giving the boisterous crowd of 23,875 plenty to cheer about in a 5-1 triumph over the Philadelphia Union at StubHub Center.
“We’ve been able to keep our heads above water, and this is the time for us to start getting results,” Coach Bruce Arena said. “We’re right in the middle of the pack, not too far behind and hopefully positioned well for the second half.”
Philadelphia dominated the first 10 minutes, but after defender A.J. DeLaGarza was yellow-carded for pulling down C.J. Sapong outside the penalty area, forward Gyasi Zardes banged a shot off the left post.
The ball deflected directly to midfielder Baggio Husidic, who stuffed home the rebound to open the scoring in the 23rd minute.
Twelve minutes later, Zardes and Husidic were credited with assists on a goal by midfielder Juninho, who celebrated with a pair of backflips as confetti rained down from the stands.
“The score does not indicate the game correctly,” Arena said. “We weren’t as dominant as it might have looked. We were sloppy at times.
“We were able to finish some goals, but it was far from a complete victory. We can play a lot better.”
Saturday marked the first of four home games in a five-game span, and that’s good news for a team that has lost only once in Carson since the start of the 2014 season. The Galaxy (6-5-7) began the game fourth in the Western Conference, but with captain Robbie Keane recovered from the groin injury that kept him sidelined for most of the season’s first half and left back Robbie Rogers’ return from leg and ankle injuries, the Galaxy seem poised to repeat what they did two years ago when they went 7-7-3 in their first 17 games but rebounded to earn a playoff spot.
Keane, who scored three times in the Galaxy’s 6-1 victory over PSA Elite in a U.S. Open Cup fourth-round match Wednesday, lofted a perfectly placed ball onto the foot of Zardes, who one-timed it past Philadelphia goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre to give the Galaxy a 3-0 lead in the 56th minute.
Three minutes later, Stefan Ishizaki half-volleyed a header from defender Omar Gonzalez into the corner of the net to make it 4-1.
In the 65th minute, Sebastian Lletget scored off a pass from Zardes and the rout was on. Ishizaki tallied again in the 78th minute, but the play was ruled offside and the goal disallowed.
“We didn’t really get into the game until we scored our first goal,” Arena said. “Baggio is a very good player who made an impact. Zardes had two assists and a great goal on a ball from Keane.”
Philadelphia (4-10-3) avoided the shutout on a goal by Sapong in the 58th minute.
“When we put our minds together, we work really hard for each other,” Ishizaki said. “That makes us a team that’s really, really hard to beat Things are starting to look up for us.”