With the score tied 1-1 in the 75th minute and the Galaxy struggling for another goal against FC Dallas on Saturday night, Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena made a notable substitution.
Arena pulled 23-year-old standout forward Gyasi Zardes, who is tied for the team lead in scoring with 15 goals, and replaced him with veteran Alan Gordon.
Nine minutes later the change paid off, as Gordon scored the go-ahead goal that gave the Galaxy a 2-1 victory over FC Dallas and clinched a playoff berth for the Galaxy.
It was the fourth goal for Gordon, 32, since the Galaxy acquired him from the San Jose Earthquakes on Aug. 11.
“He’s just done an outstanding job for us,” Arena said of Gordon. “He knows his job, he’s an experienced player [and] understands tactically what needs to be done at the end of the game.”
The Galaxy also could have clinched a playoff berth if the Vancouver Whitecaps had defeated the Portland Timbers earlier Saturday. But Portland won that game, 3-0, so the Galaxy’s fate was in its own hands.
Gordon was standing at the top of the six-yard box when he took a looping pass from Robbie Keane and headed the ball past FC Dallas goalkeeper Raul Fernandez into the net.
As the crowd erupted, Gordon ran off the field to the wall of the grandstands, Green Bay Packers style, and jumped into a swarm of spectators in celebration.
Keane had pulled the Galaxy even in the 62nd minute. After Zardes stripped the ball from a defender, Zardes tapped it to Keane who lined a one-hopper past Fernandez from just inside the 18-yard box.
That also gave Keane 15 goals for the season.
FC Dallas took the initial lead in the 54th minute when midfielder Andres Escobar sent a 25-yard pass to his team’s captain, forward Blas Perez, who headed the ball over leaping Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and into the far corner of the net.
Despite going down a goal, “our guys didn’t lose their composure,” Arena said. FC Dallas “was very well organized, played well defensively and didn’t make it easy for us. It’s one of our better wins on the year.”
The win lifted the Galaxy (15-5-9) into a tie for the Western Conference lead with the Seattle Sounders, who already had clinched a playoff spot. The Galaxy has five games left in the regular season.
FC Dallas (13-10-6) remained fourth in the conference; the top five clubs in each MLS conference at the end of the regular season qualify for postseason play.
The Galaxy now has qualified for the playoffs every year since 2008 and the team is tied with D.C. United for the most MLS championships in league history with four. The Galaxy won the title in 2002, 2005, 2011 and 2012.
Last year, the Galaxy’s postseason ended when the club lost the Western Conference semifinals to Real Salt Lake.