The two squads looked to be heading different directions, but then they reversed course and the Galaxy pulled off the win.CARSON, Calif. -- Two Western Conference squads seemingly headed in opposite directions met at the Home Depot Center on Sunday night. Perhaps inspired by their captain Landon Donovan's performance against Brazil in the Confederations Cup, the Galaxy battled hard against the quality Houston Dynamo team and came away with a 1-0 victory.
The Galaxy were on a losing streak of two games and eager to break that run, while the Dynamo had been unbeaten in 11 games and topped the league. However, the Galaxy were without two star players, Landon Donovan and David Beckham, while the Dynamo, though missing tough midfielder Ricardo Clark, had their powerful forward, Brian Ching, on hand.
Houston also had a star in the stands watching the match - the team's part owner, Oscar De La Hoya.
Despite the presence of Ching, the Dynamo's midfield play is their trademark. Led by talented youngster Stuart Holden, the Dynamo pushed into Galaxy territory early, testing the hardiness of the Los Angeles defense.
It wasn't always pretty, but the LA backline, bolstered by plenty of help from everyone else, held off the Dynamo's attempts.
Edson Buddle led the attack in the absence of Donovan and hit an early chance high in the 11th minute. After Alan Gordon missed another chance wide, the opening goal fell four minutes later.
Off a short corner, Mike Magee surprised Brian Mullan, who was moving into the box, expecting a more standard service. Eddie Lewis, who had received the ball, sent it back to Magee when Mullan scrambled to cover. Magee's attempt at the far post met Todd Dunivant's run, and whether it was by fortune or design, Dunivant redirected the ball into the goal too quickly for goalkeeper Pat Onstad to prevent.
Tactical play by the Dynamo ensued after the goal, as they looked to impose their style and find their rhythm. The Galaxy continued to look for opportunistic counters. They disrupted Houston's superior midfield play enough to hold on to the end of the half.
The Galaxy clung to their one-goal lead into the second half. But Houston was pressing, finding the spaces in the Galaxy's defensive formation and pinning the home team back in their half of the field.
In the 61st minute, a Houston corner led to to another on the opposite side of the goal. Brad Davis set up for the service, but Omar Gonzalez went down in the box with severe hamstring cramps. The short-handed Galaxy held out on that possession, as the corner kick sailed far and bent out of bounds. Tony Sanneh was able to sub in for Gonzales.
But the Dynamo then began to really attack, cutting through the midfield to set up camp in the Galaxy's final third.
Kei Kamara broke through on an open field, using his speed to reach a pass from Davis. Sanneh looked painfully slow trying to catch up, but he didn't give up on the play, which perhaps helped, as Kamara forced a rather weak shot on goal that Rickets caught.
In the 67th minute, Galaxy broke on their own counter opportunity, but the header by Buddle flashed wide. He was then open on a midfield run, but a Houston defender's touch deflected the path of the incoming pass.
Sanneh, trying to control the ball out of the back, gave up a dangerous corner to Houston. Ricketts came out, however, and grabbed the dangerous ball.
Gordon, who had done well to create chances, but fallen short on the finish, was subbed out for Bryan Jordan in the 72nd minute. The Dynamo answered by putting in Cam Weaver for Kamara, who, like Gordon, had not been able to put away his chances on the night. Though Jordan had an early look near the box, his touch to settle the ball failed him as both of Houston' centerbacks closed in. The Dynamo then went on a run of possession that left the Galaxy squad scrambling defensively.
The Galaxy then countered, but referee Michael Kennedy let an apparent foul on Buddle pass in the 77th. Buddle was able to fight off the physical play and send in a cross to Jordan, who went flying from defensive contact. Kennedy again swallowed his whistle, leaving the partisan crowd booing his decision lustily.
Kennedy finally pulled a yellow for a late tackle by Geof Cameron on Buddle in the 80th. The resultant free kick, however, missed both Buddle and Jordan in the box.
Arena called late on the Galaxy's supersub, veteran Chris Klein, who came in for Eddie Lewis.
It was the home stretch for the locals, who could practically taste the finish line of a victory, but the Dynamo were making them work for it.
A late flurry in the box had the Galaxy players desperately clearing the box against Houston's attack, but goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts made a keys stop and the effort held up and led to the win.
The Galaxy are back to a .500 record and have 18 points in league play. while the Dynamo have ten more.
Andrea Canales, Goal.com