It was a game that featured ten cards and one goal, but the Los Angeles Galaxy fought for the total points and came away the winners over the Philadelphia Union, 1-0.
The Galaxy lined up differently than in their previous games, with David Beckham displaced from his usual right-side of midfield.
"David played well tonight," praised Galaxy coach Bruce Arena after the match. "We played him centrally tonight and he did well."
Despite the Galaxy looking energetic from the start of the match, the newly resilient Philadelphia Union snuffed out all the early opportunities.
However, the Galaxy kept creating them, and finally drew blood in the 33rd minute.
The goat of the Galaxy’s humiliating 4-1 loss to Real Salt Lake last week became the hero, as Leonardo powered through the Union box to head home a Beckham free kick. It was Juninho who earned the foul.
Though the Union defense looked more organized after the goal, and seemed secure for the rest of the half, the attack struggled, and in fact did not put a shot on target the entire match.
The second half began with more lively Galaxy play, as good passing between Donovan and Juninho set up a stinging shot by Juninho that rang off the crossbar. The shot, if successful, would have given the Galaxy breathing room in the match.
Instead, it made the incident that followed more meaningful.
On a Union counterattack, Chris Birchall and Carlos Ruiz were running after the ball when Ruiz tumbled rather dramatically, though there was no foul called and the play continued. Yet the referee caught sight of some shenanigans that followed between the two. He whistled for a pause in the game and delivered a verdict of a red card on Birchall and a yellow for Ruiz.
With a man advantage, Philadelphia immediately began to look more threatening. Given that the send-off took place in the 53rd minute, there was plenty of time for the Union to make good on the opportunity Birchall’s temper had given them.
Things didn’t get better for the Galaxy when goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was assessed as being too leisurely in returning the ball to play. Ward drew out a yellow for the Jamaican international.
The Galaxy did manage to threaten off set pieces. Omar Gonzales made good contact on a Beckham service in the box, but the ball flew over the net instead of inside.
In the 75th minute, Donovan looked like he’d set up Angel for a second Galaxy goal, but although the counterattack and cross were classic, Angel steered his header wide of the goal.
Keon Daniel got off a dangerous cross into the box, but Ricketts plucked the ball out of the traffic in his area.
In the 80th minute, another Philadelphia attack nearly bore fruit, but Jack McInerney put his shot wide when trying to avoid a sprawling Ricketts.
The clearly weary Galaxy looked likely to give up the equalizer, as Philadelphia bore down on the LA goal repeatedly.
Yet they could not break the Galaxy down. Perhaps out of sheer frustration, Califf fouled Donovan hard on a rare Galaxy foray into Philadelphia territory, earning his own yellow in the 88th.
On the ensuing freekick, Beckham refused to advance on the ball, claiming the Union players weren’t far enough back. He was given a yellow.
Donovan, the Galaxy captain, earned yet another card in the 90th minute, as LA tried to hang on at the death, for kicking the ball away.
Another red was in the cards before the close of the match, but this time, it would fall to the Union. Late Galaxy sub Chad Barrett was jawing with Union youngster McInerney, and while it seem both players shoved each other, McInerney took the red.
"We clearly earned the three points," said Arena. "It was very difficult playing with only ten players."
Arena did not think highly of the officiating.
"It wasn’t a game that demanded a lot of cards," Arena stated. "I don’t think the referee had good judgment."
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