Neither a little heat and humidity nor the Los Angeles Galaxy were enough to slow down DC United’s potent attack nor their ascension up the Eastern Conference table as they rolled to a 4-1 victory on Sunday.
Officially it was 82 degrees at the odd noon Eastern Time start with the normal high humidity that accompanies a late June day in Washington, DC. The game was the opening act of a nationally televised double header with the Euro 2008 final between Spain and Germany, which Spain won 1-0.
However, with the two highest scoring teams in MLS and the leakiest as well, what the opening act lacked in glamour, it made up for in excitement.
United (7-7-1) have now won four in a row and are unbeaten in their last six.
Luciano Emilio scored twice to raise his season total to 10, with eight in his last six games.
In a surprising turn of events, United’s Ben Olsen saw his first action of the season, playing the last quarter hour after coming on for the effective Jaime Moreno. Olsen has been out with yet another ankle surgery.
The match was played at a breakneck pace from the onset despite the sultry conditions. United maintained most of the possession and consequently created more scoring opportunities throughout the entire match.
Despite the disparity in the possession, United Head Coach Tom Soehn downplayed his team’e effectiveness early on in the match, “I thought the first half we didn’t do a good enough job with the ball. We had stretches where we had good possession and it really opened them up. I thought we could have done a little bit better job keeping the ball instead of going right for it. That probably would have taxed them a little more.”
“It’s a difficult climate for those guys (LA) to come into,” Soehn continued however. “They are not used to the humidity and the heat and it really got to them more than it did us. We did a good job making sure we knocked it around a little more. When you are chasing the ball, you expend a lot of energy. It’s a lot easier when you have the ball. That really hurt them.”
Was it too much heat or too much United that doomed the Galaxy, who are still on top of the Western Conference? The loss is just the Galaxy’s second in their last seven matches.
“Mostly too much United,” said defender Chris Klein. “It was hot but it was hot for them too. They were more adaptable because they did a very good job today of keeping the ball so when you have the ball it’s not as tiring. We had a pretty good first half and then came out flat in the second half.”
“Well, it’s 9:00 am for us,” added an obviously tired Landon Donovan.
“It was hot out there but that affects both teams, although after all they train in it week in and week out,” added David Beckham. “Though, that it wasn’t just that today. Of course, like I said it was hot but we didn’t play a good game – we didn’t play well enough.
“We didn’t challenge hard enough and the best team won on the day. I can obviously blame the humidity, obviously it was hot out there, like I said, but it was more than that today.”
United capitalized on a critical mistake in the 5th minute by Ante Jazic who pushed Santino Quaranta in the back as the Baltimore native dribbled into a fairly innocuous spot in the penalty area. Moreno, who started the sequence with a simple ball from the right flank to Quaranta, stepped up and easily beat goalkeeper Steve Cronin, who guessed the wrong direction. The goal was Moreno’s 6th of the season and his 4th on a penalty kick.
The Galaxy equalized after a comedy of errors by United around their penalty area in the 26th minute. After Donovan’s strong run toward the penalty area from the right flank and subsequent hopeful ball toward Edson Buddle in the area, a perfectly positioned Gonzalo Peralta wiffed on a clearance attempt and Devon McTavish and Bryan Namoff collided and fell to the ground. Buddle’s subsequent right footed flick beat Zach Wells from merely yards out to equalize the score and deny United their first shutout in league play this season.
Both Donovan and Emilio scored apparent goals in the first half but both were correctly ruled offside.
Just prior to the goal, Moreno was fortunate referee Jair Marrufo did not issue a caution for a hard tackle on Beckham on the left flank.
However, the battling #10’s were both issued yellow cards by Marrufo for an altercation in the 42nd minute in front of the Galaxy bench. Gallardo, who had possession of the ball with Donovan on his back, swung his elbow violently striking Donovan in the nose. After Donovan’s retaliation, and a quick conference with the fourth official, Marrufo issued the dueling cautions.
Emilio had scored five minutes prior capitalizing on a Galaxy turnover in the midfield to make the score 2-1 and restore momentum in United’s favor, which the Galaxy had turned around in the preceding 15-minutes after their goal.
After the turnover, Moreno’s floater across the penalty area from the right flank was collected by Marc Burch, who in turn slung it back into the goal area for Emilio, whose fall away header beat Cronin just inside the left post.
“There’s a better understanding with the attack right now especially with Luciano,” said Gallardo through an interpretor. “Earlier in the year, we didn’t have that good chemistry but right now the player who’s up top for us, there’s a better understanding between him and I think that’s why we’re getting more goals.
“Jaime and I are coming back to the midfield to help build the attack and it’s important for Fred and Santino [Quaranta] to attack on the wings and right now we’re doing a good job all together finding Luciano up top because he’s the lone forward and we’re scoring on the chances that we create.”
Gallardo contributed a goal of his own, burying his second scoring chance in less than five minutes to make the score 3-1. Gallardo beat Sean Franklin in the penalty area and slipped a shot passed Cronin in the 60th minute.
Five minutes earlier, Gallardo’s right footed blast from inside the box sailed high and wide after he got a ball from Emilio. Marc Burch started the sequence lofting a rare right footed ball from the left flank over the Galaxy defense to Emilio in the penalty area.
The goal upset Los Angeles coach Ruud Gullit by the fact he felt Gallardo should not have been on the field after the incident with Donovan.
“He scored the third goal and he’s supposed to be off the pitch,” said a mildly frustrated Gullit. “Gallardo excused himself to me because he knew he was lucky to stay on the pitch. There was blood coming out of his (Donovan’s) nose. I blame also the 4th official because it’s ridiculous, it’s right in front of him. If he has no authority, what is the point of having him there.”
Gullit conceded however that his team was spent after playing a good first half.
“I think it was a totally different team than from the beginning,” he said. “You want the ball to do the work. I think in the passes in the first half we did that excellently and that could have resulted in a 2-1 lead. In the second half I think you saw the players really suffered from the heat; they were exhausted and they said it also in the locker room.”
United won ball after ball throughout the entire match, further demoralizing and breaking down the tired Galaxy.
“They won every secondary ball,” Klein said frankly. “They were first to all of those and once they got them they kept them. I think that was a big difference in the game. At this level you don’t want to say they wanted it more but it sure looked like it.”
The Galaxy’s resilience showed well only seconds later however as Donovan dribbled around multiple United defenders, starting on the left side of the penalty area and finishing on the right, but his right footed shot was denied by a sliding Wells in the 62nd minute.
Burch countered that with a rocket left-footed free kick from 36-yards out that thumped the cross bar and sailed in the air before coming down out of bounds.
Emilio put the game out of reach, scoring one of the easier goals he will score all season in the 69th minute to make the score 4-1. After Gallardo played a ball wide right to Fred, who was close to an offside position on the right flank, the swift Brazilian raced into the penalty area, laying an easy ball around a committed Cronin, to a wide open Emilio who pushed the ball into a wide open goal.
The Galaxy didn’t shut down however as Donovan had perhaps his best opportunity in the closing seconds of the match but his left footed blast from 12-yards out was deflected away on a great reflex save by Wells.
Emilio’s bid for his second hat trick of the season was denied moments later by an equally great save by Cronin.
THe otherwise exciting game fizzled out as referee Jair Maruffo took the hint from the players, blowing full time as United held the ball without attacking for the final minute.
DC — Jaime Moreno 6 (penalty kick) 5
LA — Edson Buddle 10 (Landon Donovan 7) 26
DC — Luciano Emilio 9 (Marc Burch 2, Jaime Moreno 7) 37
DC — Marcelo Gallardo 4 (Luciano Emilio 2, Gonzalo Martinez 1) 60
DC — Luciano Emilio 10 (Fred 3, Marcelo Gallardo 3) 68
Los Angeles Galaxy — Steve Cronin, Chris Klein, Sean Franklin, Abel Xavier, Mike Randolph, David Beckham, Ely Allen (Josh Tudela 46+), Alvaro Pires (Alan Gordon 64), Ante Jazic (Joe Franchino 61), Edson Buddle, Landon Donovan,
Substitutes Not Used: Vito Higgins, Brandon McDonald, Troy Roberts, Greg Vanney
D.C. United — Zach Wells, Bryan Namoff, Devon McTavish, Gonzalo Peralta, Gonzalo Martinez, Santino Quaranta (Marc Burch 27), Marcelo Gallardo, Clyde Simms, Fred (Rod Dyachenko 77), Luciano Emilio, Jaime Moreno (Ben Olsen 75),
Substitutes Not Used: Jose Carvallo, Ryan Cordeiro, Francis Doe, Quavas Kirk
D.C. United Los Angeles Galaxy
Total shots: 22 (Luciano Emilio 7) 10 (Edson Buddle 4)
Shots on goal: 13 (Luciano Emilio 6) 6 (Landon Donovan 3)
Fouls: 5 (5 tied with 1) 11 (3 tied with 2)
Offsides: 3 (Luciano Emilio 2) 4 (Landon Donovan 3)
Corner kicks: 3 (Marc Burch 2) 4 (David Beckham 3)
Saves: 5 (Zach Wells 5) 9 (Steve Cronin 9)
DC — Marcelo Gallardo (caution; Game Disrepute) 42
LA — Landon Donovan (caution; Dissent) 42
LA — Josh Tudela (caution; Reckless Foul) 51
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee’s Assistants: George Gansner; Kermit Quisenberry
4th official: Hilario Grajeda
Time of game: 1:50
Weather: Cloudy -and- 82 degrees