Down by one goal heading into stoppage time, another loss filled with missed opportunities and defensive mistakes seemed likely for the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night.
Turns out all they needed was one chance.
In a wild match at the Home Depot Center, it was the battle-tested veteran Pat Noonan that played the role of hero for the Galaxy, as his goal in the 92nd minute helped LA avert what would’ve been another head-scratching loss, and instead, the Galaxy come out of Saturday’s match with FC Dallas with a point courtesy of a 1-1 draw.
“It was a good game,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “Both teams played real hard and we getting a goal in extra time can’t be complaining about the point.”
The goal came about when Landon Donovan sent a ball into the FCD penalty area, intended for Adam Cristman, Dallas left back Jair Benitez got his foot on the ball but was unable to clear it out of the 18 and as a result, LA’s Chad Barrett laid a ball back to Noonan, who blasted a point-blank shot from the middle of the 18 that beat FCD keeper Chris Seitz left post for the equalizer which eventually held up.
“I just gave it a shot,” Noonan said of his goal. “Chad laid the ball off perfectly for me and I tried to put it on net.”
Such a outcome seemed unlikely for Los Angeles considering LA was once again plagued by poor finishing, defensive errors that and the absence of starting keeper Josh Saunders, who was out due to personal reasons. Dallas had two opportunities in the first minute alone, but Brek Shea pulled his attempt over the crossbar while Fabian Castillo sent his chance wide right.
Then it was the Galaxy’s turn to create the chances. LA had it’s first chance in the 11th minute, when Robbie Keane played a ball forward, Landon Donovan looked to beat Jair Benitez to the ball, Benitez ended up turning the ball over to Donovan, who raced into the Dallas 18, cirlced Seitz, leaving him with an open net, but instead, Donovan’s attempt hit the near post and went past the endline.
Donovan had another shot in the 43rd minute, but this time, it was Seitz himself that denied him, though rather fortunately. A corner kick by David Beckham was headed into a crowd, the ball stayed alive, Edson Buddle tried to hit it close range but couldn’t get enough on the ball, but fortunately for him, the ball went to Landon Donovan, who quickeld tapped the bal towards goal, but Seitz dove to his left and somehow managed to scoop the ball up just short of the goal line.
“It happens,” David Beckham said of the Galaxy’s inability to finish so far this season. “We’ll get it right. We’ll score goals when we really need to.
A Galaxy goal seemed likely in the 47th minute, as David Beckham played a ball forward to a charging Landon Donovan, who got behind Jair Benitez into the 18, Benitez pushed him down from behind and Salazar signaled to the penalty spot. However, it wasn’t Donovan that stepped up to the penalty spot, but rather Robbie Keane, and while everyone at the HDC had to be surprised at who was a the penalty spot, they were still equally shocked when Keane sent the penalty wide right.
“I just told Robbie I wanted him to take it,” Donovan said of the decision on the penalty. “He (Keane) did everything right, he just mis-hit it a little bit.”
The missed chances eventually came back to haunt the Galaxy. Jair Benitez crossed a ball into the penalty area in the 59th minute, Galaxy Center Back David Junior Lopeswas in position to cut it off, which he did, but rather than clear the ball out of the box, he played it back to keeper Bill Gaudette perhaps unaware that FCD striker Blas Perez was right behind him. Perez alertly made the run, Gaudette tried to get to the ball before Perez could but ended up tripping him and referee Ricardo Salazar whistled for the penalty spot and in the 61st minute, Shea beat Gaudette left post to put Dallas up one.
“I thought we did a fantastic job holding out as long as we did,” FC Dallas coach Schellad Hyndman said.
Saturday’s match was the first appearence between the pipes for Gaudette since 2007, when he was with the Columbus Crew. The veteran keeper had bounced around the USL for years, first with the Brooklyn Knights from 2001 to 2003, then with the Puerto Rico Islanders from 2008-2010. Gaudette spent the 2011 season with the Montreal Impact before signing with the Galaxy in the offseason. Aside from his foul in the box that led to the Brek Shea penalty, Gaudette acquitted himself very well on Saturday night.
“The guys in front of me did a great job tonight battling the whole time,” Gaudette said. “Those guys really killed themselves for 90 minutes.”
Saturday’s match is the start of a busy week for the Galaxy, as they travel to Seattle to face the Sounders at Century Link Field, followed up with a matchup with the New York Red Bulls at home next Saturday.