Reserves lead Galaxy past Montreal

Posted on 18 October 2013 by iyeo

It’s not often reserve players would be a factor in a playoff race.

That was the situation the Los Angeles Galaxy and Montreal Impact found themselves in as the two teams faced off on Wednesday night. The Galaxy were without Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez, who picked up injuries during their time with the U.S. National Team last week, while the Impact were missing numerous players due to injuries and suspensions.

The Galaxy reserves proved to be the better of the bunch. Center Back Kofi Opare scored his first career MLS goal in the second half and backup Keeper Brian Rowe turned in a shutout as the Galaxy defeated the Impact 1-0 at the StubHub Center.

“It felt great, it is great to get a win, especially a shutout, the guys did great tonight,” Rowe said. “We had a game plan going in, and it is nice when you actually execute and get the results you wanted, a great team win.”

The win vaults the Galaxy (15-11-6, 51 points) into third place in the Western Conference. LA is actually tied with Seattle points wise, but the Galaxy have the advantage based on goal differential with two matches remaining in the regular season. The Impact (13-12-7, 46 points) remain in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, tied with Chicago and New England in points, but ahead of Chicago on goal differential.

“I was happy, we had a lot of young players that played tonight and we made a good point, maybe not three, but I think some decisions from the referee was against us,” Impact head coach Marco Schallibaum said. “It is a pity, because the performance from my team was very good today.”

After 69 scoreless minutes, the Galaxy used a little bit of chaos to edge ahead. Juninho sent a corner kick into the Impact penalty area, Center Back Leonardo headed the ball on goal, but keeper Evan Bush parried the ball away. Robbie Keane did prevent Bush from fully grasping the ball, which went back into play. Jose Villarreal then struck a ball towards goal, but that was deflected, but it went to Opare, who shot a ball past Bush into the back net. Opare then celebrated by showing a shirt that read “R.I.P. Arif,” which Opare described as a tribute to his friend, Arif Merani of Niagara Falls Ontario, who tragically passed away in a car accident Monday night.

“One of my good friends (Arif Merani) past away a couple of days ago, so, I said I was going to score and I was going to dedicate it to him,”

Opare said. “I had a feeling that something was bound to happen today so I’m just glad I was able to get a goal for him and obviously for Galaxy the three points, that’s what we need to make a statement.”

Opare’s goal wasn’t LA’s only chance to find the back net. Gyasi Zardes had the Galaxy’s two best scoring chances in the first half. First came a header off a cross from Right Back Sean Franklin in the the 31st minute, but the header went directly into the hands of Bush. The Impact keeper denied Zardes again in the 42nd minutes, as he parried the midfielder’s volley off the crossbar and over the end line. LA continued to create chances in the second half. Villarreal had a chance in the 60th minute, as he dribbled the ball across the top of the box and fired a volley that just missed the far post. Even after it went ahead, the Galaxy continued to create chances, but shot attempts by Keane and Marcelo Sarvas went off the framework.

“All I told our team was a great win, maybe not a great game, but a great win,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said.

While the Galaxy didn’t have Donovan and Gonzalez, LA did feature Robbie Keane, who returned from international duty just hours after getting off a flight from Ireland. Keane entered as a substitute in the 60th minute and energized the Galaxy’s attack. 

“I just made him (Arena) aware that I was fairly happy following the game last night in Ireland so I was ready to sit in the bench if I was needed,” Keane said. “At 60 minutes there was not much happening and he put me on. This was a massive game for us I think it was very, very important for us to get the three points, that was one of the reasons I wanted to come back because I knew this could put us into playoffs.”

The Galaxy will look to continue to build momentum as they host the San Jose Earthquakes in its last home game of the regular season on Sunday evening. The Impact meanwhile now face another crucial match against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday.

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