The Philadelphia Union have the schedulers to blame for this one. They came into the StubHub Center Sunday afternoon in front of a crowd that was determined to welcome back their hero, Landon Donovan, and to will him into scoring his 135th goal that would make him the sole holder of the all-time goal scoring record in MLS.
US Soccer Without Landon?
On Thursday, Landon was cut from the US National Team that will head to the World Cup in June. It was a shock to soccer fans all over the world. Donovan has been the face of US soccer for the last decade and it was expected that this World Cup would be the culmination of his international career. In his press conference on Saturday, it was obvious that Landon was disappointed and, despite what he said, a little angry. Fortunately, there were only three days from the unkindest cut to the next game. All of us who are fans of Landon were sure that getting back onto the field would be the best therapy for him.
Landon started as a forward in a pairing with Robbie Keane. In the second minute, Landon took a free kick from about 30 yards out and sent a perfect ball into the box where Leonardo headed it by the Union goalkeeper. Yes, the same Leonardo that in my last post from Wednesday’s game, I suggested would not be seeing the field in the near future, due to the good work done by Kofi Opare and Tommy Meyer. There will not be any complaining about Leo’s play in this posting. However, he continues to give me shortness of breath every time I see him head towards the ball in the defensive side of the field. But in this game, he and Meyer performed well.
After the first goal, it was obvious that the Galaxy were looking to feed the ball to Landon and get him that historic goal. Even Robbie Keane, who is not known as an assist man, was getting into the act continually feeding the ball to Landon over the first fifteen minutes. But it wasn’t to be in the first half. This game was starting to look like many of the recent games with the Galaxy where they had the better of the chances, but left the other team in the game by not finishing their chances.
So, it was with some trepidation that the second half started. Would the Galaxy be able to break through? We didn’t have long to wait. In the 49th minute, Donovan started an attack and laid a perfect pass across the field to Keane, who dribbled into the box, drew the defense towards him and crossed the ball back to Landon, who was left with an easy tip into the goal. And that was it. Historic goal number 135 was done. The team and the crowd celebrated and honored what we had just seen. Landon fell to his knees and let out a primal scream, as if letting all of the frustration of the past week out. He was presented with the ball and gave all of his teammates a high five or a hug, finishing with the head coach, Bruce Arena.
That goal seemed to break things open as the Union started to fall apart. In the 64th minutes, an attempted back pass to the Union goalkeeper was whiffed and Robbie Keane was right there to pick up the ball and go in for a breakaway and a nutmeg (shot between the legs) on the goalkeeper for the third Galaxy goal. A short while later, Keane had another breakaway, but this time he pushed his shot a bit wide.
In the 81st minute, Landon received another pass from Robbie in the box and showed his intelligence by seeing that he had the time to set himself and blast a left footed shot past the goalkeeper into the corner of the net. After a several game wait to see #Landon135, we had #Landon136. Arena had saved one final substitution and used it to remove Landon from the game. The crowd stood and saluted him with chants of “USA!”, which weren’t actually directed at him, but at Jurgen Klinsman, the coach of the US National Team.
With a 4-0 lead late in the game, there is a tendency to relax just a bit, and the Galaxy did allow a threat by the Union. Raul Mendiola tried to step between a Union player and the ball, but didn’t time it well and the referee called a penalty that was converted by Maurice Edu, another player that was cut from the national team on Thursday. But that was all for the Union and the 4-1 victory belonged to the G’s.
Relax, we’ve got this
Last week at this time, Galaxy fans were bemoaning the G’s position at the bottom of the Western Conference. Now one week and two victories later, things look a lot brighter. Was Landon really pacing himself at the start of the season to be ready to give everything for the World Cup roster? Do we have the “real” Donovan back now? I’m betting that the answer to both of those questions is yes and that the Galaxy are ready to make a run for the top of the Western Conference now.
Next week is an away game in Chicago followed by a home game with Chivas USA the following week. After that game, MLS will go on a two-week break during the group phase of the World Cup. The rumors are growing that after that Omar Gonzales will be sold to a Mexican club and the Galaxy will have a new Designated Player ready to be signed, perhaps Frank Lampard, who was released by Chelsea earlier this week.
But whatever happens the rest of this season, everyone who was at this game will have the memory of history to take with them.
If you want to see the full history, check out the cool website landon135.com.