CARSON, Calif -- The LA Galaxy tried out a new formation, and it paid off in the form of a 1-0 LA victory over the Portland Timbers. The Galaxy put Chad Barrett up top by himself, three central midfielders, and two wingers, but it was the defense that stood out as the Galaxy kept their first clean sheet of the year. The fact that this was Josh Saunder's first match back after sitting out six matches in the league's Behavioral Management program just made it all the sweeter.
The match's lone goal came in the second half, in the sixty-first minute. David Beckham took a corner kick conceded by Jack Jewsbury. After a few failed attempts at the near post, Beckham went far post and Troy Perkins didn't come out. The ball came perfectly to Todd Dunivant, who bounced a header past Perkins for this first goal since 2010.
The Galaxy also made some rumblings in the first half, the best attempt being a Landon Donovan shot in the fifteenth minute. From the eighteen yard box, Donovan set up and let loose a rocket that smashed off the woodwork and back into play. In his first match back from United States national team duty, Donovan looked in control on the wing but still hasn't finished any of his key moments.
The Portland Timbers looked good in the first half, forcing three Saunders saves. The most impressive was a diving save to Saunders' right, but the loudest may have been a smash off his face in the seventh minute. Troy Perkins saved an early Galaxy attempt off his face as well, shattering his face protector.
Without anyone to get on the end of open play crosses, something Edson Buddle has skill at, the Galaxy threw just two into the box in the second half. This gave Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho, playing along with Beckham as the three central midfielders, a chance to show off their dribbling skills. Sarvas was particularly impressive, changing direction on a dime.
Buddle was unavailable as was a third of the Galaxy roster, necessitating the formation change. This also gave Jack McBean a chance to get some playing time, coming in at the 80 minute mark. The seventeen year old prospect was mostly challenged with holding the ball in the offensive third, which he proved more than capable of doing. With four minutes of additional time at the end of the second half, he played a key time wasting role in the Galaxy holding on to the clean sheet.
The match pulls the Galaxy out of the Western Conference cellar, and they're now five points out of a playoff spot. A huge improvement from looking like they might miss the playoffs after winning the MLS Cup, which would have been the second time in Galaxy history that it happened. For now, the Galaxy have to turn around quickly with a midweek match in Salt Lake as MLS tries to play catchup from their two week break.