CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Juninho #19 of the Los Angeles Galaxy celebrates his after his goal in the first half during the MLS match against Toronto FC at The Home Depot Center on September 22, 2012 in Carson, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
The LA Galaxy defeated Toronto FC 4-2 in front of 27,000 fans at The Home Depot Center tonight, cementing their place in the 2012 MLS Playoffs. The defense finally gave up a goal after going 351 minutes in MLS play without giving one up, but it was Juninho who stood out once again with his shots from outside the penalty area. The players celebrated with manager Bruce Arena, who celebrated his 61st birthday yesterday.
The Galaxy now have 16 shots from outside the penalty area this year, and Juninho has five of them; only David Beckham has more. The Galaxy also now have five goals from direct free kicks this year, while no other team has more than three. With Beckham still nursing an ankle injury, Juninho was able to step up and bury a direct free kick that Fredy Hall had no chance of saving.
"Juninho's obviously on a terrific run," said manager Bruce Arena. "Terrific free kick and the goal on the run of play was awesome; simply outstanding."
The Galaxy got out to an early 2-0 victory entirely on the strength of a Juninho's brace. The first goal came in the eleventh minute, after Christian Wilhelmsson won a free kick a couple feet outside the penalty area. Juninho stepped up to kick it and was aiming for the goal the entire way. Fredy Hall didn't even move as the ball bent over his shoulder and into the net.
Juninho put the Galaxy up 2-0 after taking a touch on a pass from Sean Franklin. Finding himself with ample space and a hot foot, Juninho lined up and buried a rocket in the top left corner. Four minutes later Robbie Keane got in the act, smashing one in from inside the box to put the Galaxy up 3-0.
Galaxy fans had a nervy time in second half stoppage time, with Toronto FC able to pull it to 3-2. However, the Galaxy continued to press forward and were able to get a stoppage time goal from Robbie Keane, giving him a brace on the day as well. Robbie Keane took a ball from Landon Donovan, quadruple deke'd his defender then buried one in the back of the net.
"Robbie's here to score goals and he's done that," said Arena. "Robbie continues to get chances, good to see him finish two tonight."
Unforunate decisions on a throw-in led to Toronto's first goal of the game, and then Toronto scored again in the 86' when Luis Silva knocked in a free kick ball that came in from Eric Avila. It was enough to give Galaxy fans a scare, but Keane's insurance goals carried the match in the end.
As things stand, the Galaxy not only clinch a playoff spot but move into second place with the victory. The Galaxy and Real Salt Lake are tied at 49 points a piece, and the Seattle Sounders stay at 48 points with a loss to San Jose. The Galaxy are also second in the west in goals for, the current MLS tiebreaker.
Going forward, the Galaxy will continue to have opportunities to sneak up on San Jose, but an 11 point gap is all but mathematically insurmountable at this point. The real jockeying will take place for second-third-and fourth place, with fourth place having to suffer a play in match to make the MLS quarterfinals proper.
Should the Galaxy continue to play the way they have these past two months, second place will be well within reach. With Juninho stepping up as he has, the amount of weapons the Galaxy have to score goals can't be counted on one hand. Which is going to come in handy come playoff time.
With four matches left, the best FC Dallas can do is 48 points. Since Chivas dropped all three points on Wednesday, the best they can do is 46, which still leaves Vancouver within range. Since FC Dallas can technically still catch the Sounders, fourth place isn't yet decided.