Brian Rowe played a big part in the LA Galaxy's victory over the Montreal Impact on Wednesday, keeping MLS Golden Boot co-leader Marco Di Vaio off the scoresheet. Montreal had to start several reserve players in a pinch, but the threat of Di Vaio finding a goal against a new center back pairing and the backup goalkeeper was very real.
Marco Di Vaio was limited to two shot attempts and only one with his foot. The impact on the night only had two shots on target, and they were both dead down the center and taken from well outside the penalty area. The only shots taken from directly in front of the goal were headers by defenders off corners. The center back pairing of Kofi Opare and Leonardo did a fine job of limiting high percentage shot opportunities.
"His communication skills mean so much," said Kofi Opare, "it makes it so easy on me, Sean, Leonardo, and Todd. The communication was top notch. Obviously his positioning was good, he was very aggressive off his line, and very commanding, which was very good. The coaching staff did a fabulous job on the scouting report, told us that Di Vaio and Wenger love to check in, so I think we did pretty well containing those two."
Limiting the ability of Montreal's strikers to create space checking in is not an easy task, so credit to the defensive line. Rowe's solid decision making knowing when to come off the line also went a long way toward preventing shot attempts when defenders were beaten. It was one of the biggest issues with Carlo Cudicini, and the main reason the former starting goalkeeper hasn't made a team sheet in months.
"I think with [Marco] Di Vaio on the field," said Bruce Arena, "he's always going to be a player pursuing opportunities in the penalty area. If you don't come off your line, he's going to knick one. I thought Brian Rowe's aggressiveness was a big part of our success today."
With Di Vaio aggressive to the point of being near the top of the offside list, playing a high line with an inexperienced group carried the risk of having him spring free for a goal against the run of play. Rowe was always there to clean up the balls that managed to get through.
As awful as the Galaxy goalkeeping situation has been at times this year, going into the playoffs LA has found a solid no. 1 and no. 2. It's played a large role in LA getting the ship steadied just in time for the playoffs.