Tonight the LA Galaxy were able to do two things tonight that had this season thus far been elusive; they got three points in Canada for the first time in three tries and they managed just their second 1-0 victory of the year. It took a Landon Donovan goal in the third minute, and an amazing save from new goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
In some ways the Galaxy's third straight victory (their first three game win streak of the season) looked like some of the victories common in the 2011 version of LA. While in recent matches LA has created a high number of chances relative to their possession, tonight LA had less of the possession and took fewer shot attempts. Vancouver had five shots on target, and it took the woodwork and a fantastic recovery save from Penedo to keep LA ahead.
"Great save!" said Bruce Arena. "What more can you say? We've not had a lot of these opportunities this year where we can close out a game but we got it done tonight."
That fifteen minute block at the end of matches which has been perilous for the Galaxy nearly struck again when in the 86' Kekuta Manneh hit the right post with a right footed shot. Jaime Penedo ended up outside the goal diving to reach the ball, so when the ball ended up in the center of the box on the foot of an open Jordan Harvey it seemed a sure thing Vancouver was about to tie it up. Penedo had other plans, diving from that right post and getting a hand on the rebound attempt heading into the center of the goal. It was a play many keepers would have given up on, especially on turf. Penedo remained down for some time with apparent burns from the surface.
"Huge result," said Landon Donovan. "Really, really good team performance. A few really important plays in the game. Really good defending by our whole group and just really good effort, that's the type of game that champions win and when the playoffs come, hopefully, that's what games might look like on the road so that was a huge performance."
The importance of chemistry is overstated in the canon of sportswriting, but MLS' summer schedule does mean for the first half of the season players are in and out of the roster with some frequency. MLS isn't the only league affected by such absences, but it does mean that getting a rhythm down early in the year can be difficult.
It's not coincidental that Donovan is playing up words like group effort and champions there. That ability to come together and play at a high level is something LA has shown several times in the past years. It takes time to gel, but a victory like the one tonight shows that the Galaxy's ceiling is still where it's been for the past four years.