Landon Donovan turned in the best performance of his short season as the LA Galaxy defeated Sporting Kansas City 2-0. Sporting KC showed tired legs after their midweek win over the New York Red Bulls, unable to get the late match goal against the Galaxy that so many other clubs had managed.
It's unsurprising that Donovan has shown signs of rust, returning after little practice and having to find his form in regular season matches and trips to Mexico. However, tonight is when he fell back into the groove managing an assist and a goal over ninety minutes. He also registered three successful crosses, he had a 14' chip fell to Jack McBean's right foot inside the six yard box, and he hit Robbie Keane with a outside footed pass that just bent perfectly. Donovan's distribution was excellent on the night, completing 34 of 43 passes. Not only that but he had ten recoveries, helping LA keep possession in the midfield.
Donovan's goal with the Galaxy up 1-0 owed a lot to Marcelo Sarvas, who had an excellent match, and Robbie Keane who was a bit less composed. Sarvas recovered the ball just outside LA's penalty area, then sent a long cross pitch pass that found Robbie Keane all alone. Keane dribbled faster than the chasing Kansas City defenders, then laid the ball off for Donovan when Jimmy Nielsen committed. All Donovan had to do was tap it in.
The Galaxy's first goal was somewhat more controversial. KC was trying to restart a possession after a Graham Zusi free kick was cleared out. Oriol Rusell slips (SKC players slipped a lot tonight) leaving a fifty-fifty ball for him and Sarvas. Rusell slide tackles the free ball and Sarvas leaps over the tackle with his left arm out. The ball pops up, hits Sarvas on the arm, before Sarvas sends the ball up for Landon Donovan.
Peter Vermes was livid, and there's no denying the ball his Sarvas in the hand. However, the ref ruled it was unintentional, and Sarvas kept with the play, hustling down to be the one who tapped Donovan's cross into the net. This ended Kansas City's shutout streak at 546 minutes, the fifth longest in MLS history.
Controversy aside, it's worth noting that both goals feature Sarvas recoveries and passes as the origin of the possession. Sarvas had a great game in starting counters for the Galaxy with his presence in the middle. Donovan, Keane, and McBean were all able to get open field breakaways due to the work being done in the midfield.
These early season matches are all about grabbing points and little else. There's little more to be gleaned from beating a tired Sporting than there was from a tired LA losing to FC Dallas in the waning moments. However, the play of Donovan, Sarvas, and the entire back line was notable.
One final talking point that I'll have more to say on in the next few days, LA held Sporting to only three completed crosses and ten attempted, their lowest totals in those categories in twenty four matches. That's a significant stat, and one that could see the Galaxy stick with this vintage lineup for a few more weeks now.