The LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo traded early goals before settling for a 1-1 draw Saturday night at the StubHub Center.
Jaime Penedo was back in goal for the Galaxy, while AJ DeLaGarza continues to sit out with a left ankle injury.
The Galaxy wasted no time getting on the scoresheet. Just a few minutes into the match, center back David Horst was caught in possession as Jose Villarreal stripped the ball from the Houston center back and found Robbie Keane. Keane raced down the center of the field unchallenged before executing a sublime nutmeg past a helpless Nathan Sturgis, finally squeezing a low shot past goalkeeper Tyler Deric and into the net.
The Dynamo equalized right away. In the 11th minute, an Oscar Boneik Garcia corner kick swung to Horst, who atoned for his earlier error by beating Omar Gonzalez to the ball and nodding a towering header to a wide open Sturgis, who tapped into an empty net.
A few minutes later, another Dynamo corner from Brad Davis located Ricardo Clark inside the 6-yard box, but the cross was just behind and Clark was unable to fully re-direct the ball.
LA struggled to create any offense the rest of the half, only managing a few Stefan Ishizaki and Villarreal half-chances from headers.
Both teams had difficulty getting into a rhythm as the game was characterized by physical challenges and frequent stops in play due to injury. Houston midfielder Ricardo Clark went down repeatedly before making way for Rob Lovejoy right before halftime.
The Galaxy were not up to their usual standard of play, with individual players lacking focus and a number of passes off-target. Juninho was forced into a few last ditch tackles, and Robbie Keane was a visibly frustrated figure as the LA attack sputtered.
In contrast, the Dynamo looked organized and energetic, as their five-man midfield gave the Galaxy fits all night. Houston always threatened on set pieces, and forward Giles Barnes was lively on the counter-attack.
The Galaxy improved in the second half but were ultimately unable to beat the impressive Tyler Deric, who made several clutch saves. In the 71st minute, substitute Mika Vayrenen unleashed a rip outside the box, but Deric was there to palm the dipping shot wide. Minutes later, a speculative Juninho blast from distance wasn't far off.
Soon after, Jose Villarreal was taken down at the left corner of the 18-yard box. The ensuing free kick from Juninho got over the wall but lacked pace and Deric was able to collect.
In injury time the Galaxy almost took advantage, with Alan Gordon beating Deric to a looping Edson Buddle cross, but was ruled to have barged into Deric by the referee and the play was whistled dead. Moments later a Stefan Ishizaki corner kick met Alan Gordon once more, who floated it towards goal but Deric was there to punch the ball clear.