Welcome to MLS, Steven Gerrard.
The Designated Player and former Liverpool legend scored on his league debut and Robbie Keane netted a hat-trick as the LA Galaxy smashed the San Jose Earthquakes 5-2 Friday night in the latest edition of the California Clasico.
#LAGalaxy XI: Rowe; Gargan, Leonardo, DLG, Rogers; Lletget, Juninho, Walker, Husidic; Gerrard; Keane #LAvSJ pic.twitter.com/NB26eqZNEp— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) July 18, 2015
A packed StubHub Center crowd including David Beckham and Landon Donovan welcomed Gerrard to LA as the Galaxy looked to rebound from a tough mid-week Open Cup loss vs. RSL.
San Jose had no intention of taking it easy on LA, enjoying the better of play to start the match while LA warmed up to a 4-3-2-1 formation featuring Gerrard as a central attacking midfielder. The Galaxy dodged a bullet early when Quincy Amarikwa got behind the LA defense, but Brian Rowe stayed on his feet long enough to collapse low and make the stop.
LA would not escape a second time however, as Sanna Nyassi found space on the wing and located Amarikwa behind the back four again, and this time Amarikwa beat Rowe for the first tally of the match.
Always dangerous on set pieces, the Earthquakes improbably went ahead 2-0 when a floated free kick landed right to a wide-open Amarikwa who rifled easily into the net.
With Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena fuming on the sidelines, the Galaxy continued to play calm and composed, intelligently spraying the ball and patiently waiting for the right time to strike. In the 29th minute, the Galaxy had their opening when Tommy Thompson inadvertently elbowed Gerrard in the penalty area, referee Alan Kelly pointed to the spot and Keane slotted into the right corner.
Then, it happened.
Racing down the middle of the field (Get used to seeing that), Gerrard squared the ball centrally for Juninho, and as the ball made its way wide, Baggio Husidic dumped a low cross in that Gerrard latched onto and bundled home for his first Galaxy goal.
WATCH -> The moment Steven Gerrard marked his MLS debut with a goal: http://t.co/QCK8T063bT— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 18, 2015
Moments after the goal, Steven Gerrard pitched in on the defensive side of things, diving headfirst to clear a dangerous set piece as the crowd roared with approval.
The Galaxy came out in the second half determined to score more goals, and almost capitalized on a moment of brilliance from Robbie Keane when he skinned Clarence Goodson and played a far post cross for Sebastian Lletget, but his volley slammed off the underside of the crossbar.
LA couldn't be kept off the board much longer, however. Standing over a free kick just outside the 18 yard box, Gerrard clipped a low ball into the path of Robbie Keane who used his right boot to flick the ball into the net.
LA fans got a glimpse of Steven Gerrard's free kick ability when he banged a 25 yard free kick off the crossbar.
Bursting with confidence, the Galaxy kept up the pressure and drew another penalty kick when San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham bobbled a Gerrard blast outside the area, and Robbie Keane buried again to complete his hat-trick.
The Galaxy completed the rout in injury time when Lleget headed a Robbie Rogers cross into the left corner.
LA next travels to Houston to take on the Dynamo Saturday.