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Jun 22, 2008

Galaxy rue missed opportunities versus Crew

CARSON, Calif. -- In so many games this season, the high-octane offense of the Galaxy has pushed to score more goals than their porous defense concedes. Generally the team has been successful in this endeavor, but on Saturday night, it was a spectacular wash as both teams put up three goals.

Los Angeles was hot early, as Landon Donovan scored within the first five minutes after Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer dropped a cross. Despite struggling to establish a rhythm on the field, the Galaxy struck early in the second half too, when Edson Buddle charged into the box to put away a shot.

However, "the most dangerous lead" cliché held true. Up two goals, the Galaxy then allowed the Columbus Crew to close the gap.

First, Brad Evans benefited when a Guillermo Barros Schelotto free kick struck the Galaxy's Alvaro Pires in the face and dropped nicely for Evans to poke into the goal. Then Chris Klein caused a penalty kick by tripping up Robbie Rogers in the Galaxy box.

The Galaxy's offense kicked into gear again and scored another goal when David Beckham drew a penalty that Donovan put away, but again, Columbus pulled even late. A free kick by Guillermo Barros Schelotto set up the chance. Though goalkeeper Steve Cronin managed one save, he was helpless when the rebound fell to Crew rookie Steven Lenhart.

"It's a pity that we threw two points away," Galaxy coach Ruud Gullit said.

It's not often that a team who scores three goals talks about many missed chances, but the Galaxy wasted a number of opportunities to add to their total and put the game out of reach.

"We could have had six goals," said Donovan, who missed prime chances despite scoring twice.

While Beckham had the assist on the Galaxy's first goal and drew the penalty kick for the second, he also had the most glaring miss of the night.

Soon after the Crew scored the tying goal, Beckham had the ball in their box with only goalkeeper Will Hesmer to beat. Beckham put his try over the crossbar.

"Sometimes they go in and sometimes they don't," Beckham said. "Obviously I am disappointed to not finish the game off there."

His explanation for the miss was convoluted.

"The grass gave way just as I struck the ball," Beckham said. "To hit it so far off from that distance something must have happened. It felt like a penalty I took once against Portugal and if you watch the video as I went to strike the ball it actually lifted up from my standing foot."

Yet perhaps that reasoning was more plausible than Buddle's effort to describe the match.

"It was a weird night -- like in a twilight zone," said Buddle, who scored his ninth tally of the season. Buddle denied that the Galaxy lacked motivation to put the match away. "They got lucky and they got a goal. We definitely want to win at home."

Strange details were abundant on Saturday night. Donovan leads MLS with 11 goals, though due to international absences, Donovan has only played in 10 matches, so his goals output exceeds his games played. Buddle is right behind Donovan in goals, though.

The Galaxy's tendency to give up late goals, however, can leave the team feeling like no lead is enough. They must score as much as possible to guard against losing a lead.

"It does seem that way at times," Beckham said. "It is a learning process for the team and all the players and we will get better at that."

It might be high entertainment for any neutral fans that catch a Galaxy game. Though two other MLS matches on the weekend ended in scoreless ties the Galaxy are not in danger of the old "boring soccer" accusation. The team scores like no other in the league -- and then can concede goals at the same pace. That's not a satisfying combination for the players themselves, and the frustration was evident.

"We were a little naive and a little unlucky and that's usually a bad combo," Donovan said. "We got punished for it tonight. We weren't really clicking tonight."

Beckham was blunt about his reaction.

"It feels like it was a loss. We were in front 2-0. We need to learn how to finish games off. We were ahead 1-0 at halftime when we felt like we should have had three or four. Overall, we are disappointed to draw a game at home. It is a point and we will move forward, but we are disappointed with it."

The transfer window is opening up soon and despite their high position in the Western Conference table, the Galaxy may be ready to deal. Otherwise, fandom of the team might soon become an inducement to a heart attack.

The Columbus Crew, the only MLS team with a historical winning record versus the Galaxy, didn't mind playing the role of heartbreaker, though.

"I was proud of our team that we came back being two-nothing down," Crew coach Sigi Schmid said. "We were able to equalize the game. We went down again 3-2, and we were able to pull out a 3-3 tie, so overall I was very proud with our effort and our ability to come back."

Meanwhile, the Galaxy were left to rue not only what might have been, but what also needs to be done to improve.

"When you get an opportunity like that in the last few minutes to win the game, of course it is disappointing not to score it," Beckham said.

Scoring isn't enough, though. Aside from the missed scoring chances, both Beckham and Donovan stressed the importance of team unity in any defensive effort.

"We have a young goalie, a young left back and a young center back," said Donovan, allowing that though willingness to improve is a hallmark of rookie play this year, the team needs to continue striving. "You've got to learn how to win."

Andrea Canales covers MLS and women's college soccer for ESPNsoccernet. She also writes for soccer365.com and contributes to a blog, Sideline Views. She can be contacted at soccercanales@yahoo.com.

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