CARSON -- Bruce Arena stuck with his first-choice lineup, or most of it, for a fourth game Sunday, and for awhile things looked a whole lot like they had for the first three: dominance, lots of chances, not nearly enough sharpness in front of the net.
A simple tap-in goal by Robbie Keane just before halftime made things right, and the Galaxy cruised to their first victory of the season, using two goals by their Irish striker in an impressive 3-1 romp over D.C. United on a cold, windy afternoon at Home Depot Center.
Keane added a spectacular strike in the 69th minute and Marcelo Sarvas scored his first Major League Soccer goal -- and first goal with his head in his career -- as L.A. (1-1-0) put last weekend's loss to Real Salt Lake and the CONCACAF Champions League disaster against Toronto FC behind them as they head into a 13-day break.
Keane, whose struggles in front of the net in Wednesday's defeat to TFC sparked Arena's comments that the star forward had lost confidence, needed several opportunities before he provided a 45th-minute advantage, then wasted a couple more before doubling the lead midway through the second half with a blast to the top-right corner.
“I don't mind missing chances,” Keane said after his first two-goal game in MLS. “I mind when I'm not in position to score them, so as long as I keep getting into positions, I know eventually I'll score.
“You try and not let [a slump] wear on your mind too much. As you know, in football, sometimes it can take you over. I thought that was probably a little bit of the case. I knew I'd keep plugging away, and as long as I keep getting into the positions, I knew I would score.”
Keane might have had four or five -- and the Galaxy at least a half-dozen -- but sharpness remains an issue. L.A. took 21 shots (to D.C.'s 13) and put eight on target, but until the first one hit the net, there wasn't a whole lot different from the games against RSL and TFC.
“For awhile, it looked like a mirror image of our previous games, where we control the game, had the run of play, create the chances and had nothing to show for it,” Arena said. “Therefore, Robbie's goal right at the end of the half was important for our team and for Robbie. And you saw in the second half a player playing with a lot of confidence, and he played quite well.
“To me, the most important thing: The team performance was better, the effort, the coordination of the team. The desire to play for each other was much improved today, and that's certainly something to build on.”
Arena made just two changes in his lineup from Wednesday night, returning Andrew Boyens to the backline in place of rookie Tommy Meyer and giving Chad Barrett the start up front over Edson Buddle. Seven players started four games in 12 days, a brutal spell any time in a season, but more so when the campaign's just getting under way.
“The only game that we've had where there was a fatigue issue was the [league] opener against Salt Lake,” Arena said. “I would tell you this: We weren't going to open the season and not present our players to our fans. The scheduling is what it is, but our fans deserved to see our players, and they were going to play in that game. … The next two games we had three days' rest and we were at home, so there was no reason to believe we had to make changes.”
Especially against D.C. United (0-2-0), which is looking to turn things around after missing the playoffs for four straight seasons and remains a work in progress. Coach Ben Olsen, who played for Arena at the University of Virginia and with D.C. and the U.S. national team, left two Designated Players on the bench -- Branko Boskovic and Hamdi Salihi -- and watched his side overrun by L.A. The Galaxy owned midfield and found easy paths into the D.C. box. Some fine individual defending saved United early
“I wasn't happy with the initial fight and spirit that we had,” Olsen said. “That's the easy part. It always should be. Tough part is to play good soccer and finish chances, gel together, which we have a ways to go in that. You have to have that other stuff from the start.
“I think we gave them too much respect. … Overall, they were obviously a better team. They've got a lot of weapons and are coached by a helluva coach.”
L.A. created a half-dozen solid scoring chances before Keane netted his first, but D.C. goalkeeper Joe Willis -- in place of Bill Hamid, who is with the U.S. under-23 team preparing for this week's start to CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying tournament -- made one-on-one stops against Mike Magee and Keane.
Magee made the key serve on the first goal, finding Todd Dunivant just beyond the left post. Dunivant nodded the ball across the goalmouth, where Keane had escaped Dejan Jakovic's cover for the simplest of finishes.
“I figured we'd get a goal,” captain Landon Donovan said. “I didn't know that we'd get it in the first half. We had too much of the ball and too many chances to not thing we're going to score. … [Keane is] always going to score goals. He doesn't go too long without scoring. I know he felt bad the other night, missing [a can't-miss] chance he had against Toronto. If I were a betting man, I would have bet he was going to score today.”
Keane should have made it 2-0 in the 58th, when he let a Magee chip sail past him -- and just past the right post -- or in the 61st, when he and Barrett met at the left post to knock a Dunivant feed wide. He finally connected after Donovan stripped the ball near midfield from second-half substitute Boskovic, took it forward, then found the Irishman open on the left side of the box.
Sarvas made it 3-0 from Beckham's cross in the 85th, and Nick DeLeon got one back for D.C. less than a minute later, firing off the right post.
Up next is a little rest, then some intense work on the training field improving connections, shoring up tactics and making sure everyone is fit and on the same page.
“I think we have a lot of positive things [to send us into the break],” Arena said. “I think actually we've played pretty well this year. We've just missed a couple key plays, and there's a fine line. We've generated a lot of chances in the four official games we've played this year, and we had a few slip-ups defensively that have cost us dearly, so I think there's a lot of positive things. … This will be an important two weeks for us.”
WORTH NOTING: The Galaxy were presented MLS Cup championship rings before the game, with departed players on hand for the ceremony. … Buddle was held out of the starting lineup, Arena said, for “precautionary reasons.” An Omega Wave test, which measures stress, among other things, showed he was in need of a break, strength and conditioning coach Ben Yauss said. Buddle came on a substitute in the 68th minute. … D.C. United put just one shot on goal and created almost nothing offensively, aside from DeLeon's goal. … The Galaxy's next game in March 31 at HDC against New England.
Home Depot Center (Carson)
Galaxy 3, D.C. United 1
LA -- Robbie Keane (Todd Dunivant, Mike Magee) 45
LA -- Robbie Keane (Landon Donovan) 69
LA -- Marcelo Sarvas (David Beckham) 86
DC -- Nick DeLeon (Marcelo Saragosa) 87
Galaxy: Josh Saunders; Sean Franklin, Andrew Boyens, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant; Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Juninho (Pat Noonan, 86), Mike Magee (Marcelo Sarvas, 76); Chad Barrett (Edson Buddle, 68), Robbie Keane. Unused subs: Paolo Cardozo, Dan Keat, Tommy Meyer, Brian Perk.
D.C. United: Joe Willis; Robbie Russell, Dejan Jakovic (Emiliano Dudar, 46), Brandon McDonald, Chris Korb; Andy Najar, Marcelo Saragoza, Stephen King (Branko Boskovic, 61), Chris Pontius (Nick DeLeon, 74); Dwayne De Rosario, Maicon Santos. Unused subs: Danny Cruz, Andrew Dykstra, Lance Rozeboom, Hamdi Salihi.
Yellow cards: Donovan 38, Maicon Santos 39, Juninho 73.
Referee: Baldomero Toledo. Att.: 18,466.