The Galaxy offered a nice-sized view of what's been going wrong all year and a little of bit of where they want to be, and as bad as they began Saturday's visit to Montreal, they looked very good by the finish.
David Beckham scored on a second-half free kick as L.A. rallied from an early deficit for a 1-1 draw with the Impact, a result that can be considered fortuitous -- the Galaxy deserved absolutely nothing for its first 45 minutes -- or another in a long line of disappointments. Maybe a little of both.
The Galaxy (3-5-2, 11 points) might have scored four or five goals if not for the presence of their former goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who made huge diving stops on Landon Donovan and Marcelo Sarvas and shined in a quick sequence to deny Donovan and Robbie Keane to reward the Impact (3-5-3, 12 points) with a point.
“I think [we] played well in the second half, and I think the difference in the game was probably Ricketts, came up with some big saves for Montreal to keep them in the game,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said on the club's television broadcast. “I thought the way our guys went out in the second half and got after it and got the ball on the ground and started passing and moving, we were a different team.”
Might it be, finally, the stride forward that starts L.A. on the expected path following a horrendous first two months to the season marked by muddy, imprecise play, defensive miscues and struggles to match foes' intensity in battle?
“After the second half, yeah, I believe it is,” Beckham said on the Galaxy telecast. “Just because we worked hard. We're going through a tough time at the moment, where we're not getting the results, we're not getting the run of the green. But I think we've got character. We've got a lot of pride. I think we showed that in the second half, and we played a lot better. Hopefully, we can push on from here.”
The first half was a reminder of how bad things have been. The Galaxy, the numbers say, had a lot more of the ball, they just couldn't do anything with it. Montreal dominated the duels, continually built toward L.A.'s box and was in charge almost from the start, after Davy Arnaud delivered just eight minutes in.
It was another defensive error, or a couple of them, that led to the goal. Dan Keat, whom L.A. is converting from holding midfielder to central defender, got his chance in the middle -- it was his second first-team appearance this year and just his second MLS start in all -- and it didn't go smoothly.
Keat was caught flat-footed when A.J. DeLaGarza failed to adequately deal with a long ball from Impact defender Nelson Rivas, which bounced to Arnaud, who with just a couple of touches was past the New Zealander and honing in 1-on-1 with goalkeeper Brian Perk, an unexpected starter, who hesitated coming off his line. Arnaud's finish was precise.
Keat was out of sorts the entire first half, too often poorly positioned and too reactive -- the kind of things expected from converted midfielders making their first-team debut in an unfamiliar position.
It's a measure of L.A.'s inability to replace injured Omar Gonzalez at the back. Keat is the fourth player, following Andrew Boyens, Tommy Meyer and David Junior Lopes, to get a look next to DeLaGarza, and each has been somewhere on the hit-and-miss spectrum. It has impacted confidence all over the field, and the problem in the first Saturday was about belief.
“Our first half, we was a bit timid. I don't think we played aggressive enough,” Beckham said. “I think we didn't have the belief in the first half -- we didn't play with any belief in the first half. Then we came out second half, we pushed them a little bit more, we attacked them a little bit more, and the chances just came.”
L.A. put just one shot on goal in the first half -- Sean Franklin's glancing header from a 20th-minute Beckham corner kick that Ricketts parried as he fell into his net -- but they were all over the Impact after halftime, especially after Beckham's goal.
The Galaxy had plenty of opportunities through Beckham's right foot, winning 10 corner kicks -- plus another seven free kicks, at least four of them within his goal range. Most weren't as dangerous as L.A. would like, but his 62nd-minute strike from about 24 yards was perfect. He dropped it over the wall, curling in toward the net, and a fully extended Ricketts could only alter where in the goal it landed.
“To be honest, I was always going to shoot,” said Beckham, who has two upper-right goals from outside the box this season. “Against Donovan [Ricketts], because he's such a big goalkeeper and he covers the goal so well, it had to be precise, and it had to be in a corner [in which] you know he's not going to get to it. As soon as I hit it, I knew it had a chance of going in. ... I knew it was a good one as soon as it left my foot.”
The Galaxy was all over the Impact the rest of the way. Ricketts made his back-to-back saves on Donovan and Keane two minutes later -- Hassoun Camara and Jeb Brovsky also blocked shots in the sequence -- and he made a diving save in stoppage of a Sarvas blast from the left side of the box that was curling inside the far post.
WORTH NOTING: Ricketts received his MLS Cup championship ring from the Galaxy in a pregame ceremony. ... Perk, who played in Tuesday's MLS Reserve League game against San Jose after missing two months because of a sports hernia injury, had made just one previous MLS appearance, going the full 90 in the 0-0 draw with Seattle last Fourth of July. He also played L.A.'s U.S. Open Cup win over the L.A. Blues last year. ... Keat had made one previous first-team start, in the regular-season finale last year at Houston. ... Kyle Nakazawa made his first start for the Galaxy in midfield, and Michael Stephens stepped into Donovan's usual spot on the right flank, with Donovan playing up top with Keane. ... Donovan and Keane offered little in the first half but were much better in the second, especially Donovan. ... Mike Magee's appearance at halftime sparked the Galaxy attack, and Pat Noonan added to the mix when he came on in the 69th minute. ... Camara played the final seven minutes with a groin injury that enabled Sarvas to beat him in stoppage for the shot Donovan dived to parry. ... Montreal had no shots on goal in the second half. ... Edson Buddle and David Junior Lopes were not on the 18-man roster. Lopes is slowed by a hamstring ailment. ... The game drew 60,860 to Olympic Stadium, a record for a pro soccer game in Canada.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Olympic Stadium (Montreal)
Montreal Impact 1, Galaxy 1
M -- Davy Arnaud (Nelson Rivas) 8
LA -- David Beckham 62
Montreal Impact: Donovan Ricketts; Hassoun Camara, Matteo Ferrari, Nelson Rivas, Jeb Brovsky; Justin Mapp (Justin Braun, 58), Felipe Martins, Collen Warner, Lamar Neagle (Sanna Nyassi, 85); Bernardo Corradi (Andrew Wenger, 68), Davy Arnaud. Unused subs: Patrice Bernier, Calum Mallace, Greg Sutton, Shavar Thomas.
Galaxy: Brian Perk; Sean Franklin, Dan Keat, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant; Michael Stephens (Mike Magee, 46), David Beckham, Juninho (Marcelo Sarvas, 74), Kyle Nakazawa (Pat Noonan, 69); Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane. Unused subs: Chad Barrett, Bryan Gaul, Tommy Meyer, Bill Gaudette.
Yellow cards: Keat 45, Ferrari 46+, Beckham 54, Juninho 57.
Referee: Jasen Anno. Att.: 60,860.
Records: Montreal Impact 3-5-3, 12 points; Galaxy 3-5-2, 11 points.