CARSON -- It wasn't a changing of the guard or anything like that, not with Robbie Keane on the way -- and possibly arriving Thursday or Friday -- but it might have seemed so after Adam Cristman's gutty performance in the Galaxy's CONCACAF Champions League opener.
Cristman netted the first goal, extending fully to knock home a pass from A.J. DeLaGarza in the 13th minute, and probably should have had one or two more as L.A. vaulted atop Group A in the region's club championship with a deserved 2-0 triumph Tuesday night over Honduran champion Motagua at Home Depot Center.
That's nine goals in all this season for Cristman, a big, physical forward who missed the first third of the season while rehabbing from knee surgery and has since slowly built up minutes over a broad collection of competitions.
It's simple to contrast that with Juan Pablo Angel's disappointing output -- just three goals in 22 league games -- especially with the Colombian striker gone to Chivas USA, with an official trade announcement expected Wednesday.
Nobody's going to be that cruel, so as Cristman won kudos from all corners, Angel received accolades from his former teammates and head coach Bruce Arena.
“I would say this about Juan Pablo: He's been a great professional for our team. And he made us a better team. He really did,” said Arena, who brought in the star striker from the New York Red Bulls last December. “I love him as a person and a player. He's a first-class individual. I don't know what more to say. I have nothing but the greatest respect for him.”
Angel trained for the first time Tuesday with Chivas, and Landon Donovan, who added the Galaxy's second against Motagua from David Beckham's cross in the 60th minute, said the regal forward would be missed -- and would make a difference for L.A.'s archrival.
“I know it didn't work out the way he wanted on the field -- he obviously wanted to score a few more goals ...,” Donovan said. “Everybody knows his capabilities and his qualities. For whatever reason, it wasn't working out here. Perhaps the style of play didn't mesh, but I have no doubt he's going to be successful [with Chivas].”
Said defender Gregg Berhalter: “Juan is a first-class guy. He set the standard ... that you work hard, no matter who you are. He worked hard from day one, he had a great attitude from day one, and he was a great teammate.”
Cristman has scored in every kind of competition for L.A. -- one goal in Major League Soccer, one in U.S. Open Cup, two in MLS Reserve League, one in a friendly, three in preseason and now this one.
“He's been great,” Donovan said. “He's reliable, and he's dependable, and you know where he's going to be, you know what kind of effort he's going to give you. He puts himself in some great positions, and he's scored some good goals, and tonight that goal was very important.”
Cristman, who has gone through six surgeries in three years -- knee, hernia, feet -- is just happy to be contributing again.
“It's my job. It's what I'm here for,” he said. “It's great to be with this group and to play every week and to bring something to the team that I think helps a lot.”
He helped a lot Tuesday, causing plenty of problems for Motagua's backline, which already was under siege because of a tactical breakdown.
The Ciclon Azul might have been expected to sit back, absorb and counter on the road, but they instead came out in attack mode -- but without precision -- and the Galaxy took advantage, controlling, as Motagua coach Ramon Maradiaga noted, “every aspect of the game” in the first half.
L.A. didn't get what it should have from that dominance, and Arena acknowledged that “if there's anything to be critical of our team, it's that. There was another goal out there for us, and we didn't take it.”
The Galaxy should have doubled the advantage in the 30th minute, when Omar Gonzalez nearly chipped a David Beckham free kick into the net from a difficult angle -- only to have defender Johnny Leverson head it off the line under pressure from Todd Dunivant. A hard-charging Cristman tried to body home the rebound, but Motagua goalkeeper Donaldo Morales tipped the shot over the crossbar.
Morales came up big at the end, smothering shots by Mike Magee and Juninho after fabulous feeds from Donovan. “We know goal difference can come into play later [in the competition], and if there's anything to be critical of, it's that we weren't a little bit better in front of the goal.”
They're nonetheless on top of the group, on goal difference, ahead of Costa Rican champ Alajuelense, their next foe (a week from Thursday at HDC), which won at home over Mexico's Morelia, 1-0, as Jonathan McDonald scored in the 77th minute following a grave error by Monarcas goalkeeper Ricardo Villar.
Motagua was down to 10 men after former MLS defender Ivan Guerrero was sent off in the 70th minute for a cleat to Sean Franklin's chest. L.A. goalkeeper Josh Saunders had only so much to do, but he kept the clean sheet with back-to-back foot saves on former Galaxy forward Guillermo "Pando" Ramirez and Jerry Bengtson in the 74th minute.
Home Depot Center (Carson)
Galaxy 2, Motagua (Honduras) 0
LA -- Adam Cristman (A.J. DeLaGarza) 13
LA -- Landon Donovan (David Beckham) 60
Galaxy: Josh Saunders; A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, Gregg Berhalter, Todd Dunivant; Sean Franklin (Chris Birchall, 84), David Beckham (Michael Stephens, 76), Juninho, Landon Donovan; Mike Magee (Miguel Lopez, 88), Adam Cristman. Unused subs: Paolo Cardozo, Frankie Hejduk, Dan Keat, Brian Perk.
Motagua: Donaldo Morales; Sergio Mendoza, Junior Izaguirre, Johnny Leveron, Ivan Guerrero; Jorge Claros; Aly Arriola (Emilson Cruz, 88), Amado Guevara, Carlos Discua (Brayan Garcia, 63); Guillermo Ramirez (Esdras Padilla, 76), Jerry Bengtson.
Yellow card: Berhalter 90. Red card: Guerrero 70.
Referee: Enrico Wijngaarde (Suriname). Att.: 8,196.
GROUP A STANDINGS
1. Galaxy 1-0-0 (2-0) 3
2. Alajuelense (Costa Rica) 1-0-0 (1-0) 3
3. Morelia (Mexico) 0-1-0 (0-1) 0
4. Motagua (Honduras) 0-1-0 (0-2) 0