It was a perfect day to start fresh. Beautiful So-Cal sunshine, mid-70 degree temps, Father's Day, and the LA Riot Squad yelling Cobra Kai quotes pregame.
A fresh, inspired Galaxy squad took the field Sunday after a three week hiatus. The Galaxy game against the Portland Timbers on Sunday simply felt like the start of something new. It was a chance to put the abysmal start to the 2012 season in the rear view mirror and to start looking ahead to bigger and brighter things. The Galaxy entered the game at the basement of the Western Conference with plenty of room to improve, and improve they did with a 1-0 victory over the Timbers.
Galaxy faithful welcomed keeper Josh Saunders back who was in goal for the first time in six games however the Galaxy did not have a full squad. Mike Magee, Hector Jimenez, and Michael Stephens were suspended, Edson Buddle was out with injury, and Robbie Keane was still out with national team duty. In spite of the absences, the squad felt complete, alive, and the swagger that led the Galaxy to an undefeated home record in 2011 seemed to return.
The Galaxy controlled most of the possession during the victory. David Beckham and Juninho were on the same page for the first time this season, weaving a tapestry of beautifully timed passes across the field. The long ball approach often associated with a Galaxy squad in peril was replaced by well timed runs with well crafted shots on goal. You saw a team that fully trusted each other to make plays, whether it was Beckham leading Bryan Jordan on the flanks or A.J. De La Garza and David Junior Lopes thwarting the Timbers attack. It was refreshing to see, and a sign that there is still fight in this champion.
The Galaxy goal came the same way many Galaxy goals were scored during the 2012 championship season. Beckham ripped a corner into the box and Todd Dunivant headed the ball into the net. The Galaxy came close on other occasions, the best of which came on a Donovan strike from 20 out in the first half that hit frame. The important thing was that the Galaxy won, and they looked great doing it.
The Galaxy will be back to full strength soon with Keane coming back. If they play like they did Sunday, they can beat anyone in MLS. Beckham will miss time because of the Olympics, but if the squad plays with trust and purpose like we saw on Sunday, it doesn't matter what name is on the back of the jersey. The Galaxy played as a team on a mission, with one purpose, and the championship swagger returned to the Home Depot Center.
MY THREE TAKEAWAYS
1. When Beckham and Juninho are on the same page, the L.A. Galaxy midfield is magic. Sunday's game was the first where they looked comfortable on the same field in 2012 and it paid off. This is a huge sign of improvement.
2. Hats off to Bryan Jordan and Marcelo Sarvas. They came in and worked their tails off. Jordan constantly stretched the defense and Sarvas was in control playing the ball well. They may not get as much playing time as others, but they made their time count on Sunday.
3. Welcome back Josh Saunders. I do not think it is a coincidence that the Galaxy defense turned in their best performance of the season as Saunders returned. Josh Saunders is a beast in goal and I think that everyone that follows the Galaxy is rooting for Josh as a person and as a player.