Landon Donovan's penalty kick lifts Galaxy past D.C. United, 2-1

By Matt Brooks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 19, 2010

Through much of Sunday's matchup between Major League Soccer's top team and last-place D.C. United, even play camouflaged the vast disparity of cohesion and execution between the Los Angeles Galaxy and its host at RFK Stadium.

But after United found the back of the net for the first time in three contests to knot the score early in the second half, another costly defensive blunder and the inability to finish when it mattered most left the league's worst team struggling to digest another crushing defeat as Landon Donovan's game-winning penalty extended United's winless streak to five games with a 2-1 defeat.

"We're young but it seems like we keep making the same mistakes over and over," Santino Quaranta said. "It's almost the definition of insanity, because for the guys in this locker room, this is very difficult. I don't know if everybody knows the severity of what's going on here. . . . In the end, there's consequences for being the worst team in the league because this is not what we strive to do here."

In the 38th minute, Edson Buddle opened the scoring for Galaxy (12-2-3) with his league-leading 11th goal on a frantic scramble in front of the net. After his initial shot was blocked by a sliding Dejan Jakovic, Buddle collected the loose ball, pivoted around Stephen King to his left and slotted a left-footed shot between the legs of United goalkeeper Troy Perkins.

United (3-11-3) answered in the 54th minute on a perfectly placed cross from new addition Pablo Hernandez that found the head of winger Andy Najar at the back post. The 5-foot-7 Najar, whose speedy runs down the right side led to a couple of scoring opportunities early on, snuck in behind the 6-1 Buddle and drilled a clean header under the crossbar for his third goal on the season.

But the Galaxy needed just four minutes to reclaim the lead as United defender Julius James flung his arms in front of a shot from Sean Franklin just inside the box to give L.A. a penalty. Donovan calmly pushed his shot past a diving Perkins into the right corner for what would prove to be the game-winner. The play began with an untimely turnover from left back Jordan Graye, continuing the rookie defender's recent struggles.

"It's another youthful error," United Coach Curt Onalfo said. "Those are moments in the game where you've got to continue with it. You feel the momentum, we have an opportunity to make it 2-1 right before that play, and we didn't. It's a lump and it's devastating."

United's best chance to claim a draw came in the 89th minute when Hernandez and a host of United attackers found themselves alone behind the Galaxy defense. No flag came up from the linesman but Hernandez's spinning header landed on top of the net.

"You get back into the game tonight, you feel like you're going to push forward and win the game," Quaranta said. "And within five or 10 minutes, they score again and you're back fighting to try to get back into the game."

Despite avoiding a third consecutive shutout before the announced crowd of 17,688, United failed to produce a second tally for the 13th time in 17 matches. D.C., which hosts the Harrisburg City Islanders in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal Wednesday, may be without yet another key contributor for the foreseeable future. Midfielder Chris Pontius played the first 45 minutes on a foot injured in the opening minute that Onalfo was later told may be broken. Jakovic also exited late in the game with a leg injury.

United note: United honored longtime defensive stalwart Eddie Pope at halftime with a ceremony inducting the former MLS and U.S. national team star into the club's Hall of Tradition.

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