FOX Soccer Exclusive
Houston, Galaxy claim vital results
Both teams confronted awkward tasks -- Houston on its steamy visit to DIRECTV W Connection in Trinidad, LA Galaxy at home to presumed Group 8 challengers Cartaginés -- and toiled through them with the proper doses of application.
The effort usually prevents any sort of shocks, but the final results reflected the different personnel groups used to achieve the desired end product. Houston settled for a draw with W Connection after resting several players ahead of a demanding series of fixtures over the next fortnight. LA Galaxy snatched all three points by playing Robbie Keane from the start and sending Landon Donovan into the fray in the final half-hour to secure a 2-0 victory in Carson, Calif.
On both accounts, the outcome reflected the needs on the evening. Houston needed to claim at least a point and preserve a few of its key players for a vital league match at Montreal on Saturday. LA Galaxy wanted the victory at home to provide a bit of a cushion for the trip to Costa Rica. And the ability to produce those sorts of performances -- the kind where output and priorities closely align to maintain the necessary balance between domestic and international commitments without sacrificing one for the other -- will prove crucial as the group stage progresses over the next couple of months.
DIRECTV W Connection 0 – Houston Dynamo 0
Houston coach Dominic Kinnear established the terms of this tricky trip to Trinidad when he left a host of regulars out of his squad. Kinnear placed his faith in a series of reserves to grind out a result at the start of a hectic stretch of four matches in 10 days. They just about fulfilled the brief, though the display lacked any semblance of panache or meandered through the steamy night on its way to the necessary result.
The match unfolded as most CONCACAF Champions League affairs between MLS and Caribbean sides do -- the Americans push forward, the Caribbeans wait for the counter -- without the usual victory waiting at the end of it. Houston spurned chances through Brian Ching, Jason Johnson and Cam Weaver to transform expectation into reality and somehow left the door open for W Connection to snatch the points in the late stages.
In its earnest attempts to snatch a victory (Giles Barnes even emerged from the bench during the second half), the Dynamo nearly gave away a point. W Connection hit twice on the counter with the Dynamo searching for a winner, but Neil Benjamin failed to turn home from close range and hit the bar with a chip to condemn his side to a draw.
The result places pressure on the Dynamo to collect maximum points against group leaders Arabe Unido on Tuesday at BBVA Compass Stadium (live, FOX Sports 1, 8 p.m. ET) to assert its dominion over Group 1.
LA Galaxy 2 – Cartaginés 0
Landon Donovan climb off the bench during the second half to provide Robbie Keane with both goals to place the Galaxy in firm control in Group 8.
Galaxy manager Bruce Arena fielded a blended side and included Keane in the starting XI in a bid to sort out this potentially crucial tie sooner rather than later. The early exchanges revealed those measures would not create the intended benefits as the Costa Ricans sat deeply and the Galaxy struggled to devise an incisive route to goal.
Arena inserted Donovan for Jose Villarreal just after the hour mark and reaped the benefits of his decision in the 68th minute. Donovan clipped a lovely ball over the top to permit Keane to ghost behind the Cartagines defense. Keane mustered a weak shot at goal to conclude the tidy move, but Cartagines goalkeeper Wardy Alfaro -- relatively defiant for much of the evening -- made a hash of the save and permitted the effort through for the opener.
Former Galaxy midfielder Paolo Cardozo squandered a good chance to draw his side level in the aftermath of Keane's opener before the Ireland captain settled matters deep into second-half stoppage time. Donovan once again played the telling ball behind the line for Keane to create a one-versus-one situation. Keane deftly polished off the move to provide the Galaxy with a more comfortable margin of victory and sweep them to the top of Group 8.
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