His first start since returning from retirement pleased his coach more than it did Landon Donovan.
After going 60 minutes in 90-degree heat Sunday against Houston, Donovan resorted – as he often does –- to honesty. “It might be my last start,” he said to the team’s Web site. “I almost died a few times.”
Head coach Bruce Arena saw a few more positives from Donovan after the Galaxy, deprived of Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard because of injuries, outlasted the Dynamo, 1-0, to assure itself of a home game in the Knockout Round. It faces a quick turnaround; FC Dallas Sunday at StubHub Center, where it is 8-1-6 this season, and a home playoff game Wednesday or Thursday.
“Landon had a solid game,” said Arena.” We’re slowly building him forward with additional minutes. He gave us a good 60 minutes. It would have been nice to have some better conditions, but to be able to do that -- to put in 60 minutes under those conditions was good.”
Alan Gordon blocked an attempted clearance into the Dynamo net to secure the home playoff game and net his third goal in the last five matches. Like Donovan, he’s likely to be used off the bench in the playoffs, yet the fitness concerns of Gerrard and Keane and the expected return return of Gyasi Zardes set for next week are all factors in Arena’s decisions.
The injured trio are at different stages in their recoveries. Gerrard (hamstring) and Keane (hip flexor) were restricted in their training this week and Zardes, who hasn’t played since suffering a broken foot nearly two months ago, is only cleared for fitness work.
“They’re making progress,” Arena said. “When they’re able to get back in remains to be seen.”
The main man this season in the attack, Giovani dos Santos, leads the team in goals (14) and assists (12), but has gone a bit cold since scoring five goals in the first three games of September. He’s earned one assist in the last three games, and if the other two DPs are slow to come back, opponents will target the Mexican star as the one they must stop.
Gordon has only three goals this season but as noted, he’s scored all of them fairly recently. This one came after a Mike Magee shot was saved and defender David Horst, while trying to clear the rebound, instead poked it into Gordon’s legs as the forward charged him down. The ball bounced off his legs and past Willis before the keeper had any chance to recover.
“This was a must-win in our eyes,” said Gordon, a 12-year veteran who won his only MLS Cup with the Galaxy in 2005. “We wanted to pick up some momentum going into the playoffs, show ourselves that we could fight for each other and that we could be a solid team, despite having a lot of key players out.
"And we showed that to ourselves. We showed that we could fight for each other, through the ups and downs throughout the game. Ugly or not, we garnered it out and got a good win.”