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Goals come cheap in Galaxy victory

Debatable calls precede Donovan's tying penalty kick and Buddle's go-ahead goal in 3-1 win over Kansas City at Home Depot Center.

May 25, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

If you can't beat them, cheat them.

That appears to be the Galaxy's modus operandi in 2008, and never was it made more clear than Saturday night, when Landon Donovan was the culprit.

The incident occurred in the 54th minute of what eventually became a 3-1 Galaxy victory over the Kansas City Wizards at the Home Depot Center.

Los Angeles was trailing, 1-0, when David Beckham cut a pass back into Donovan's path, and Major League Soccer's scoring leader set off on a sprint into the Kansas City penalty area.

His intent seemed obvious from the outset, although apparently not to referee Michael Kennedy.

Kansas City defender Tyson Wahl moved in to tackle Donovan, who dived -- there is no other word for it -- over Wahl and lay sprawled on the ground. If there was any contact at all between Wahl and Donovan, it was minuscule.

But Kennedy fell for the ruse and pointed to the penalty spot.

Donovan stepped up and blasted the penalty kick past former Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman for his ninth goal of the season. This one, though, should come with a large asterisk.

The game-winning goal also was more than a little questionable. It arrived in the 74th minute, when Donovan sent a through pass to Edson Buddle and Buddle fired the ball past Hartman from close range.

Television replays, however, suggested that Buddle, who had scored a hat trick in a 5-1 rout of FC Dallas last weekend, was a yard or more offside.

Again, Kennedy and his assistants did not notice.

With two shady goals, the game had still another surprise up its sleeve.

It came in injury time, when Kansas City was attacking and Hartman had left his net and joined the crowd of Wizards at the Los Angeles end of the field seeking the tying goal.

The ball was cleared and came out to Beckham, who set off on a run and then heard the crowd or his teammates screaming that the Kansas City net was wide open.

He glanced up and, from 15 yards inside his own half, launched a 70-yard shot that bounced into the unguarded net for one of the weirdest goals this season.

"If he would miss that, then his reputation would be gone," Galaxy Coach Ruud Gullit joked. "We were laughing about it afterward."

The victory, combined with Chivas USA's 2-1 win over the Rapids in Colorado, lifted the Galaxy (4-3-2) into first place in the Western Conference for the first time in two years.

Kansas City, which is winless in four consecutive games, fell to 3-4-2.

Gullit was on crutches, the result of surgery on his left knee Monday, but it was his players who limped through the early part of the game. "It was ridiculous," Gullit said. "We were giving the ball away and looked nervous."

Kansas City took the lead five minutes before halftime when former Argentine international Claudio Lopez faked Galaxy midfielder Brandon McDonald out of his boots and buried his shot in the back of the net.

The Galaxy's first-half performance left Gullit shaking his head, just as the second-half Los Angeles goals left Kansas City Coach Curt Onalfo shaking his.

Asked about Donovan's penalty kick, Onalfo dodged the question, but Wizards and former Galaxy midfielder Sasha Victorine fielded it.

"I don't think it was a penalty kick, to be honest about it," Victorine said.

Asked about Buddle's apparently being offside, Onalfo again sidestepped.

Gullit just shrugged.

"I don't know," he said. "From my position I can't see. Was he offside? Sometimes you need to have that luck."

--

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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